At some point, each of us will leave behind loved ones who must pick up the pieces after we are gone. As our loved ones struggle emotionally with our loss, they are also put in a position of responsibility with regards to our burial and estates. The least we can do for these loved ones during this difficult time is have an organized plan for them to follow so they are not left picking up the pieces from scratch. The following list consists of some helpful tips and is not intended to be exhaustive.
If you wish to donate organs, it is in your best interest to inform your family members of your wishes prior to your death because a clause in your Will with regard to organ donation will have no effect. Besides making your wishes known to family, consider donor cards, which will eliminate any confusion and hesitance on the part of your family after you have passed. You may also contact medical universities or other organizations to pre-arrange the donation of organs for use as transplants or to donate your body for scientific purposes.
Further, leave behind an easily accessible letter of instruction and be sure those responsible are aware of its existence and location. The following are some items you should cover in your instructions:
Key Persons. You should list the name, address and telephone numbers of the following individuals: Friends and relatives to be contacted; Clergy to be notified; Attorney to assure the satisfaction of legal requirements and related matters; Accountant, brokers, and other advisers to facilitate asset identification and marshaling.
Asset/Liability Identification. Your letter should identify the assets you own, their location and such relevant information as the account number or other identifying data of each of the following: Bank accounts; Brokerage accounts; Stocks, bonds, and mutual funds not included above; Loans made to others (owed to you); Other investments; Pension information; Real Estate holdings. You should also list your liabilities such as any mortgage or debt or other financial obligations you have and the corresponding account numbers.
Personal Information. Your letter should include such information as the location of your Last Will and Testament, safe deposit box (and its key), and income tax returns. Equally important is providing information in your letter of instruction such as your Social Security number and date of birth, the dates of birth of any children and your spouse, and the date of death of a spouse (if applicable). It is also useful to list the location of your personal and financial records which contain information regarding the above, such as where your income tax returns can be found. This information should be updated on a yearly basis. You may want to correspond this update with the filing of your income tax returns.
All of the above will assist those you leave behind, who will want to help carry out your wishes.