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Documents You Need Before You Die: Banking & Investments

February 5, 2015

Throughout this essential documents series, we will review the documents we suggest having safely stored—but accessible—in order to make the complicated process that comes with losing a loved one easier to navigate for your loved ones and charities.

In this installment, we focus on necessary documents pertaining to banking and investments.

To view an infographic summary of all the 30 Documents You Need Before You Die, click here.

We encourage you, whether you need to pull together just a few documents, or a long lifetime of documents, that you compile, track, and take thorough notes. Once you’ve compiled these necessary documents, try to maintain your hard work.

It can be helpful for many to discuss these items with whomever would be responsible for administering your estate in depth so that they know what you have, where it’s kept and what your wishes are.[i]

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As a first step, we highly recommend printing out your own copy of the Peace of Mind Checklist we’ve provided and filling it out thoroughly. This tool is for you to use to simplify the process for all of these very important life documents.


Banking & Investments

List of Account Numbers and Institutions
It is important to make sure you list all of your banking accounts for your beneficiaries. In addition, you can save a lot of lifetime heartache by having your beneficiaries properly listed, and by ensuring that they are updated based on major life events, such as the birth of a new child, a new marriage, etc.

There are also ways to help ensure your checking accounts bypass probate and get into the hands of the people who will need the funds to pay for your funeral expenses, utilities, etc. Designating a Pay on Death (POD), on your checking accounts will help get those funds to who will be administering your estate. Without a POD on your accounts, the bank can actually freeze those accounts, and hold onto the funds until the estate is probated.

List of Brokerage Accounts
Brokerage accounts are similar to banking accounts in that you need to designate beneficiaries and keep them updated based on family changes and life events. Beneficiaries are designated by Transfer on Death (TOD) on each account.

Safe-Deposit Boxes
While you’re alive, if you register a spouse or child with your safe-deposit box, it will keep them from having to be granted access through the court system. It is also a good idea to share the location of your safety deposit box key with your probate executor.[1]

For the digitally savvy person, scanning a copy of all major life documents (birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.) onto a jump drive and keeping it in your safety deposit box can help in emergency situations, such as a fire.


Essential Documents You Need Before You Die:
The Basics

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If you’d like to view the full list of documents you need before you die, click here to read our infographic.

This series is based off “The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die,” by the Wall Street Journal, originally published July 2, 2011.

[1] “Estate Planning Basics—What is An Estate Executor?” Simon Volkov 7/4/12