Important Documents

Gathering the Important Documents

Are you as organized as you should be? Chances are the answer is “no.” In today’s busy life, most of us are just doing our best to hold things together day-to-day.

Then, the unthinkable happens. Someone you love dies, leaving you with more questions than you could ever answer. Like, “Where is our marriage certificate?” Or, “What did we do with the pink slip to the car?”

Now’s the time to do your best to locate as many of the following important documents as possible:
  • Wills
  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Deeds
  • Bank Books
  • Stock Certificates
  • Military Discharge Papers
  • Social Security Card
  • Tax Forms
  • Vehicle and Boat Titles
  • Insurance Policies
While you’re going through the desk drawers and filing cabinets, you’ll run across documents that you think may be useful. Add them to the pile. In the coming weeks, you may need them.

If you have questions about anything related to the search for the important papers, call us. We’re here to help.

Thinking Ahead?

That’s great. Having a select place to store important documents, like bills and personal records, can come in handy in helping settle an estate after death without having to search and sift through mounds of paperwork.

Why not create a "When I'm Gone" file? You could name it anything you want, but that title fits nicely. This is where you’ll organize your family’s documents, so those you leave behind can easily find what they need when the time comes.

So what important documents should you keep in your "When I'm Gone" file? Here are a few suggestions:
  • Final documents, which include wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and health care directives. Copies of these documents should also be given to a trusted individual for safekeeping.
  • Income information, including social security and child support and alimony documents.
  • Investment accounts, including retirement accounts, mutual funds, and college saving plans.
  • Credit cards account information
  • Bills and banking information, which involves clearly explaining how bills are paid and includes any necessary information and instructions for bills paid online.
  • Insurance policies, including life, health, auto, and disability or long-term care insurance papers.
  • Other important paperwork, including military records, old tax returns, and birth, marriage, and death certificates.
  • Digital asset account information, which includes email and social media accounts, online services, and financial accounts. You want to organize and store essential passwords, access keys, PINs, and other sensitive information in a safe place that can later be accessed by your family or another trusted individual upon your death.

Death Certificates

Perhaps the single most important document you’ll need in the coming weeks, the death certificate is important for:

Legal Reasons: The death certificate is a permanent legal record of the fact of death. State agencies always stipulate that a death certificate is to be filed. It provides important information about: the decedent, the cause of death, and final disposition.  

This information is used in the application for insurance benefits, settlement of pension claims, and transfer of title of real and personal property. The certificate is prima facie evidence of the fact of death and, therefore, can be introduced in court as evidence when a question about the death arises.

Personal Reasons: The death certificate in many cases provides family members with closure, peace-of-mind, and documentation of the cause of death. It also provides peace-of-mind by facilitating efficient processing of needed benefits as those described above.

Vital Statistics Reasons: The death certificate is the source for state and national mortality statistics. It is needed for a variety of medical and health-related research efforts. It is used to determine which medical conditions receive research and development funding, to set public health goals and policies, and to measure health status at local, state, national, and international levels. This data is valuable as a research tool and by influencing research funding.

Before the business and legal issues of the estate can be pursued, it will be necessary to obtain certified copies of the death certificate. You can order them from:
  1. Your Funeral Director
  2. The Registrar of Vital Statistics in your area
It is always better to order a few more than what you think you will need. Most agencies will only accept certified death certificates, not photocopies.

In some cases, there may be a need to obtain a certified copy of the death certificate without a cause of death. These certificates are needed to transfer the title on a house, mobile home, and automobile or in some cases for court procedures. You should make this request when ordering the certified copies.

If you have questions about obtaining copies of a Death Certificate, please call us. We’re here to assist you.
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