While it May Seem Depressing to Think About, it is Crucial to Plan Way in Advance

Why? It will spare your family work and heartache long after your passing. 

Some people want to organize their records and personal information for their spouses or children, in case something (like death or incapacitation) happens. Even if you don’t have a spouse or children, it’s still best to plan ahead. It’s either that, or all your hard earned money will be forfeited to the government. 


Steps to Take

First, you, with the help of an experienced attorney, should create an estate plan with all the necessary documents (such as a will, power of attorney, etc.)

Second, you should begin to write down the steps your family or heirs should take if something were to happen to you. Include a list of all of your assets including: bank accounts, insurance policies, bills, debts, credit cards, passwords, bankers, lawyers, brokers, cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, and the rest of your financial holdings.


“Free” Fillable Forms

If you’d like to reduce the cost by Googling “what my family needs to know free pdf” there are various worksheets and fillable forms you can use as boilerplate materials to exercise your last instructions. 

Websites such as “Everplans” offer more than a dozen free checklists to help get you started. Here you can store your documents in a “digital vault” that focuses on estate-planning organizers, end-of-life planners, document storages and “death apps.” If you’re tech-savvy and comfortable with Excel, then you can easily create files that list various accounts, investments, contacts, etc. 

Books such as “Get it Together: Organize Your Records so Your Family Won’t Have To” by Melanie Cullen with Shae Irving are recommended by the Wall Street Journal. While it is about 400 pages in length, the authors cover just about everything a caretaker or survivor might need to know. For example, portions of the book focus on “pets and livestock.” What will happen to your pets or livestock when you become incapacitated or die? You don’t want them going to a stranger or facility, that’s for sure. 


The Final Checklist

What are the benefits of having your affairs in order? Merrill Lynch Wealth Management surveyed those that are 55 and older which have said that it:

  1. Helps relieve the burden on their loved ones.

  2. Gives them some control over medical interventions.

  3. It allows you to decide what happens to your belongings. 

  4. It allows you to be sure that your financial situation is managed properly.

  5. It gives you some control over the end of your life and your legacy.



It’s important to just have something. Even a binder or thumb drive with all of your important documents is helpful. It may take some time to start this project, but it will be worth it in the end. Keeping these documents up to date is crucial so that if something happens to you – especially when it comes to your finances – your legacy is protected.



Special Thanks to Law Clerk William Taylor Gleason for his assistance with this article.

H. Van Smith
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Trusted Virginia Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg