The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die

While death is typically not a comfortable conversation for many to have, it is essential if you want to save your loved ones added frustration during their heartache of your passing.  As some of our past articles have hopefully served as an encouragement and guide, such as having a family wealth meeting, designing charity vacations for children, and planning ideas before taking your company public or merging with another, this article hopes to serve you in helping make the life of your loved ones easier during a difficult time.

The following is a list of documents that you should have prepared in an organized manner and stored in a safe location where the necessary people are able to obtain it when needed. 

The Essentials

Bank Accounts

Marriage & Divorce


List of bank accounts

Marriage license

Letter of Instruction

List of all user names and passwords

Divorce Papers

Trust Documents

List of safe deposit boxes


Proof of Ownership

Health-Care Confidential

Life Insurance & Retirement

Housing, land and cemetery deeds

Personal and family medical history

Life-insurance policies

Escrow mortgage accounts

Durable health-care power of attorney

Individual retirement accounts

Proof of loans made and debts owed

Authorization to release health-care information

401(K) accounts

Vehicle titles

Living will

Pension documents

Stock certificates, savings bonds and brokerage accounts

Do-not-resuscitate order

Annuity Contracts

Partnership and corporate operating agreements



Tax returns



*This list was compiled by reporter Saabira Chaudhuri and published in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on July 1, 2011.

Kudos to the WSJ and reporter Saabira Chaudhuri for taking the time to make a conducive list of The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die and special thanks to Planned Giving Tomorrow for bringing it to our attention.  One last bit of advice – keep a copy of the WSJ article with these documents so that your loved ones know why these items are needed. 

By: Kristen Schmidt, Marketing Coordinator

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