Organization is One Key to Success – Top 25 Estate Planning Documents

This WSJ article, “The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die” by Saabira Chaudhuri does a nice job of listing some of the most important documents for basic estate planning.  The key here is to be organized.  Much of the difficulty (and cost) in administering estates is tracking down the information.  Building from the article, the following items are a list of things I try to keep handy for my clients (or at least recommend they try to keep) in no particular order:

  1. Last Will & Testament
  2. Trust Documents
  3. Durable health-care power of attorney
  4. Living Will
  5. Letter of instruction outlining your wishes to your family
  6. Deeds
  7. Mortgage and loan documents
  8. Proof of loans made to others and debts you owe
  9. Vehicle titles
  10. List of brokerage accounts, and original stock certificates, savings bonds, etc.
  11. List of IRAs, 401(k), pension documents and other tax qualified accounts
  12. Organizational documents for any businesses you own (e.g. operating agreements for LLCs, partnership agreements, corporate documents, buy-sell agreements, etc)
  13. List of bank accounts
  14. List of user names and passwords
  15. List of safe-deposit boxes
  16. HIPAA authorization
  17. Life Insurance Policies
  18. Annuity contracts
  19. Health Insurance information
  20. Primary care and other physician contacts
  21. List of advisors and contact information (e.g. Estate Planning lawyer, Business Lawyer, investment advisor, CPA, life and P&C Insurance agents, etc.)
  22. Any patents, copyrights or other intellectual property information
  23. Marital documents such as marriage certificate, premarital agreements, divorce documents.
  24. At least 3 prior year’s income tax returns
  25. Gift tax returns
  26. List family members and contact information
  27. Funeral directions

Advisors serve their clients well by helping them to get organized.  Hope this helps.