Not only is it important to create an estate plan that documents your final wishes for your estate and medical choices, but it is equally important to remember where those documents are when they are needed. Family members or close friends need to know where they can locate your estate planning documents in the time just before or after your passing. If someone does not know where these documents are kept, it could mean that your final wishes are not fulfilled.
Problems with Lost Documents
Being unable to find estate planning documents can have a drastic effect on your final wishes. One man wished to be buried at Arlington Cemetery after he had died, but his son could not find the paperwork after his passing. The cemetery offered to place his father in cold storage for six months while the son tracked down the proper forms documenting his military discharge. He eventually found it being used as a bookmark in his father’s home.
Another example came from a mother who belonged to the Neptune Society, which cremates its members and spreads the ashes out at sea. However, after the mother’s passing the Society informed her children that it had no record of their mother’s membership and therefore could not accept her body. One child had even seen the paperwork that her mother had of registering with the organization, but it was nowhere to be found. Had the children known where the documentation was, this issue could have been avoided.
How to Avoid Lost Documentation Problems
Communication is vital when creating an estate plan. You should go over your plan with your children, spouse, or other loved ones that will be taking care of your final wishes after you are gone. Distribute copies of vital documentation or give specific details about where it can be found. Be sure to let your heirs know where to find all of your important documentation, including your living will, healthcare proxy and durable power of attorney forms, bank account information, password log-ins, and more.
In addition to those documents, consider also adding information regarding a list of all subscriptions you have, both online and in the mail. Also consider placing tax documents in the same location along with any credit card or debit card information. One final piece to add to estate planning documents is a medical history for you, your spouse, and your parents so that your children and theirs will know if there is a history of any medical issues in the family.
Another recommendation is to place all of these important estate planning documents in the same location. This avoids the problems of tracking down separate pieces of paper in order to put together your entire estate plan. Consider placing all of the documents into a safety deposit box, filing cabinet, desk drawer, or on the computer in a single folder.
Preparing for your own death can be tedious and unpleasant, but if something happened to you would your loved ones know what you have, where it is, and what your wishes are? That is why the creation and location of your estate planning documents are vitally important for you and for your loved ones.