The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die

June 26, 2021

During your time in this world you’ve experienced a life full of joy, loss and heartache, and love. A part of the circle of life is contemplating one’s own mortality. While an uncomfortable and hard subject to broach, it’s imperative that you craft an end-of-life plan. An end-of-life plan can be one of the best gifts you can give to your loved ones. A well crafted plan will include documents ranging from a last will and testament to an advance health care directive. Determining what items to include in an end-of-life plan can be a daunting task, so we’ve set out to address the most common documents you need prepared before you pass away.  

Financial Consequences

The failure to keep your “original” documents in order can cause frustration and a financial burden on your heirs. Per the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), state treasurers currently hold $32.9 billion in unclaimed bank accounts and other assets. You can search for unclaimed assets at Missing Money, the only program endorsed by the NAUPA.

You plan for the future, but live in the moment.

On July 1, 2011, Saabira Chaudhuri of the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die.” While this article provides a good starting point, a lot has changed since its publication. Nowadays you need to consider how to protect your physical assets, but also your ever-expanding digital footprint. Learn more about your digital afterlife.  As your life and circumstances change, so should your approach to compiling end-of-life documents. HereToday has created a documents and planning checklist that reflects today’s requirements for a comprehensive end-of-life plan. These documents should be constructed in an organized manner and stored in your HereToday Vault

Our platform enables you to secure and share your estate plans, medical directives, online accounts and digital assets, and legacy with an executor, family members and close friends. We do this by providing you with two encrypted, bank-level security vaults. You can learn more about HereToday’s safeguarding protocols by visiting our security page.

Building upon the Wall Street Journal’s 25 Documents.

We’ve updated the Wall Street Journal list to help with your end-of-life plans.

Marriage & Divorce

  1. Marriage License
  2. Divorce Papers

Life Insurance and Retirement

  1. Life Insurance Policies
  2. Individual Retirement Accounts
  3. 401(k) Accounts
  4. Pension Documents
  5. Annuity Contracts

Health Care

  1. Personal and Family Medical History
  2. Durable Health Care Power of Attorney
  3. Authorization to Release Health Care Information
  4. Living Will
  5. Do-Not-Resuscitate / Do Not Intubate (DNI) orders

Bank Accounts

  1. List of Bank Accounts
  2. List of User Names
  3. List of Safe-Deposit Boxes

Proof of Ownership

  1. Housing, Land, and Cemetery Deeds
  2. Escrow Mortgage Accounts
  3. Proof of Loans Made and Debts Owed
  4. Vehicle Titles
  5. Stock Certificates, Savings Bonds, and Brokerage Accounts
  6. Partnership and Corporate Operating Agreements
  7. Tax Returns

The Essentials

  1. Will
  2. Letter of Instruction
  3. Trust Documents

Once you’ve compiled all the applicable documents, please upload the files to your HereToday Vault. Don’t forget to invite and share your HereToday account and folders with an executor, estate planner, financial advisor, insurance agent, and family members. Learn more about HereToday’s Family Preparation and Guidance

Additional Guidance and Definitions

Letter of Instruction: This letter ensures an executor has the names and contact information of your attorneys, accountants, and investment advisors. 

Last Will and Testament: A will names the beneficiaries who will inherit any identified assets.

Financial Power of Attorney (POA): This document designates the person who will manage your finances in the event you’re unable to do so.

Advance Health Care Directive: A document that combines your Living Will (how you want to be treated in certain medical circumstances) and the naming of a Health Care Proxy/Power of Attorney (authority to make medical decisions on your behalf).

Tax Returns: “Keep records for 3 years from the date you filed your original return or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later, if you file a claim for credit or refund after you file your return. Keep records for 7 years if you file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction” –

Life Insurance and Retirement Accounts: Upload the list of your insurance policies, pensions, annuities, IRAs, 401(k) / 403(b), and more to your HereToday Vault. 

Life Insurance Policies: These policy documents are some of the most important files for your heirs. Please upload all policies to your HereToday Vault, including the carrier name, policy number, and agent on the policy.

Marriage License: The document provides a surviving spouse proof-of-marriage during the claims process.

Divorce Papers: This document outlines any child support, alimony, property settlements, and may list the division of investment and retirement accounts. We suggest you keep a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) on hand to prove your ex-spouse received a share of any retirement assets.

Digital Estate Plan: These instructions outline how you want your social media accounts to be handled, as well as the name of who will carry out your wishes (also known as a digital executor).

Passwords and Digital Accounts: This document will list your online accounts, usernames, and passwords. We suggest you also include instructions to unlock your phone and password to your computer, laptop, and any external hard drive.

HIPAA Authorization: This document gives your permission to release protected health information about you to designated parties.

Safe-Deposit Boxes: Provide locations of the boxes, as well as state where the keys are located. 

Final Wishes: Instructions for where you want your ashes scattered, or how you want your funeral or memorial service to be performed.

Legacy Letter or Ethical Will: Add these documents to your HereToday Legacy Vault. Include your personal or family history/stories, beliefs, values, and life lessons for future generations. Also see HereToday’s 100 Questions.


Disclaimer. HereToday is not a legal service. This content should not be taken as legal advice. Before drafting any legal document, please consult an attorney.

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