It's a horrible and tragic thing to lose a loved one. Its even worse when the family has to spend time piecing together the estate paperwork along with clearing out the family home. The Wall Street Journal featured an article in 2011 called "The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die". This article is a wonderful guide for helping one organize their estate paperwork. Below, I have paraphased the items for you.
*Letter of instruction
* Trust documents
* Housing, land and cemetery deeds
* Loans and Debts
* Vehicle Titles
*Stock certificates,savings bonds, brokerage accounts
*Business operating agreements (if applicable)
*List of Bank Accounts
* List of user names and passwords
* Safe deposit boxes and home safe info
* Medical History
* Health Care POA
* Authorization to release health care information
* Living Will
* Do not resuscitate orders
LIFE INSURANCE AND RETIREMENT
* life insurance policies
* retirement accounts
* 401k accounts
* Pension documents
* Annuity contracts
MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE
* Marriage License
* Divorce Papers
While none of us want to think about the future, its important to be prepared in life. Also you should choose an executor of your estate. That person of choice, should know were you keep your essential documents. I recommend having a file that lists all the locations and account numbers of your essential estate items. Some individuals give the executor a copy of this list to keep.
I have been involved in several cases in which the family has to piece everything together. It adds a lot of stress and time to the grieving process.
Its important to have everything spelled out clearly. Their is nothing like a death and family money to drive a wedge between family members. My family is no different.
Be smart. Be prepared.