Everything You Need to Include in an In Case of Death Document Binder
Most of us may not want to think about something tragic happening. We’d like to think that when we die it would be in our sleep, surrounded by loved ones, with a plan in place for our passing.
If this is not the case, and you don’t have a plan in place, you could make a hard situation that much worse. It’s important to create an In Case of Death Binder, no matter your age, so your family and loved ones are prepared if something unexpected happens.
An In Case of Death Binder, also known as a Life File, holds all the information someone would need to handle your finances, relationships, and last wishes. It includes financial documents, account information, passwords, pet care information, and more. This “binder” can either be an actual physical binder, or information stored on an external hard drive.
Here are all the things we recommend including in your binder.
What do I include in an In Case of Death binder?
An In Case of Death binder can include 10 sections (or more) of information for your friends and family members. You can also place this on a flash drive, but cloud storage is not recommended, as it will contain much, if not all, of your personal information.
If creating a physical binder, be sure to include a table of contents to make it easy for people to find what they need. If you’re creating an electronic version, or an electronic copy, be sure to name things clearly.
Pre-Planned Funeral Arrangements
If you have taken time to plan your funeral arrangements, be sure to include that documentation toward the beginning of your binder. This, along with any life insurance information (account numbers, beneficiary information) is extremely helpful to everyone you love, especially upon an untimely passing.
Provide your family with a contact list. This will include folks you have a personal relationship with, as well as business and financial contacts. Think of any financial advisors and/or accountants you’ve worked with; charities you volunteer with, or groups you’re a part of. You’ll also want to create a list of beneficiaries with their contact information.
Bank Account and Insurance Policy Information
Include the location of any bank accounts and insurance policies. Note any important usernames and passwords needed. Some common ones included are life insurance policies, bank accounts, credit card accounts, and loan documents.
Also, make a list of bills with due dates and amounts. Add services that will need to be canceled. Note how statements are received and how you make payments. If you have outstanding debt, note where and how much.
List any assets, and provide links to titles or deeds. Common ones include automobile titles and property deeds.
Keys and Passwords
Make copies of all your keys, including your home keys, cars, safe deposit boxes, sheds, and storage units. Put them in one section of the binder so they’re easy to find.
You’ll also want to include account and device passwords. Consider using a password software like LastPass or 1Password to keep your information safe.
Legal Forms and Important Documents
Add the location of legal forms and documents. Common documents in this section include birth certificates, marriage license, will, living trust, and power of attorney.
Pet and Plant Care Information
Include instructions for any pets or plants that you have. No one wants to kill your favorite plant, so leave detailed care instructions. And, if everyone loves your dog, you’ll help the family avoid a fight over who gets to take care of them.
An advance directive includes medical wishes so your loved ones don’t have to make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to decide for yourself.
Letter of Last Instruction
We include more information on this below, but a letter of last instruction is an overview of your In Case of Death Binder. You can also include additional death wishes in this letter.
Many people don’t think about the option to write their own obituary! This is a good idea if you want to have control over how you’re remembered or memorialized. These could be bullet points you would like to include, or the full obituary, as can be seen here.
Here’s more information on how to write your own obituary.
Memorial Service and Funeral Planning Information
Make a section for your memorial service and funeral planning details. The more descriptive you can be, the better, as it cuts down on the number of decisions your loved ones have to make. Here are a few things to consider:
- Who you want to direct your arrangements
- How you want your body to be cared for
- What type of flowers or plants you would like
- Which pictures you would like displayed
- Who will give the eulogy
- Provide information on any charities you would like donated to in your honor
- Again include any pre-arranged funeral directives
While flowers and photos are important, it’s also vital that you make a decision for how you would like your body to be cared for at the end of your life, also known as your final disposition.
Explore your death care options, including terramation. Cremation and traditional burials have a negative effect on the health of our planet. Terramation is friendly to our planet and uses very few resources, all while sequestering carbon directly back into the soil.
This article could help you decide which option is right for you.
Add a Letter of Last Instruction
This letter is an outline of instructions and desires once you’ve passed away. It is not legally binding, but it can be helpful for next-of-kin as a way to provide answers and information. You can also use this letter as a way to guide your loved ones through the administrative process. And, it is a good place to outline what you would like to have done with your social media accounts.
Once you have written this letter, be sure to share it with an executor or trustworthy family member. Give them their own copy as well, and be sure to share where your In Case of Death binder is to reduce frantic searching.
What happens if I don’t outline my death care wishes?
The beautiful and unfortunate truth is that when you die, your loved ones will be grieving your departure. These emotions mean decision making is even harder than normal. In tragic events, it may feel like someone is living through a fog or haze. Loved ones may feel frozen, or even guilty for not knowing what you would have wanted when it comes to death care.
By making many of the decisions and documenting them, you’ll leave behind a map to navigate the decisions with ease. This in turn leaves folks with more time to process their grief and celebrate your life with those who loved you the most.
For LGBTQA+ community members, not outlining death care wishes can create a worse case scenario for your loved ones. Especially if you reside in a state that doesn’t recognize your union with your partner.
Often, the appointed next-of-kin in these states is a blood family member, which may be fine. But depending on your relationship with your next-of-kin, and their relationship with your partner, it could be a tumultuous situation. Without concrete documents that outline your wishes, you won’t have control of how you’re represented, how your body will be cared for, or have any say when it comes to your funeral.
But an In Case of Death binder can outline your last wishes, and who is in charge of decisions. It is a way to empower your life partner in the face of tragedy.
Learn more about the Importance of Funeral Pre-Planning.
In Case of Death Binder Upkeep
Your In Case of Death binder will need some periodic updating. Once a year, be sure to go through each piece of your binder and make sure everything is up to date.
Sign and date each update to give your family the peace of mind that this is what you would have wanted, and the information is relative and current. We also recommend setting up a calendar reminder to update your binder annually.
You don’t have to go about doing all this planning alone, we’re here to help. If you’re ready to start making plans, contact us. We’re an award winning funeral home, and we can walk you through the next steps of planning your death care.