Life has a way of throwing us curveballs and throwing us into emergency situations when we least expect them. You might get in an accident and slip into a coma. Or you could catch a surprise illness that takes a sudden turn for the worst. Whatever the case may be, having a death file for your loved ones to reference can make stressful situations a lot less chaotic.
The following is a guest post from Steve, aka Paper Tiger, and a long-time Financial Samurai reader. A near-death experience this summer prompted him to create a detailed “death file” so that his wife and daughter would be better informed about all the family’s financial details, including assets invested, taxes, expenses/paying bills, family trust, and more.
What Is A Death File?
A death file is a binder, folder, spreadsheet, and/or document(s) that contains all the information a loved one would need in the event of your incapacity or passing. It can be in physical or digital form based on personal preference. Depending on your circumstances, it could be as simple as one piece of paper or as lengthy as a book. A death file is also commonly referred to as an in-case-of-death-binder or simply a death binder.
Although nobody likes to think about when we may inevitably kick the bucket, preparing for your passing with a death file is an act of love and responsibility. Anyone who has had a loved one pass unexpectedly and had to settle their affairs can surely attest to that.
Examples of critical items that should be included in a death file include:
- Last will and testament
- Trust documents
- Beneficiary designations
- Estate attorney contact information
- Tax accountant contact information
- Instructions on where to access filed tax returns
- Life insurance policy account numbers
- Prepaid funeral and/or burial contracts
- Burial instructions
- List of all financial accounts – banks, retirement plans, credit cards, insurance, loans, investments, etc.
- Account info for all other bills – cable, phone, internet, utilities, gym, etc.
- Reference list of doctors, medications, medical release forms, etc.
- Login and passwords list
- Any other pertinent information about your life, assets, liabilities, responsibilities, and wishes.