Are you the one in the home that handles all of the finances, pays the bills, makes the appointments, etc? If so, you are in desperate need of a Death Book . . .
What is a Death Book?
A death book is simply a book that lists all of the important things that you were responsible for taking care of it. In the event that something happens to you (an accident, an unexpected illness, etc) your family will know what needs to be paid, when, who to contact, where the important papers are, etc.
My death book is a simple 3-ring binder, prominently labeled, “Death Book”. It is divided into 4 sections,
A. Immediate Needs
This section includes a contact list with addresses and phone numbers for doctors, dentists, tax accountant, attorneys, etc for each member of our household. In this section, I’ve included a list of each bank account, access information to those accounts.
I’ve included a form (pre-filled) out to notify the social security office of my untimely death – all my family needs to do is write in the date, include an envelope with a lifetime stamp.
B. Wills and Trusts
This contains a copy of our wills (living and otherwise)., Power of attorney, and specifies who gets what in the event of our deaths. It lists clearly who the trustees are and the location of any additional important documents such as life insurance policies.
C. Important Follow-Up
This is a brief guide to all time-sensitive information, such as taxes that are due. This includes a complete listing of our house and other properties that may be owned, vehicles ( and the month and date the taxes are due on them, as well as an estimated dollar amount).
You might want to consider adding a section here about home maintenance records such as any contractors that have done work on the property/home in the past, gardening/landscaping company and contact information, termite or pest control company contacts and information, etc. This is particularly important if you have any type of bond (such as termite protection on the home) as these are easily overlooked.
D. Household Financial Management
This section includes records about any and all bills and income. It includes a list of each and every creditor, the normal cost per month, the date it is due, which account it is primarily paid from. Be sure to note whether the payment is directly withdrawn from a bank account as well.
This is also the place to list each and every credit card account, the company that holds the account, as well as the complete contact information for each card. If you have password protected accounts, be sure to include the passwords you want your loved ones to gain access to, for instance, your Facebook account. They may want to close the account or respond to your contacts.
You may wish to include the titles of vehicles and properties in this section as well.
While it’s possible to compile this information in a digital file, consider creating an actual book, such as a 3-ring binder. Oftentimes digital files are overlooked (or can become corrupted due to environmental factors) and well, some family members just aren’t computer savvy and it may add to their stress.
In short, having a death-book can immediately remove an immense amount of stress from the family, allowing them to redirect their focus to more pressing issues, such as taking care of the survivors.
Do you have a family death book? What types of things have you included in yours?
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