So you’ve signed your will, you’ve executed your powers of attorney and you have a living will in place. That’s great. Most people don’t. It is a smart first step. Unfortunately, so often, families left behind after someone dies struggle for weeks because they do not know exactly what they are looking for, trying to locate those legal documents, bank accounts, life insurance policies and safe deposits boxes.

A client recently came to the office, armed with a thick three-ring binder. In it, she had placed copies of her important papers, a list of her various accounts, and her wishes for her funeral, among other details. She was quite organized. Everything was laid out. Her family will be grateful. Their job will be so much easier.

You can do the same. You can use a notebook, a box, or even something on a computer, as long as the people you have left in charge know where to find the information. What should you include? Consider the following:

  • Directions to find originals of final legal papers
  • A list of bank accounts, including the type (checking, savings) and the specific location
  • Location of safe deposit box and where to find the key
  • A list of insurance policies including location, face value and the names of beneficiaries
  • A list of retirement plans and IRAs, including the name of the entity holding the money and a list of beneficiaries
  • Copies of deeds
  • Copies of titles for vehicles
  • A list of bills due every month
  • A list of automatic payments that must be stopped
  • A list of any automatic checks (such as social security) that must be stopped
  • Documents for any prepaid funeral expenses
  • A detailed summary of your wishes for your funeral or memorial service
  • A description of burial preferences
  • A list of who will receive certain personal items (if your will allows for this) and where they can be located
  • The name and number for your attorney