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How to Prepare a “Life After Me” Document

Kimberley Fowler
By Kimberley FowlerApril 28, 2016
How to Prepare a "Life After Me" Document

With their estate planning in place, many baby boomers are creating a “Life After Me” document which allows them to say goodbye to their family with a heartfelt letter that says the things that may have been too hard to say face to face.

But a touching goodbye is not the only purpose of a “Life After Me” document. According to Andy Smith, Senior VP of Financial Planning at Financial Engines, and host of call-in radio program, Investing Sense, it also gives you an opportunity to provide critical information, like: keys to safety deposit boxes, locations of documents, passwords and usernames that you may not want to share until you’re gone.

How a “Life After Me” Document Will Leave Family and Friends with Peace of Mind

A “Life After Me” document is not legally binding in any way. It’s not a will and it’s purpose is not to give assets to a benefactor.

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Instead, the goal is to help the executor of your estate — and your loved ones — find what they need easily and quickly.

What to Include in the Document

  • A list of people to contact in the event of your death as well as the location of your contact book
  • Burial arrangements, especially if prepaid, including:
    • Cemetery deeds
    • Detailed funeral arrangements
    • Proof of loans and debts owed
    • Receipts
  • Family history, including the location of your family tree (should one exist) and medical history
  • Keys or security codes to all your deposit boxes, locked safes, property or other assets you may own (if someone else already holds the key ensure you provide that person’s contact information)
  • Location of your personal identification, including:
    • Birth certificate or proof of citizenship
    • Driver’s License
    • Passport
    • Veteran’s identification
  • Physical location of documents that your executor of your will and your loved ones will need, including:
    • Completed authorization to release any medical information
    • Divorce papers
    • Escrow mortgage accounts
    • Individual and group retirement accounts, including:
      • 401K accounts
      • Pension documents
      • Annuity contracts
    • Life insurance policies
    • Marriage license
    • Property deeds
    • Stock certificates, savings bonds and brokerage information
    • Vehicle titles
    • Will and estate documents (including letters of instruction and trust documents)
  • Usernames and website URLs for accounts family may need to access after your death, including (but not limited to):
    • Access to your photographs and personal videos
    • Electronic banking, credit card accounts and all bills you pay
    • Email
    • Pertinent work-related accounts
    • Social media accounts (like Facebook and LinkedIn)

Where to Keep the Document

  • Keep an electronic copy on your computer — and label the document “Open Upon My Death” — you could even include a video file for your loved ones where you can say your goodbye personally
  • Keep a hard copy in a sealed envelope — labeled “Open Upon My Death” (include your name on the front) —  in your bureau or desk at home
  • Remember to tell your loved one(s) that the “Life After Me” document exists and where to find it, and also instruct them to open it only upon your death

Taking the time to write a “Life After Me” document is a wonderful testament to your family, because it shows them how much you care.

Not only does a “Life After Me” document allow you one final goodbye, it also makes the aftermath of your death less stressful for those you love by ensuring your estate and related details are organized and easy to access.

Have you created a “Life After Me” document or something similar for your loved ones? Share your stories, suggestions and thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Kimberley Fowler
Kimberley Fowler

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