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Legacy Decluttering: Step-by-Step Guide to Compiling Your Legacy Binder

March 12, 2024

What comes to mind when you think of your legacy? Maybe it’s the collection of assets you plan to bequeath to your heirs. Or, perhaps to you, the term legacy means the social impact you hope to have had on those in your community. But as you may recall in Part One of the Legacy Decluttering series, there’s more to it. There is an often overlooked—but no less important—aspect of the legacy you leave your loved ones … and you can start building it right now.

Planning for the day you will no longer be here is hard, but it’s one of the most selfless gifts you can give your loved ones. Someday, they’ll be able to focus on what truly matters – remembering the happy moments they shared with you – instead of facing the daunting task of sorting through the decades of clutter and disorganized finances you left behind.

Part 1 of this legacy-building series had us organizing and simplifying our homes. Assuming your physical clutter has long since made its way to your local donation center, we now turn our attention to the more administrative side of things as we finish leaving a different kind of legacy for the ones who matter to us the most.

Step 2: Compiling Your Legacy Binder

Your Legacy Binder is where all your financial documents and account information can be organized in one place. This could be a tangible binder or a digital file for more technologically inclined people. In the event of your death or disability, your loved ones will not have to scramble to track down important information necessary for settling your affairs amidst their grief and stress. Here, we’ll outline all the various components to include in your binder.

Will and/or Living Will and Estate Plan

If it’s been a while since you’ve updated your will and living will, there’s no better time than now to do so. Ensure your wishes are accurately declared and your documents are notarized where appropriate. Also important to note in this section are any beneficiaries’ names and contact information, powers of attorney, and executor.

Insurance Policies

Create a list of all your insurance policies, such as health, auto, life, and disability. Include policy numbers, types of coverage amounts, and contact information for each policy.

Financial Account Information

Include in this section a list of every financial account you have in your name, along with account numbers, balances, and contact information for each financial institution. Consider adding a copy of your monthly budget to this section of the Legacy Binder; it will give family members an idea of your monthly expenses. A list of automated payments and their amounts is also particularly helpful.

Miscellaneous Documents

This category includes copies of property deeds, car titles, marriage licenses, birth certificates, and Social Security cards.

Passwords and Information for Accessing Lock Boxes

These days, there are passwords for everything. While you might know exactly where to find every Post-it note you’ve scribbled your passwords on or even have them all committed to memory (kudos!), your loved ones will certainly be delayed in accessing important information after your death if you haven’t gathered it beforehand.

List your passwords and PINs to various accounts and instructions for accessing safe deposit boxes, where the originals of all your important documents should ideally be stored.

Tax Returns

It’s possible to be audited after death, so save your loved ones a headache and compile copies of the last three years’ worth of tax returns in one place—just in case.

Funeral Instructions

This one is, without a doubt, a hard one. Yet, for as difficult as it may be for you to consider these things concerning your future arrangements, it will be even more difficult for your loved ones to make decisions like these—essentially on your behalf—in the midst of their grief:

  • Do you wish to be buried or cremated? If buried, where? If cremated, what would you like your loved ones to do with your ashes?
  • What kind of service or memorial would you like to have? Do you have special music you would like included in your service?
  • Are there any individuals you would like to designate to speak at your funeral or any particular passages you wish to be read aloud? Do you have a particular outfit you wish to be buried in?

If you are married, make sure to outline each of your wishes separately.

Legacy Letters

This final component of your Legacy Binder is optional, but it just might be the most meaningful for those you leave behind. If you could leave your loved ones with any final sentiments, what would they be? This is your opportunity to share a funny memory or two and express your love, appreciation, and hopes for their future.

So, go ahead and put pen to paper, leaving those you love with a physically and administratively organized estate and your words from the heart. They are gifts that will be appreciated more than you know and treasured for years to come.