The Death File

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My dad passed away in 2019. It wasn’t any sort of surprise, as his health had been declining for several months. I tried bringing up his last wishes and such a few times in the year or two prior to his death, and he wanted nothing to do with it. He told me where to find his will and said everything I needed to know would be there.

Turns out, not so much. There was a very bare-bones, two-page will, and that was it. My wife and I spent several months trying to get his affairs sorted out, with mixed results. It seemed like every week a new problem arose: a new account that needed to be closed, and a new repair required before we could list his house for sale. All while we were still trying to grieve for our loss.

I tell you all of that to tell you this. Don’t do that to your family. Don’t force them to have to muddle their way through all of that when they should be spending that time remembering you and working through their loss.

Instead, collect and collate all of the information that they’ll need and keep it in one place.

The Death File

I know, it’s a morbid name. But it gets the point across. You can call yours whatever you’d like. Some prefer “In Case of Death.”

There are several things that should be kept in this file. I recommend printing these out rather than just storing everything electronically.

Legal Documents

This is what most people initially think of when we talk about a Death File. Your Will, Power of Attorney, Living Will, other healthcare directives, and all that fun stuff should be present and accounted for. I recommend using an attorney to draw up these forms, if only so you don’t forget anything that could prove important later. Pro tip – keep multiple original copies of the POA paperwork available. Something I found out when we were dealing with my dad’s health issues was that many places demanded an original. Simple photocopies didn’t suffice.

Until you get around to getting those forms official, consider at least leaving a note in the file as to your last wishes, such as burial or cremation, so that your family isn’t forced to just guess and wonder if they got it right. Obviously, if you have pre-planned and/or prepaid arrangements for your funeral and whatnot, include that information.

For me, I’ve made it clear to my family that I wish to be cremated and to have some of my ashes scattered at a specific beach that holds many fond memories for me. It’s also close enough to home that my family can easily visit and remember me, should they choose to do so.



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