8 Key Documents for Your End-of-Life Planning

End-of-Life Planning Series – Part II

End-of-Life planning is not an easy subject to broach, but it will make all the difference for your loved ones. Part I of this planning series walked through the 5 Important Tasks to Prepare for End Of Life and highlighted a great starting point on how to get organized.

A big part of preparation is ensuring you have all important documents updated and gathered in advance. While you may think you’re too young to have a Will and Advance Health Care Directive in place, the truth is we never know when our time will come.

To help with the process, this checklist walks you through 8 key documents you need to gather, review, and update regularly. Make sure to have electronic copies of these documents and keep them together. Having them properly labeled and stored in a safe, yet accessible location will be helpful for your loved ones.

1. Trust Documents and Amendments

Gather any official (notarized) trust documents you have, including all amendments. With your trust documents, it’s helpful to list the contact information for your Trust Attorney and the Successor Trustee. If the trust lists another deceased individual (spouse, parent, etc.) as a Grantor or Trustee, the Successor Trustee will likely need a copy of all decedents’ death certificates to proceed with administration/distribution. Keep any relevant death certificates with the trust documents, if applicable.

2. A Last Will & Living Will (Advance Health Care Directive)

If you haven’t already created one, make sure you have a Last Will. This document spells out how you would like your assets distributed after your death, which is when it goes into effect. If you have children, this is also where you would designate their caretaker.

A Living Will, often referred to as an Advance Health Care Directive, provides direction in the case that you can’t communicate your wishes on your own behalf. A Living Will addresses matters such as organ donation, disposition and funeral services, pain management, independent living, and other important end-of-life decisions. Living Wills do not have power after you have passed away.

Part of this process will be setting your Power of Attorney. You may want to consider having two different POAs—one for health care and another for financial matters. Make sure to review the specific rules for your governing state when it comes to POAs and spousal rules. In some states, your health care POA will make decisions before your spouse (if they are different people).

You should also include a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) authorization to allow others to speak with doctors and nurses about your condition.

3. Social Security Card/Number

Your survivors will need your social security number to report your death to the Social Security Administration and to apply for benefits.

4. Original Certificates

Keep your birth certificate, marriage license, divorce papers, certificate of citizenship, certificate of adoption, and evidence of a legal name change in a safe and secure area. Be sure to note where the originals are kept and consider having digital copies of each.

5. Car Title and Registration

To ease the transfer of ownership of your vehicle to your beneficiary, they will need the title and registration. Be sure to note the location of these documents.

6. Recent Income Tax Return

Upon death, a designated survivor must file a 1040 federal income tax form on your behalf. Having access to recent tax returns will make the process easier and serve as a checklist of documents that will need to be gathered in order to file the return.

7. Divorce/Separation Papers

With an inheritance, it is not uncommon for disputes to arise with former spouses of the deceased. Having proof of divorce or separation to accompany a Living Trust can ensure that your directives are followed.

8. Passport and Identification Cards

To limit the threat of identity theft, your passport and other forms of identification cards should be canceled and destroyed after you’ve passed away. Make sure to note the location for these items.

End-of-Life planning may be difficult, but in the long run, gathering and organizing these important documents in advance can help ease some of the stress your loved ones will endure after you are gone.

Stay tuned for Part III of our End-of-Life Planning Series which will walk through other considerations to keep in mind. If you could use some additional support and guidance for your end-of-life planning, Stonemark Wealth Management has the expertise to help you navigate the road ahead.