One crucial part of estate planning that frequently gets overlooked is ensuring your loved ones can easily locate all of your planning documents and other key assets upon your death or incapacity. To combat that, create a “When I Die” file. According to A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death, this is a “findable file, binder, cloud-based drive, or even a shoebox where you store estate documents and meaningful personal effects.”
This new book, authored by Shoshana Berger and BJ Miller, was recently excerpted in TIME magazine, and the excerpt discussed the importance of creating such a file in order to “save your loved ones incalculable time, money, and suffering” upon your death.
We fully agree and would also add that this file is every bit as important in the event of your potential incapacity, not just your death. Here is some additional guidance about how to ensure your “When I Die” file provides maximum efficiency and effectiveness for the people you love.
Death can be a logistical nightmare
Berger learned first-hand how agonizing it can be to not have a “When I Die” file following the death of her father. Her father had made his will and trust easily accessible, but Berger and her sister spent nearly two years tracking down his other planning documents, assets, and finalizing his affairs.
Beger recalls “sleuthing through his file cabinet and mail and requesting what seemed like a mountain of duplicate death certificates to prove to various companies that he had actually died.”
That is why she recommends that when you make your “When I Die” file, you should also call your internet, cable, cell phone providers, as well and any other companies that bill you on an ongoing basis, and add your partner or children as joint owners because otherwise, you leave your loved ones a torturous ordeal to complete.
“If billing accounts are not in both your and a loved one’s name, your survivors will end up spending hours… begging bureaucrats to shut them down or convert the accounts to their name so they can manage them,” she says. “Think of every frustrating call you’ve had with your cell provider, and then multiply it by 10.”
Furthermore, if your planning documents such as wills, prenuptial agreements, and insurance policies can’t be located, it will be as if they never existed. The same goes for valuable assets like stocks, bank accounts, and other financial property no one knows about. Given this, you should make sure your “When I Die” file contains an updated inventory of all your assets and their location without forgetting to include your online property.
Don’t forget your digital assets
Your loved ones must not only be able to locate digital assets like cryptocurrency, email, photos, video, and social media, they must also know how to access them. That’s why including any related login and password information in your “When I Die” file, along with detailed instructions about how to get into the accounts, is vital.
If you store your file online, password management apps like LastPass can greatly simplify this effort. In fact, we highly recommend you scan and upload copies of ALL the items in your “When I Die” file to the cloud and store them online. This also prevents your file from being destroyed in a fire, flood, or other natural disaster.
What to include in your file
Because the TIME excerpt only includes a partial collection of the items Berger and Miller suggest including in your “When I Die” file (their book has the full list), we’ve added a few items to provide a more detailed inventory.
- An updated inventory of all your assets and their location, including password and access info for all digital assets
- An advance healthcare directive
- A will and living trust (with certificate of trust)
- Marriage or divorce certificate(s)
- Instructions for your funeral and final disposition
- An ethical will explaining why you made the choices you did in your real will
- Letters, cards, photos, and other treasured sentimentals
- If you have minor children, a Kids Protection Plan naming long and short-term guardians, along with detailed care instructions for both
Get your affairs in order—before it’s too late
Each family is unique, so this is just a minimum of what can be included in your “When I Die” file. When you work with us as your Personal Family Lawyer®, we have systems in place to help ensure all of your assets are properly inventoried throughout your lifetime for the utmost convenience and care of those you love most.
Because death or incapacity can strike at any moment, don’t wait to get your affairs in order. If you do, your loved ones might experience the same lengthy ordeal Berger did when her dad died. Contact us today to get started with a Family Wealth Planning Session.
This article is a service of Levi Alexander, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.