Whether you are younger or older, end-of-life planning and organizing your documents should be a priority. Organizing your end-of-life documents can provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones. Careful planning ensures that your wishes are carried out and makes the process of handling your affairs after your death easier and less stressful for everyone involved.
Organizing your end-of-life documents can provide several benefits, including:
- Peace of mind: Knowing that your important documents are organized and easily accessible can give you peace of mind and reduce stress.
- Ensuring your wishes are carried out: Organizing your end-of-life documents can help ensure that your wishes are carried out as you intend, whether it’s related to your medical care, funeral arrangements, or distribution of assets.
- Reducing family stress: By organizing your end-of-life documents, you can make the process of handling your affairs after your death easier for your loved ones, reducing their stress and potential conflicts.
- Saving time and money: Having all of your important documents in one place can save your loved ones time and money, as they won’t have to spend hours searching for important information.
- Avoiding potential legal issues: Properly organizing your end-of-life documents can help you avoid potential legal issues that may arise if your loved ones cannot find important information or if there are disputes over your estate.
Checklist of End-of-Life Planning
Last Will and Testament
This legal document outlines your wishes for the distribution of your assets after your death. It can also include instructions about who should act as the executor of your estate or who should care for your minor children.
Revocable Living Trust
A trust is a legal arrangement where you transfer ownership of your assets to a trustee who manages them on your behalf. A revocable living trust can help you avoid probate and ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
Beneficiary Designations for Non-Probate Assets
Some assets, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts, have designated beneficiaries. Make sure to keep these designations up to date, so the assets go to the intended beneficiary.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney
A durable financial power of attorney designates someone to manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated and are unable to do so yourself.
If you have pets, consider creating a trust to provide for their care after your death.
Durable Medical Power of Attorney
This document designates someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated and are unable to make them yourself.
A living will, also known as an advance directive, outlines your end-of-life wishes, such as whether you want life-sustaining measures to be taken if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious.
Life insurance can provide financial support for your loved ones after your death.
DNR and POLST Forms
These documents outline your medical preferences in the event of an emergency, such as whether you want to receive life-saving measures like CPR.
End-of-Life Housing Arrangements
Consider outlining your preferences for end-of-life housing, such as whether you want to receive care at home or in a hospice facility.
Instructions for Your Digital Assets
If you have online accounts or digital assets, consider creating instructions for how they should be managed after your death.
Funeral Instructions and Burial Arrangements
Outline your wishes for your funeral and burial, including whether you want to be cremated or buried, and what type of service you want.
Consider registering as an organ donor and discussing your wishes with your family.
Make sure to communicate your wishes and plans to your loved ones, so they are aware of your desires and can help carry out your wishes.
Planning for the end of our lives is not easy, but it is an essential step in protecting ourselves and our loved ones. By taking the time to create a comprehensive plan, we can ensure that our wishes are respected, our loved ones are provided for, and our legacy lives on.
Documents to have available for your executor:
Before your family can settle things with an estate lawyer, they will need access to the following information. Here is a checklist of documents you will need when planning for end-of-life.
- Official obituary and certificate of death (of course, there is no way to provide these ahead of time!)
- Legal marriage certificate
- Social security card
- Medicare card
- Current bills
- Driver’s license
- Life insurance policy
- Employment benefits
- Summary of assets
- Real estate deeds
- Retirement plans
- Stocks and bonds
- Joint bank accounts
- Insurance information
- Last will and testament
- Logins and Passwords to online accounts
All of these documents work together to show what you have, what you owe, what’s leftover, and what you want to be done with your assets. The list above is crucial to end-of-life planning.
Tips for Organizing Your End-of-Life Documents
Before attempting to organize them, go through the list of necessary documents, and gather copies of each. Some documents require notarization, while others you can simply pull from past records.
Consider these tips for organizing your end of life documents:
1. Take time to develop a file plan
File plans can seem outdated in a technical world, but they are helpful when it comes to keeping things organized. Clearly label files, and keep copies of all your documents in a locked file box.
2. Keep everything in a home safe
Even if you don’t use a file plan, home safes are a great place to lock your important documents. If you use original copies, make sure you use a fire-proof safe as protection against potential home disasters.
3. Store digital copies
If you aren’t a fan of keeping track of hard copies, consider scanning your documents and keeping digital copies. Store digital copies so that individuals with the proper authority can access them when necessary. Sidedrawer.com has free iCloud storage to the public and attorneys. Once your account is established, register your documents with The U.S. Will Registry. Registration allow you to inform family members where they can go to access your documents. This is assurance your documents are secure and safe from destruction or disappearance. It also allows family member to access the documents from any location.
Looking for a Safe Online Resource?
In 1997, the founders of the U.S. Will Registry created a solution to address a significant gap. The US Will Registry stores the location of your registered will or other end-of-life documents in a database, which enables later access. As a result, families and beneficiaries can use this service to locate lost wills and estate planning documents of those who have passed away.
Moreover, Sidedrawer.com offers free iCloud storage to the public, which ensures the safety, accessibility, and security of your documents. Similarly, both The U.S. Will Registry and Sidedrawer.com require that only those family members listed in the file as having permission to access your information. Additionally, we require a photo ID and death certificate to be provided.