Planning the paperwork in the event of your passing

Planning the paperwork in the event of your passing
11 Jun 2021

Why everyone should have a death file

You can alleviate the burden and stress of your loved ones when you’re gone by putting together a “red file”, also known as a death file, containing valuable information needed to carry out your funeral as well as to settle your estate.

Death is difficult to deal with, yet we need to not only accept our eventual passing, but also plan for it. Although we may be gone, it is an act of care to our loved ones to make the administration after our death easier.

Although we know how important it is to have a will, there is a lot more information that is needed to wrap up a person’s affairs.

Here is a list of 5 key documents to include in a death file:

  • A copy of your will and instructions where the original is.
    • Include the contact details of the person who you have appointed as your executor (the person who will carry out the instructions of your will).
  • Any funeral policies.
    • Include the policy numbers as well as the company’s contact details.
  • A copy of your identity document and instructions where to find the original.
  • A copy of your marriage or divorce certificate and instructions where to find the original.
  • The contact details of your next-of-kin, the most important person to contact in the case of something happening to you.

Here is a lists of 5 financial documents to include in a death file:

You should also include these 5 documents to help close off your digital life:

  • Your cell phone/computer password.
  • Any information on your phone/computer that you would want saved or deleted.
  • Usernames and passwords to any social media accounts.
  • Any instructions you might want to give on how to close these.
  • A list of any other devices where action needs to be taken, for example, returning a laptop to work.

These 5 personal documents are also very important:

  • A list of contact numbers of everyone who needs to be told about your death.
    • Remember your family is unlikely to know all your friends or your workplace colleagues and similarly, your friends might not know all your extended relatives. Remember to include the contact details of any loved ones living overseas. If you have a service provider you see regularly, such as a hairdresser, counsellor, doctor etc., you might also want them to be informed.
  • Any instructions for the immediate care of minor children.
  • Any instructions for pets that are in your household.
  • Details of any particular funeral planning or practices that you would like carried out.
  • Where any important possessions or family heirlooms can be found.

Here are some suggestions of extra information you might want to include:

Letters to loved ones

Consider writing letters or making video recordings for those nearest and dearest to you, which you would like for them to receive after you die. This could help with their grief in the early days of coming to terms with their loss.

Instructions in the case of incapacity

To be incapacitated means that you are injured in a way that you can no longer take control of your life. In this case you might want to include what is called a ‘Living Will’ which will give instructions on matters such as your choice of medical treatment and family living arrangements.

What next?

Once you have compiled your file, you should keep all the documents in hard copy or in a folder saved on your computer and ideally ‘in the cloud’. To save something ‘in the cloud’ means that you save it through a program like Google Drive or Dropbox, where it can be accessed from anywhere and by anyone who has internet and the password.

The most useful and safe option would be to keep your death file in both these formats.

The next decision you need to make is with whom to share this information. Choose somebody who you trust and who is organised and careful.

In summary, here is a list of important information to include in your death file:

  • The contact details of your lawyer, insurance broker, financial advisers, doctors and tax consultants, all of whom need to be notified when you pass away;
  • A copy of your will and your living will;
  • Medical information and history about yourself and other family members;
  • Unabridged birth certificates for each member of the family;
  • Your ID book or card and driver’s license;
  • Your marriage certificate;
  • A copy of your antenuptial contract if you have one;
  • In the case of being divorced, copies of any divorce and maintenance agreements;
  • If you are widowed, a certified copy of your late partner’s death certificate, as well as information on the executor who attended to the deceased estate;
  • The most updated tax assessment for both yourself and your partner;
  • Passwords or pins for phones, computers and bank accounts;
  • Bank details – cheque, credit card, vehicle finance, bond and call accounts;
  • A list of debit orders, when they go off and for how much;
  • Your current employer details and employee number;
  • A comprehensive list of insurance, pension funds, trusts and investments;
  • Copies of insurance and funeral policies, as well as contact information to reach the insurance company;
  • Copies of lease agreements;
  • Copies of house and car insurance policies;
  • Medical aid and gap cover policies;
  • Copies of updated utility documents;
  • Firearm details;
  • Car ownership documentation;
  • Title deeds of all your properties (if you have a bond over the property, the title deed should be with the bank);
  • Various documents if you own a business or shares of a company; and
  • Letters for desired funeral arrangements.

With Legal&Tax you’re not alone

Remember Legal and Tax Services is your companion when dealing with the tough topic of death. We offer affordable funeral plans and also assist with estate planning.

Article sourced from Legal&Tax.

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Nadia Hadebe
Nadia Hadebe

Nadia Hadebe is a legal advisor at Legal&Tax. Read more about Nadia Hadebe

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