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How To Build An "In Case Of Death Binder"

| July 27, 2021
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By Kristi De Rycke, Registered Assistant 

I know, I know no one wants to think about dying.  I get it!  I promise I will make this short and sweet.  Then you can go back to believing, like most of us, that you are going to live forever.  Name one person that you have watched become devastated by mourning the loss of their loved one.  You probably saw them as they struggled just to get through the day-to-day tasks.  Now for one minute, imagine your loved one(s) after they hear the news that you are gone.  What if you could take 15 minutes today to organize a few things that would make it easier on them when you die, would you do it?  Are they worth 15 minutes of your time today? 

This was not the information that I set out to write about today.  The topic for today was what to do when you become widowed.  I spent a total of 15 minutes researching this topic before I got overwhelmed.  There were so very many things to manage after a loved one dies.  Keep in mind that I was overloaded with information of tasks that needed to be done without any emotional reality of the grief following losing someone I loved.  Today I will help you help your spouse, kids, or other family by giving you the checklist of things that you can do in 15 minutes today to save them hours in the future.  Besides planning your funeral, they will need to make a lot of calls to redeem life insurance, contact social security, cancel subscriptions, pay off and cancel credit cards, discontinue memberships, contact your employer for benefits (possibly find new health insurance), remove you from auto and home policies and many more tasks.  They will need to do all of this in the middle of the grieving process.  Making a list or copies of statements with account information for all of the following will help save them hours of time and energy during a difficult time.

  • Account information for every bank and brokerage account, retirement account and life insurance policy.
  • Debts including credit card debt, home equity lines of credit, auto debt, student loans, etc.
  • Associations/memberships/subscriptions
  • Copies of birth certificate, marriage certificate, name change documents, social security card, and wills/trusts or instructions on where to find these things.
  • Copies of your usernames and passwords for everything you do online. They will need to close out accounts and close your email. Put an updated copy with the rest of the documents.  Then, update it every few months or make certain your loved one knows where to find your updated passwords. Consider an app that allows for one passcode like Keepass or Lastpass. 
  • Business documents if you own a business.
  • Employer human resources contact information with details on any employer life insurance, medical insurance, pension and/or retirement accounts. If you spouse or kids are covered by your medical insurance, they will need to call to confirm that they can remain on it and for how long. 
  • Directions to finding any prized possessions or additional important documents (i.e., In the lock box, key can be found here, statements under my clothes in the drawer).
  • Names and numbers of anyone that you would want notified in the event of your death.
  • Recurring bills that are paid monthly or annually and write if they are auto pay or need to have a check written.
  • Any special requests for your funeral.

Jot this information down or take a quick photocopy of the pages with the important information and put in one folder where your spouse or family know where to look.  It would be a safer idea to have two people that know where this information is kept. If you think of additional things in the future, you can pop them in there at any time.  This will save them so much struggle and pain.  You really did a great thing by finishing reading this, becoming aware of what you need to gather and taking the first step in organizing this.  Now write in your calendar or schedule in your phone when over the next week that you will take the 15 minutes to make such a difference to your family during a difficult time.   

By Greg Johnson

Being organized and prepared for the unknown can really make a difference in your family’s peace of mind. We find clients overwhelmed all the time when the lose a loved one. Taking Kristi’s advice would be highly recommended. We have used a booklet called a Personal Financial Inventory book that helps people organize their affairs and family members honor their loved ones wishes with things like what songs to sing at the funeral or who to contact in the event something happens. Just recently we added technology sections as well. If you are interested in the book just let us know and we would be happy to share it with you. Keeping things together in one location can be extremely helpful in this time of mourning.

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