You may know that it’s important after a loved one dies to protect their identity. But what can you do before death to simplify the after-death experience for your spouse, family members or close friends?
For advice on forming trusts, creating a will, naming a power of attorney, filling out advance directives, and other legal end-of-life issues, you should consult an attorney. All of that is extremely important, but there are other simple steps you can take right now—no matter your age or health—that will greatly reduce the difficulties your loved ones will go through after you’re gone.
Decide Who to Trust
At least one person in your life should know where to find the information that will be needed to settle personal and financial matters after your death. Decide who that person is, and have a conversation about your general expectations and how to access the information we describe below.
Put Together Your Paperwork
Family members often struggle to determine where the deceased had assets. Make it easy by putting together paperwork including:
- Credit cards and financial accounts (checking, saving, CDs, etc.)
- Proof of identity (birth certificate, Social Security card, etc.)
- Pension, retirement, and investment information (including mortgages and loans)
- Insurance policies (home, life, car, health, etc.)
- Tax returns for at least the past several years
- Property titles or deeds
- Household utilities (recent statements)
- Mobile phone account information
This is very private and sensitive information, so store it in a safe place like a fireproof safe or safe deposit box. Share the combination or key location with your trusted loved one or add them to your safe deposit box so they can access it on your behalf.
Compile Your Passwords
If you passed away or had a health emergency right now, would a loved one know how to access your email or other online accounts? And would they know what your wishes are in terms of deleting those accounts or sending messages about what has happened?
After making sure that you have strong passwords, let at least one loved one know how to access your devices (if they’re locked) and your online accounts including:
- Online businesses (Amazon, PayPal, etc.)
- Social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
Also be clear about what you want done with those online accounts when you pass away. Leaving the accounts open indefinitely could lead to identity theft even months or years after your death.
Thinking about your own mortality is unpleasant for many people, but if you invest just a few hours now, it may relieve any worries in the back of your mind. And it can certainly make things easier for your loved ones to do right by you after you’re gone.