You know that, at some point, you’re going to shuffle off of this mortal coil.
You will die.
Hopefully, you’ll have lived your life is such a way that the even won’t be easy for your heirs, but you can do a bit to make the process less painful for them. Do you want them gutting your house trying to find out if you have a will, or does the idea of a treasure hunt for a life insurance policy make you smile?
Assuming you don’t intend to sit in the afterlife giggling about how difficult you’ve made life for your offspring, the first thing you need to do is find a spot to put your important paperwork. This should, ideally, be a fireproof safe, which you can get for under $50. You’re looking for something big enough to hold the things that matter, while being able to withstand a bit of fire, in case the part of “Grim Reaper” is being played by an arsonist.
The next thing you need to do is put your important papers in the safe. Seriously, this beats both filing your insurance papers in a telephone book stacked in the corner and wrapping an envelope full of cash in a 10 year old newspaper and storing it with your recycling. It’s also superior to tucking an insurance policy in a coupon mailer and losing it the cracks of a chair.*
Important papers include:
- Your will
- Life insurance policies, including accidental death policies
- Bank account information, but don’t forget to remove these if you close an account
- Safe deposit box information
- Car titles and lien releases, if applicable
- The deed to your house
- Investment accounts
- Retirement accounts
Things that are not important papers for your heirs:
- The last 30 years of your monthly gas bill
- The last 30 years of your electric bill
- Home Shopping Network receipts
- Child support filings for your 33 year old daughter who has 3 kids of her own
- Coupon mailers
- Credit card offers
- 10 year old angry letters to the police department about that guy in the silver car who ran a stop sign in the grocery store parking lot
The final thing you need to do to make this all work is tell someone about it. Don’t hope somebody will find a book that has “In case of death, my will is here” scrawled inside the cover, buried in your kitchen. Really. And if that is your plan, don’t move the will later, without updating the book.
Your homework over the weekend is to gather up your important papers and put them in a box. Then tell someone about the box.
*I wish I was making this up.
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