Getting Your Affairs In Order: The “Before Death” Checklist
Published June 15, 2020
Death, as they say, is like a thief in the night. We know it will come but nobody knows exactly when. We may dread it but there’s no escaping it. This is why we need to prepare for it.
Getting your affairs in order before death is the same as preparing for an emergency. Having a well thought out plan gives your family a “blueprint” of what to do when tragedy strikes. It will also make it easier for them to honor your final wishes.
We all know how hard and confusing it can be to lose a loved one. Making decisions when you’re mourning is even harder. You surely don’t want to put your family through all that unnecessary stress.
So how do you get your affairs in order? Here are things that should be on your “before death checklist”.
1. Prepare Essential Documents
Essential documents vary for everyone. What’s essential for a single person will differ from those with a family and kids. Here are some of the basic documents you need to prepare:
- Basic information ( full name, date, and place of birth, current address)
- Social security records
- Directory of family members
- Certificates of marriage, citizenship, or adoption as may be applicable
- Employment records
- Education and military records
- Directory of religious contacts, doctors, lawyers, and financial advisors
- Membership in groups and awards received
- Your recent list of medications
- A living will and other legal documents
- Insurance information including policy numbers, names of agents and phone numbers
- Banking information (names of banks and account numbers)
- Investment records (stocks, bonds, properties) including your stockbroker’s name and phone number
- Real estate ownership certificates (land titles, or the deed to your house, etc.)
- Mortgage documents
- Savings passbook
- Ownership documents for your car and other tangible properties
- A list of all your assets including your source of income (pension, government benefits, etc.)
- A list of all your liabilities (credit card debts, loans, etc.)
2. Organize Your Documents
Now that you’ve gathered up all your essential documents, you need to store them in a safe place. It could be in your library, your steel cabinet, or even in that hollowed out floorboard under your bedroom carpet.
But remember that these are papers. So make sure they’re safe from fire, water, termites and molds.
Organize them according to category and put them in separate envelopes. Don’t forget to label them accordingly. This will help your family sort through them easily.
3. Tell a Trusted Friend/Family Member Where To Find Your Documents/Personal Papers
Preparing and storing your documents is useless if no one knows where it is. Tell a trusted friend or family member where to find your personal papers. Just make sure they have access to your storage place, especially if it’s in a vault.
4. Make Your End-of-Life Preferences Known to Family Members/Estate Manager
Nobody really likes to think about their own funeral. But it should be part of your checklist. Let your family or estate manager know your end-of-life preferences.
Do you want to be cremated or buried in the traditional way? Do you want your ashes spread at sea or put in a crematorium? What songs do you want to be played at your memorial? Tell your family about all these. It might be a taboo topic but some things just have to be discussed even if nobody likes it.
5. Give Your Doctor/Lawyer/Family Member the Necessary Consent
Sometimes, your bank or insurance provider will need information that can only be disclosed with your consent. Make sure to provide the necessary consent to your next of kin, lawyer, or doctor beforehand. Without it, your insurance claim might be delayed or your bank account. Ask your lawyer how to go about this so there won’t be any legal hiccups.