Why Everyone Should Write Their Own "Death Book"

When New Yorkers have a death in the family, do they know what to do? Most likely, they quickly get overwhelmed, even if they are the executor of an estate. There are so many things to handle when a loved one dies that it helps to have various strategies in place, including a "Death Book" to help with the estate planning process.

The name may sound morbid to some, but the purpose of the book is to provide a vital resource to loved ones after a person's death. It can be divided into various "chapters" and should include important information for heirs. For example, the first chapter could include immediate needs and include information that an executor would need immediately, such as names, addresses and phone numbers of estate planners, accountants, doctors and funeral homes.

The second chapter may include information about wills and trusts. This would include trustees, distribution of assets, power of attorney, and executor and beneficiary information. The next chapter may include a list of time-sensitive actions, such as taxes, real estate and home repairs.

The fourth chapter may include financial information, such as income, pensions, investments, tax dates, insurance policies, bill payments, credit card information and online IDs and passwords. The final chapter may list the locations of important documents and anything else needed to settle the estate.

When estate planning, it never hurts to have too much information available to loved ones. This information will better help them to settle the estate and ensure that assets go to the intended people without disputes and lengthy court battles. However, a "Death Book" and other personal information should always be kept in a secure place to prevent identity theft.

Source: Market Watch, "To help your heirs, write a 'Death Book'" Henry Hebeler, Feb. 26, 2013

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