Essential Documents to Organize

Essential documents should be in a place that can be located by your heirs. In addition to a will and any trust documents, below is a list of important documents which should be organized:

  • Marriage license—A surviving spouse is likely to need it to prove that he or she was married to the deceased before being able to claim anything based on the marriage;
  • Divorce papers;
  • Durable health-care power of attorney (for health-care decisions if you are incapacitated), a living will, any do-not-resuscitate order, and an authorization to release health-care information;
  • Durable financial power of attorney (for financial decisions if you are incapacitated);
  • Documentation of ownership of property, including housing, land, cemetery plots, vehicles, stocks, bonds, etc.;
  • Proof of loans made and debts owed;
  • List of bank and brokerage accounts, with account numbers, and any safe-deposit boxes with the location of corresponding keys;
  • Tax returns for the most recent three years;
  • Life insurance policies and 401(k), pension, annuity, and IRA documents; and
  • List of user names and passwords for Internet accounts.

It is not just a matter of maintaining tidiness for its own sake: a lot of money and time could be saved by making your estate plan organized and accessible and then keeping it that way. You can greatly reduce the administrative burden on your family and heirs after you pass.

Helpful Resources:

Booklet – A Catholic Guide to End of Life Decision Making
Someone Died – What do I do? 
A Checklist for Funeral Planning