Get your affairs in order with a ‘death file’

Do you ever think about death or wonder when or how you will die?

Morbid, perhaps, but life is terminal. There’s only one way into this life, and only one way out.

Part of living is dying, and part of our job is to get our affairs in order so when we do pass on, our loved ones won’t have to go on a scavenger hunt to find out what was happening in our lives and what our final wishes were.

I recently took a coaching workshop about money and finances from another life coach, Diane Dinell. In one of the sessions, she provided some great information on how to prepare what she called a “death file.” This is a place where you keep all of your important documents so that when you die, your loved ones can carry out your wishes.

Each person’s death file will be different, depending on what you have in place before you die and what you want done with your affairs after you are gone.

Here are some tips for creating a death file:

— Create a list of items to include in your death file. These are items you think would be important for survivors to have after a person dies. See list that follows.

— Set goals (with deadlines) for getting each of these items organized — your will completed, life insurance policy in place, list of assets and who you’d like to have them.

— Notify your family where you keep your death file and how to access it upon your death. Include information such as safe deposit box numbers, key and passwords.

— Update the death file periodically as things change in your life (marriage, divorce, real estate transactions, employment and 401K status, births and deaths).

Here is a suggested list of information to have in your death file. Ask your attorney or financial adviser what other documents might be helpful.

— Bank account information, including account numbers, bank information and passwords.

— Beneficiaries (get them in order and update regularly).

— Burial information and any wishes you have regarding services, preparations and funeral arrangements.

— Contact names and phone numbers for people who manage your investments.

— Insurance policies.

— Last will and testament, power of attorney, living will.

— Life insurance.

— List of liabilities and assets.

— Mortgage information (on all properties).

— Most recent Social Security statements.

— Paperwork on any investments you have.

— Retirement benefits.

— Safe deposit box, including where you keep the key and who has permission (whose name is on the bank’s verification form) to access it.

— Vital documents, including birth certificates, passports, Social Security cards, ID cards or driver’s license, marriage certificates and divorce decrees.

The concept of dying may not be the most comfortable thing to think about, but getting your death File in order can really help the loved ones you leave behind when you die … and give you some peace of mind.

Coaching Challenge: Even though it may be difficult, take the time to get your death file in order. Let someone know about the file you’ve created (where it is and any passwords/codes necessary) and update it regularly.

This will help you prepare your loved ones to handle your financial, legal and personal affairs after you pass on.

Special thanks to Diane Dinell, a life coach, former financial adviser and a Realtor for Keller-Williams. She can be reached at 970-208-4819.

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Sheri Fisher is a life coach in Grand Junction. The situations and characters in her column have been altered in order to maintain client confidentiality. Go to for more information.


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