My mom is a very positive person. Much to the chagrin of my high school self, she’s been known to do the “mom dance” in grocery store aisles if a favorite song comes on the radio. She talks to strangers, buys coffee for the person in the car behind her in the drive-through line, and has helped out more friends and family members than I can count.
And even though she’s only in her early 60s and healthy as can be, she even talks about her own death with humor and lightheartedness. Every member of the family has been made to repeat her dying wishes back to her:
- There will be no wearing black at her funeral.
- Get the good coffee. Her funeral is not the place for the cheap stuff.
- For the love of all that is holy, no Styrofoam cups allowed!
And last, but not least, we all know to find “the green binder.” That’s where she keeps all of the family’s important contacts, a financial snapshot, immunization records, and everything else we’ll need to take the helm should she become incapacitated, or worse.
It might sound a little morbid, but the green binder is really a symbol of mercy and love. My mom isn’t afraid of death; her deep faith in God makes her outlook on it more hopeful than anything. But details matter, and she wouldn’t want any of us kids to have to spend hours on hold with banks and attorneys, trying to get to the bottom of what’s where and who can access what. So it’s all there, organized, with a hypothetical bow around it (although the woman loves wrapping gifts, and I wouldn’t put an actual bow past her!)
At Gift Planning Services, we work with families to help them maximize their legacy potential by incorporating financial tools designed to minimize tax and make the greatest impact on their loved ones and causes they care about. One step in the legacy planning process is to gather important documents and estimate their net worth. Here’s a run-down of the documents we encourage our clients to find and organize for the benefit of their executors and beneficiaries:
PROOF OF PURCHASE
- Deed to Your Home(s), Land, and/or Burial Plots
- Statement from Mortgage Account(s) in Escrow
- Proof of Outstanding Loans or Debts Owed to You
- Titles of Vehicles
- Account Numbers and/or Custodian Info for Bonds, Stocks, and Brokerage Accounts
- Partnership Agreements or Business Incorporation Documents
- Copy of Recent Tax Returns
- Life Insurance Policy Information
- Personal and Family Medical History
- Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Document
- Authorization to Release Medical Information
- Do Not Resuscitate Order
- Living Will
- List of Bank Accounts (With Usernames and Passwords)
- Location of Safe(s) and/or Safety Deposit Box(es)
- Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Decisions
- IRA Documentation
- Pension Documentation
- 401K/403B Documentation
- Annuity Documentation
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage License
- Divorce Decree
- Letter of Instruction
- Trust Documentation
- Legacy Letter(s)
This category can be a whopper, so we’ll have an entire post about granting digital access to a loved one out soon. For now, make sure to pull together URLs and passwords for social media accounts, online credit card access, streaming subscriptions, and any other online accounts you can think of.
Want to make sure your loved ones don’t miss a thing? A list like this would serve as a great Table of Contents if you’re putting together a “green binder” of your own.
Here’s a printable/shareable (PDF) version:
About The Author: Monique is the Marketing and Brand Specialist for Gift Planning Services. She has a background in ministry and higher education, bringing years of experience to the team. She has degrees in journalism, Spanish, English literature/writing, and strategic leadership. She loves hearing people’s stories and figuring out ways to use creative storytelling to capture personalities, illustrate complex ideas, and inspire action. She and her husband live on a landscaping tree farm, so as a small business co-owner herself, she loves to dream up new ways for Gift Planning Services to think creatively and partner in new ways after 20 years in the industry. When she’s not writing or pruning trees, Monique is probably cooking, paddling a kayak, or planning her next national park trip.