Final Exam

In the last two articles (here and here), I discussed what to do after a loved one dies – a loved one who died unexpectedly and had done no planning. This article is going to discuss planning for your death. A couple in their 90s came in to prepare, as they said, for their “final exam.” That is what we are going to discuss – your final exam and how to prepare for it.

Advance planning of funeral and memorial services. What do you want? A traditional funeral followed by burial or cremation? Or direct cremation with a memorial service at a later time? You can relay this information to the person you want to take care of it or you can visit a funeral home for advanced planning. Under Iowa law you can sign a form (Declaration of Designee for Final Disposition) saying who you want to make the decisions regarding disposition of your remains and planning your funeral or memorial services.

Organ donation. Indicate on your driver’s license if you want to be an organ donor. Make a copy of your driver’s license for your records and let your family know.

Obituary. Information for your obituary. Funeral homes usually have a form to be filled out for use in the obituary. You can get the form prior to death and complete it or write your own obituary. Some of my clients update their obituaries annually before they go south for the winter.

Charities. Names of your favorite charities that you want any memorials to go to.

List of people to call upon your death. Names and phone numbers of all the friends and family you want to be notified of your death.

Estate Planning Documents. Will or Trust Agreement setting forth the person or persons in charge of your affairs after your death and how your assets are to be distributed. This should include a list of your personal possessions (china, jewelry, antiques) and who you want each item to be given to.

List of assets. A detailed list of your assets and any loans outstanding and credit card accounts (make copies of the credit cards). This should include bank names and account numbers for all bank accounts, name of broker and account numbers for investment accounts, IRAs, pensions, and names of insurance companies and policy numbers for all insurance and annuity policies. If you don’t have any life insurance or annuity policies, say so, so that your executor or trustee doesn’t waste time looking for them.

Assets you no longer have. Do not keep information regarding assets you no longer have. This happens all the time; people keep insurance policies that are no longer in force.

Safe deposit box. Where it is, the key to it and what is in it. You need to have someone else “on” the safe deposit box with you. Having the key won’t be enough.

Passwords. A current list of all of your passwords.

Where to keep. All of the above needs to be in one place – a file drawer in your desk, a file cabinet, a safe at home, a separate file box or a binder. If it isn’t in this one place, there needs to be a reference in this one place to where it is located. For example, you may keep your Will in your safe deposit box. If so, keep a copy of your Will in this one place, with a note on the copy that the original is in the safe deposit box.