deathHow many things do you own? How many kids do you have? How many financial accounts do you operate?

Each of those answers will make settling your estate more complicated by orders of magnitude. Unless, that is, you have prepared a DEATH folder.

Yeah, a death folder sounds pretty morbid, but it is really an act of selflessness. It is thinking about what your loved ones may have to endure — while also grieving you — in order to settle your affairs.

This folder will look different for everyone, but at MINIMUM, it should have the following:

Will – Yes, if you own ANYTHING then you should have a will. Now this may just be a short, handwritten thing you have notarized and leave in the folder, or it may be a 20 page epilogue dictating your affairs to the penny. But you need one. (and you might want to talk it over with your loved ones before you die)

Power of Attorneys – Medically and otherwise, if there is someone you trust to act for you in your absence, you need to give them this written power. Especially if it’s not your closest kin and to whom the state would default.

List of Insurance Policies – ALLLL the insurances. Just cover all your bases, and list the company names and policy numbers for everything. Life, Medical, Dental, Home, Auto, etc. You will WANT them to have access whether your just incapacitated temporarily, or you’ve died, and they need money to settle your affairs.

List of Financial Accounts – Start with the obvious, they need to know where the bank accounts are. Then move to retirement — what 401ks, pensions, other brokerages accounts. Then everything else, credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, education accounts, special savings, safe deposit boxes, etc.

Last but not least… List of your Contacts – This is an often overlooked category, but it can save alot of time. If you always use the same insurance agent, or loan officer, or lawyer, or CPA, leave their contact info!! They may know more about the intricate details and be able to direct your loved ones — without the hours of searching.

The long and short of it is this– A little bit of ‘death prep’ will save your dearest family and friends hours, days, and even weeks, of anguish. Let your family enjoy sharing memories rather than forcing them into a really depressing scavenger hunt.

PS – Don’t forget to tell someone that folder exists and where it is…