“The pomp of death alarms us more than death itself.” (Lucius Annaeus Seneca, 4 BCE – 65CE). Those words are perhaps more true today than they were when Seneca the Younger first uttered them. All sorts of emotions play havoc on our nerves when we consider our own death. Anxiety, sadness, anger, regret, and even relief are normal feelings to encounter – and there is definitely a place for affirming those feelings. However there is also a time and place to prepare for the time after we are gone and that is where the Death Dossier plays a role.

In parts one and two we began to explore four important components to the Death Dossier: the last will and testament, proof of ownership for all assets, financial account information and retirement account details. Every adult over the age of majority should have their legal documents compiled and in a safe place where family or the trustee can access them without difficulty. This isn’t a task in preparation for one’s impending demise; it is a task for one’s inevitable demise at some point in the future. Now let’s move on to the next two parts of the Death Dossier.

Health Care Instructions
In some states it’s called an advance health care directive, a living will in others, but essentially it’s the same thing. The document sets out specific care instructions, as decided by the individual should they be unable to make decisions themselves due to injury or illness. It further specifies who will take over decision making responsibilities (called the power of attorney), but only under the specifics of the living will. In order for the person holding power of attorney to carry out the directives of the living will, an original document must be present. Therefore, this is one of the most important files in the Death Dossier.

The instructions within a living will are certainly very personal, and not to be influenced by anyone but the individual. Yet it is in the best interest of everyone involved to carry out research before signing on the dotted line. For example, if you sustain an injury or illness that requires significant lifelong health care (life support, permanent vegetative state, comatose, extreme medical frailty), consider the cost of the care and how those expenses will impact loved ones left behind.

Best Scenario: If an advanced health care directive is a part of your portfolio, be sure to include the document in your Death Dossier. Be especially sure that your power of attorney is well aware of your wishes, and where to find the documents.

Partnership Documents
When a spouse or partner passes away, it is hard enough on their surviving loved one without having to prove the legalities of the relationship so that a claim can be made on pensions or insurance. Include marriage licenses, commitment documents, partnership contracts and even divorce agreements in the Death Dossier. Separation, divorce and stipulation agreements are imperative because they provide details on property settlements, child support and alimony payments. In most states child support obligations survives death. It is also a good idea to include all the banking information pertaining to monies involved in the severed relationship, just in case of any disputes.

Best Scenario: Include marriage certificates, partnership contracts, divorce judgments, separation agreements, child-support payment orders, stipulation orders, and even life insurance policies that benefit children who may be under the custody of the other parent.

In the event of our death, every single facet of our life morphs into something different. Every relationship becomes history, and every bureaucratic component (such as income, taxes and insurance) takes a sharp turn towards the realm of ‘unnecessarily complicated’. Make the whole transformation from present to past tense easier for your family, trustee or power of attorney. Organize your Death Dossier.

Look for part four in the series, as we take on the hefty topic of life insurance and conclude our discussion on the Death Dossier.

Author's Bio: 

Ryan O'Donnell is a representative of Annuity Rate Shopper. With so many annuity products available today, Annuity Rate Shopper helps their clients make sense of it all. Their advice, tools and service assist buyers in making an educated decision when choosing from an immediate annuity, fixed annuity or equity-indexed annuity. Visit their site today for a full explanation and description of services.