Most families have one person who knows where to find everything. That person is the only one who knows where to find all the financial, insurance, tax, and medical information. If he or she should suddenly pass away suddenly or become ill, another family member has to pick up the pieces. Unfortunately, someone is not always able to find all critical information.

At the time of this writing, we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s as good a time as any to get a list of documents together that your family will need in the event of a crisis.

Assets, Debt & Agreements

In the new era of paperless statements, it helps to provide login information for each account, locations of any scanned statements or other documents, and the access codes to computer programs such as Quicken that contain them. Oh, and of course, your successor will probably need the password to get into your computer, too.

  • Essential Documents Every Family Needs In The Event Of A Crisis Bank accounts, including certificates of deposit and safe deposit box keys
  • Brokerage accounts, and contact information for the account manager
  • Life Insurance policies and medical insurance policies for all family members
  • Location of any real estate, and where any documents are located in them
  • The make, model number and license of each vehicle
  • A description of each item or collection of personal property (antiques, jewelry, coins, stamps, art) and the location of each
  • A description of each business interest and the documents related to them
  • The name of any trust not created by you of which you are a beneficiary or trustee
  • Any insurance policies that protect any of the above, such as homeowners, renter’s, automotive, personal articles, and the like
  • As each asset is checked off, if there are any debts on them – such as a mortgage or car loan
  • Utility bill information
  • If you have any promises or agreements (example, you give money to charity each month or you help a relative) a written description of what you’re doing, why, and any promises or agreements in place, regardless of whether they are oral or written.

Estate Planning Documents

For every document in this list, specify where the original is, which one is the most recent, and how they can be accessed, either physically (safe deposit box) or electronically (login information necessary.) If you don’t have these in place or need to update them, consult a estate planning & probate attorney.

  • Will
  • Power of Attorney (including HIPAA release)
  • Declaration of Guardian
  • Advance Directive
  • Trust agreements, including any funding information that you can locate.
  • Pre or post marital agreements.
  • Any college, trust fund, or account information for your children.
  • If you own or operate a business, all related information.
  • Any specific wishes you may have related to funeral or burial arrangements and the location of any cemetery deeds or prepaid funeral expense agreements.
  • The location of any last letter to your family or friends.
  • Organ donor information.

Personal & Contact Information

These details are necessary for government benefits, probate, or tax filings, and they’re not always easy to find. Therefore, make sure it’s all in a central place.

  • Social Media account and password information.
  • The date of any marriage or divorce.
  • Social Security and driver’s license information, or any other identifying numbers (passport, ID Cards, etc.) for everyone in the family.
  • Information on how to get into your phone. Contact lists are the new rolodexes, and emails are the new postal service.
  • Contact information for any current or past employer, especially those who have short or long term disability policies, medical insurance, or retirement benefits.
  • Contact information for anyone you employ or work with; attorneys, accountants, insurance agents, bankers, financial advisors, doctors, employees, business associates, and friends.

Make Sure Your Spouse Or Close Family Members Have Access To This Information

None of this information is helpful if the right people cannot access it. Therefore, make sure your spouse or close family members have access to this information, or know how to track it down.

Consult Our Experienced North Texas Estate Planning & Probate Attorney

Whether you're planning your own estate, trying to understand a parent's estate plan, caring for an aging relative or facing probate, our estate planning & probate attorney can help you navigate the process and safeguard your family's future. Contact Colin Smith Law today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation. Can't come to us? We can arrange to meet you at your home, in the hospital, or wherever is convenient.

Colin Smith
North Texas Estate Planning & Probate Attorney
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