Often people focus on who will be in charge of their estate and who will benefit from it when planning for their eventual passing. Certainly, these are important issues and putting a will in place to address these issues is a vital part of most estate plans, but there are additional steps that can be taken to make life easier for loved ones after one’s passing.
Creating a “When I Die” file is one such a step.
Creating and maintaining a “When I Die” file can significantly reduce the burden placed upon one’s executor and can help ensure that heirlooms, family history, and other vital information are preserved and passed on.
A will can appoint an executor and instruct that executor as to how one’s estate is to be administered. However, in order to administer an estate, the executor needs to have a great deal of information about the family, finances, assets, legal obligations, and relationships of the deceased. Frequently, the early days of an executor’s work involve an onerous search of the deceased’s possessions in search of information about the deceased’s:
- banking information (e.g. account numbers and types, branches, contacts);
- tax returns;
- insurance policies;
- family law agreements (e.g. “prenups” and separation agreements);
- professional advisors’ contact information (e.g. lawyer, accountant, financial planner);
- service providers (e.g. phone, internet, heat, club memberships etc.);
- business affairs;
- online accounts (logins including usernames and passwords) and digital data;
- birth, marriage, and divorce certificates;
- immigration papers;
- land title documents;
- mortgage documents;
- lease information (e.g. automobile);
- pending transactions;
- funeral arrangements;
The executor’s job can be made significantly easier, and the early stages of an administration can be streamlined, if the deceased has compiled such information in a central location for the executor to find.
For Future Generations
A “When I Die” file can also be used to pass information forward to future generations. It is an ideal place to store documents pertaining to family history and genealogy, family heirlooms, and even messages for loved ones to receive after one’s passing. We have even heard of spouses leaving eulogies for each other in their file so that if they pass first, their sentiments can still be expressed when their surviving spouse eventually passes.
It is important to remember that a “When I Die” is not a one-time “set it and forget it” measure. Compiling the information can take time – you don’t have to do it all at once. Once compiled, the information needs to be updated over time as your circumstances change. This is a bit of extra work, but if you make maintaining your file a part of your routine, you can save your loved ones a great deal of work and frustration down the road.
Making the administration of your estate less stressful is a considerate and loving gift you can make to the loved ones you leave behind – and all it takes is a bit of planning.
If you have any questions about estate or incapacity planning, please get in touch.
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