The “Death Book” Sounds Like a Stephen King Novel, But It’s Actually a Helpful Estate Planning Tool

The “Death Book” Sounds Like a Stephen King Novel, But It’s Actually a Helpful Estate Planning Tool

Where do you keep all of your important financial information?

-In a cabinet stuffed with unmarked files?

-In a cardboard box full of unmanageable papers?

-In an old Cleveland Indian's suitcase like my dad once did (odd but true)?

There are multiple problems with any of these: clutter, disorder, locatability. In the event of your death, they all create stress and effort for your loved ones and/or executor.

But there is a solution, as Henry Hebeler recently suggested at Market Watch. His solution is the darkly named, "Death Book."

A Death Book is a book (e.g., a binder) prominently labeled "Death Book" that contains information on financial matters and necessary actions. For a young and newly married couple, it might only be a couple pages. For an older, retired couple, it should be more complete and, at some point, copied for children and executors.

Hebeler highlights 5 important parts of the Death Book. They include:

  1. Urgent Needs - important contact information (e.g., doctors, attorneys, accountants) and how to's (e.g.,funeral directions and notifications, such as the Social Security Administration and broker notifications).
  2. Wills and trusts - wills, powers of attorney, executors, etc.
  3. Essential Actions - time-sensitive actions (e.g., taxes and distributions), home and vehicle maintenance records.
  4. Financials - investments, credit cards, insurance and tax data.
  5. Location- the location of anything needed to settle the estate and/or pay taxes.

Hebeler makes annual updates and adds that he keeps his financial information protected with a strong password that's located in a safe deposit box.


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