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Plan for your family’s future document needs

On Behalf of | Jan 24, 2014 | Elder Law, Estates |

Plan for your family’s future document needs

Jennifer’s 40 year old husband, Frank, left for work one morning only to be involved in a horrific car accident.  She arrived at the hospital to find her husband in a coma with no hope given by the doctors.  She went home and realized that while she and her husband had gotten their powers of attorney, living wills, health care powers of attorney, and wills drafted they had never signed them.

Frank had always taken care of the finances and bills at home.  She didn’t know where anything was.  She didn’t know how to access the bank accounts, or any other online accounts because she didn’t know the usernames or passwords.  She tried to turn his cell phone off, but the cell phone company wouldn’t even speak to her because she did not have power of attorney.

Frank had expressed in his unsigned living will that he did not want to be kept alive if there was no chance for recovery.  Since she was his wife, the doctors would listen to Jennifer, but she had to endure the arguments with his siblings and parents over HER decision to terminate his life support.

Upon his death, Jennifer realized that she also didn’t know where any of the life insurance or benefits papers were.  Wondering how she was going to be able to make mortgage payments, and the other bills she began to go through all of the papers in the house.  Luckily, for his benefits all she had to do was call his business for the benefits information, but where were the life insurance papers?

The plan

In most circumstances you are not given advanced notice with time to make sure all of your documents are in place where our loved ones can find them before you die.

You can, however, take the time to preplan instead of having our families react in a crisis situation.  Whether you are married, single, do or do not have children – by taking these simple steps you can make sure our papers are in place, thus relieving your loved ones of weeks or months of unnecessary worry and strain.

What is needed is a system of organization for the documents your loved ones will need in the event of your death or catastrophic event.  This system may take a bit of time to complete, but once you have, you can have a peace of mind that your loved ones will not suffer unnecessarily looking around for needed information.

  1. Start with a 3 inch binder and tabs labeled with Vital Records, Life Insurance and Retirement, Bank Accounts, Health Care and Ownership.
  2. Gather the following documents to place behind each tab:

Vital Records:

  • Will
  • Trust documents
  • Power of Attorney
  • Marriage papers
  • Divorce papers
  • Military discharge (DD-214)

Life Insurance and Retirement:

  • Life Insurance Policies
  • 401k Accounts
  • Pension documents
  • Annuity contracts
  • Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA)
    Contact information for all account managers
  • Employee benefit information
  • Usernames and passwords for all online accounts

Bank Accounts:

  • List of all bank accounts
  • List of safe deposit boxes and locations – name of all signers for safe deposit boxes
  • List of all usernames and passwords for accounts

Health Care:

  • List of all doctor names and telephone numbers
  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Advance Directive/Living Will
  • HIPPA release
  • Personal and family medical history (your children will need this information later)


  • Deeds for house, land, cemetery
  • Burial contracts
  • Mortgage accounts
  • Proof of loans
  • Proof of debts owed to others and owed to you
  • Stock certificates and savings bonds (or the location of these items)
  • Brokerage accounts – and contact information for broker
  • Partnership and corporate operating agreements
  • Tax returns

3. Gather any other additional documents you may feel would help your family and place them in the section you feel is appropriate.

4. Place the notebook in a location that is easily found and TELL your family where the notebook is located.