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TMFBro (< 20)

If you died, would people know where to find your stuff?



August 18, 2009 – Comments (8)

A question from a reader over at Bankrate:

"My sister was recently killed in an accident. She may have life insurance, safety deposit boxes, 401(k) and other accounts or assets. All her records of these accounts were in a bag that cannot be found. Where and how do I begin looking?"

A sad, and all-too-common, story. Per usual, Bankrate's Dr. Don has some good advice (which you can read here). 

The question for you, dear CAPS blog reader, is: What would happen if you joined that Great Tax Shelter in the Sky? Would your relatives be able to locate your important paperwork, accounts, and trusted professionals? 

If not, create a document with the following information:

*Insurance policies
*Investment and bank accounts
*Location of safety deposit boxes, safes, or other hidden/secure places, with info on how to access them
*Names of lawyer, accountant, and financial advisor (if you use such folks)
*Will, powers of attorney, health-care directive, and other legal documents
*Final wishes and arrangements

Obviously, you don't want to leave this in the bathroom for recreational reading. Put it somewhere hidden, but tell a couple of trusted souls where to find it. When my wife and I flew to China to adopt our daughter, we kept a copy in our house and one elsewhere (I'm not telling, because it's still there), and told one family member and one colleague where to find them if we didn't make it back. Luckily, we did (I'm sure you're dying to see pictures:

If you don't have a will, you might want to start there by seeing a qualified estate-planning attorney in your state. He/she/it might be able to help with the rest by giving some advice about how to document what you own and where to put it so it can be found by your family if they need it.

Robert Brokamp is the senior advisor for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. 

8 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On August 18, 2009 at 3:02 PM, catoismymotor (< 20) wrote:

Should I die and my will disappears all you fellow Fools are welcome to dig up my treasure on Oak Island. Just make sure you give my family 50% and split the rest between yourselves.


In all seriousness you raise some excellent points. Items like these need to be acted on.

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#2) On August 18, 2009 at 3:10 PM, SockMarket (34.47) wrote:

good points. I would suggest a living trust as oppose to a will though, it reduces estate taxes.

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#3) On August 18, 2009 at 3:21 PM, greenvillewolf (37.43) wrote:

All of our important documents are in a safe deposit box at our credit union that my wife has access and a key to.

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#4) On August 18, 2009 at 3:49 PM, TMFBro (< 20) wrote:

One thing I've heard about safety deposit boxes: Only certain people have access. So if something happens to you AND the only other person who has access, it'll take some legal wrangling for others to get to the contents. You might want to check with your bank to see what their policies are and the rules for your state.

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#5) On August 18, 2009 at 5:24 PM, Imperial1964 (95.07) wrote:

I've thought about this a little bit.  I haven't decided about final wishes.

My life insurance and 401k are through my current employer, and every other account I have sends a tax form out in January and all that info is in my tax records for prior years.

I'm still young, so until I give some more thought to final wishes it probably isn't worrying about quite yet.

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#6) On August 18, 2009 at 7:57 PM, tradingfool1 (28.75) wrote:

With increasing digital information and on-line access to it login information should also be listed on this document.

There actually is a company, Datainherit, providing a service to securely pass on digitally stored information.

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#7) On August 19, 2009 at 1:20 AM, MGDG (33.03) wrote:

My survivors will need to be smart and resourceful. I have left a clue, which will lead to another clue, which will lead to another clue, well you get the picture. Nothing in life comes easy. If they find it all, they've earned it.

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#8) On August 19, 2009 at 12:35 PM, 2clubs (< 20) wrote:

My loving husband died two years ago.  I still have boxes of stock things I would like to throw  away but am hesitant to do so.  Also how long to keep IRS information.  We did start a living trust and it is in a safe place.  I have incorporated all my credit cards into two cards. I do most of my banking on-line but do have a checking account locally.  I keep telling myself I am getting caught up!!!

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