Following is a partial list of information that you should assemble and actions you can take to assist your loved ones and the persons helping you if the need arises during your life, or after your death.

Information that your descendants would like to have is also included.

Reducing your possessions

You can ease the burden on the loved ones you leave behind and persons who have to implement your estate plan and deal without your death by sorting and organizing your “life” and possessions so they do not have to. This eases their work at a time of stress, and allows them to get on with their grieving process rather than sorting through your “stuff”.

Lifetime giving

You may also want to give away some of the property you planned to pass on at your death while you are still alive to enjoy the pleasure of giving and appreciation of the recipients rather than waiting. As a bonus this reduces the work for persons dealing with your estate.

Create a starting point in the survivors’ search

You should also make a list of the location of important documents and assets and or provide directions to where the listed information can be found (e.g., in the bottom left desk drawer, top filing cabinet drawer, etc.).

Names and contact information for various persons:

  • Bank representative
  • Insurance agent
  • Securities account manager
  • Medical providers
  • Property manager
  • Religious advisors (Minister, Clergy etc.)

Details of their various financial accounts

  • company the account is with
  • account number
  • account representative’s name and telephone number

Safe deposit box

  • location (institution and address)
  • box number and
  • location of the access key
  • current list of everything in the safe deposit box

Location of all the important papers

  • birth certificates
  • marriage certificate (for Social Security survivor’s benefits)
  • the pink slip or title for cars
  • deeds and title documents for real property

Copies of historic income and other (e.g., gift, property or business) tax returns (including any related correspondence)

Receipts for major appliances and home improvements

Details of life, property and health insurance coverage:

  • insurance company
  • agent name and telephone number
  • renewal dates
  • periodic costs

Vehicle registration and smog information

where is your vehicle title located 9typically a bank safety deposit box.

Promissory notes, mortgages, lines of credit, and credit card liabilities

That you owe or that are owed to you.

List of monthly expenses

  • utilities, newspaper, cable, insurance, Internet, cell phones
  • copies of bills with addresses and telephone numbers might ensure that services that should be paid if needed or cancelled quickly to avoid unnecessary expenses

Detailed records for income items

  • Social Security benefits
  • IRA required minimum distributions
  • annuities
  • pensions
    so that these benefits can be continued or cancelled, as the case may be, and so that a survivor does not end up owing money that has already been spent or suffering onerous penalties for mishandling. Copies of credit reports can help with these types of inquiries.

Tangible personal property

Detailed records of tangible personal property (other than vehicles) are rarely maintained. Writing down the story behind your “treasures” should be done so that the intimate memories and stories can continue to be recounted for generations. These details (described on Antique Road Show as “provenance”) can also help ascertain values of necessary. This applies even to personal property with only sentimental value. Write down the stories, as well as who should receive the treasure in the hopefully far-off future, to preserve the family memories for eternity.

Personal history

It is a good idea to note the identity and relationship of persons in photographs and dates and location where the photos were taken. Take the time to celebrate life by going through these treasures with your loved ones while you and they are healthy.

Funeral instructions

You can assist those you leave by prearranging or even just providing funeral instructions:

  • What funeral home to use
  • Do you want to be cremated
  • Cemetery
  • Family plot information, including a map and lot desired
  • Headstone
  • Casket
  • Obituary
  • Visitation
  • Flowers
  • Gifts in lieu
  • Service
  • Church
  • Minister
  • Eulogy
  • Clothing you want to be buried in
  • Music
  • Other special Instructions