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Putting it All Together: Storing Important Documents Before You Die

When it comes to estate planning, having a select place to store important documents, like bills and personal records, can come in handy for New York locals in helping their heirs settle their estates after death without having to search and sift through mounds of paperwork.

Karin Price Mueller, for instance, writes in SecondAct that she has a special place in her home where she stores all her important paperwork in what she calls the "When I'm Dead" file. As the "primary bill payer, record keeper and investor" in the family, Mueller has assumed the task of organizing her family's documents where her husband or children can easily find what they need in the event she passes away.

So what important documents should New Yorkers keep in his or her own "When I'm Dead" file? Here are a few of Mueller's suggestions:

  • Final documents, which include wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and health care directives. Copies of these documents should also be given to a trusted individual, which could be a child, spouse, or other designated estate executor;
  • Bills and banking, which involves clearly explaining how bills are paid and includes any necessary information and instructions for bills paid online;
  • Insurance policies, including life, health, auto, and disability or long-term care insurance papers;
  • Income information, including social security and child support and alimony;
  • Investment accounts, including retirement accounts, mutual funds, and college saving plans;
  • Credit cards; and
  • Other important paperwork, or at least directions to find these documents, which include military records, old tax returns, and birth, marriage, and death certificates.

Digital assets, which include email and social media accounts, online services, and financial accounts, are also often left behind when it comes to estate planning. According to FindLaw, many may want to consider organizing and storing essential passwords, access keys, PINs, and other sensitive information in a safe place that can later be accessed by family or another trusted individual upon his or her death.

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