When Do You ‘Put Your Affairs in Order’?

The Quippery

Unless your Doctor has given you notice that your ‘Best Before Date’ is rapidly closing in on your ‘Expiry Date’, you might not have thought about the most important thing you can do for yourself now AND leave for your loved ones when you depart this world.

This important thing costs no more than a sheet or two of paper, but it is priceless. It is a List of All the Things you know now – but might not remember later. It is a list of things the Executor of your Estate won’t know until they have rifled through your desk, file cabinet and all sorts of places obvious and obscure – so that they can wrap up your estate and deliver it to your rightful heirs.

Think about this: Do you keep your documents in obvious locations like your desk, file cabinet or a shoe box under the bed? Does your family know you also stash important papers in a fake cabbage (or lettuce) in the fridge, a former box for fish cakes in the deep freeze, a secret cubby hole, a hidden safe, behind a trap door, or in a plastic case under a paving stone in the garden?

The QuipperyOur Experience: The Car Guy’s Dad passed on to the Great Fishing Hole of the Beyond a few months ago – without making The List.  The Car Guy is the Executor of this relatively simple Estate and fortunately he knew that the Original of the Will was in a safety deposit box – but he didn’t know which Bank owned the box nor where the keys were kept. That was just the beginning of what The Car Guy didn’t know.

Fortunately, The Car Guys Dad kept just about everything in a desk and file cabinet (and a Safety Deposit Box that the Bank won’t release the contents of until some unknown date in the future). It  took weeks to sort through all the documents, make a list of  possible assets and trace accounts back to their source to see if they were still active. Multiple layers of Government, Banks and Financial Institutions had to be contacted. Each of them required a large number of detailed and correctly filled out forms.

The whole process is like doing a Jigsaw Puzzle, except you don’t know how many pieces there are and you don’t have the box lid to see what the picture is going to look like. This experience has been the incentive for us to make our List of Things our Executor will need to know. It has been a good motivational exercise that has encouraged us to reassess what we are responsible for, and what we can get rid of. If you are similarly motivated, here are some things for you to consider, roughly in order of when your Executor will need the information:

The Basics: Full Name (‘Fishin’ Fred isn’t going to be good enough); Birth Date and Place (somewhere ‘down East’ before the crash of the stock market’) is just a bit vague; Location of all government issued documents and the ID numbers.

Burial or funeral instructions – that aren’t in your will.

The Family: Names and Contact numbers for all Immediate Family; Parent’s full names, where they were born; Spouse – Full name and location of the original marriage certificate.

Government, Career, Financial Information: List Company Names, Policy or Account Numbers, and Contacts for: Employment, Pensions or benefit plans; Health and Insurance plans; Government Insurance and benefits; Income tax documents; Bank and Credit Cards; Investments.

Real Estate: Properties you own; Loans and Mortgages; Utility companies you have accounts with. If the deceased owned property in another country, the transfer of the deed could be difficult to do, and possibly costly.

Affiliations: Groups, associations, memberships, newspapers, magazines and all those things that will have to be redirected or cancelled.

Online: Internet accounts and passwords.

Final Tax Return: Keep previous income tax returns for the number of years your government suggests is advisable. A list of all sources of income and deductions will be needed. Also keep a list of items that will be subject to Capital Gains, such as property. Itemize when these items were purchased and or disposed of. Retiree’s should also list when they retired.

Wrap it Up: list all the places where you keep documents and valuables. Explain what is in those places. Summarize  your assets and liabilities.

That is it! It will take some time to gather this information, but it will be as valuable to you now as it will be to your family when you pass on!

Have you been Executor of an Estate? Do you have a secret hiding places? Have you made a List?


26 thoughts on “When Do You ‘Put Your Affairs in Order’?

  1. An excellent post – and reminder to all of us about this important task we tend to push off to the future. I know that my own will hasn’t been reviewed and updated in years – maybe I should make that decades.

    The job of an executor is not an easy one – even when the estate is a simple one. It is full of paperwork, and can be an emotional challenge. My condolences to the Car Guy.


    1. We had new wills done last year, and the advice we got from our lawyer was a good first step in rethinking and simplifying things.
      Thank you for the condolences. I’m not sure The Car Guy would volunteer to be executor again!


      1. My brother is currently working on his third estate as an executor and I have an idea of the challenges – even when it is relatively straight forward … and it is a job that comes with little / no gratitude.


  2. I helped my mom pre-plan (and pre-pay) both her funeral and my Dad’s (he was very ill at the time and no one else in the family wanted to think about ‘the end’, so I took it on – and was glad I did). It made the whole process so much easier (Mom was clear about what she wanted and how she wanted things done), at a time when its hard to make decisions (or ‘overrule’ what someone else in the family thinks should be done; since Mom had made all the decisions already, it was a ‘done deal’). One of the very helpful things the funeral home gave me was a list of (more than 80) things the estate executor would have to deal with after their deaths. It was frightening just looking at it, but we managed to sort through where the majority of the information was kept (fortunately, Dad was pretty organized) and get everything in order before Dad passed (Mom died four years later; everything was in order once again). I was also provided with a personal inventory booklet when I attended a financial planning seminar at our local Library several years ago – it gave an ‘all in one place’ for recording everything about you, your affairs, and where things were (you can Google the term and find copies online that you can download); the only thing that was missing – and I added it myself – was computer and other passwords. Putting your ‘affairs in order’ just makes sense – its not a declaration that you want to die (in fact, its something nice you can do for your children – or whoever will take care of things THE WAY YOU WANT – after you’re gone!) Great reminder!


    1. Good advice on the funeral. The Funeral Home can have lots of good advice on matters that have to be dealt with besides the funeral! It can also be cost saving to pre-pay for the funeral.


      1. If you pre-pay (anywhere in Canada) the money is put into trust and there are never any ‘additional’ costs incurred; the funeral can also be handled at a different home than the one you originally make the arrangements with. I’ve watched friends go through so much grief (and cost) trying to make hard decisions after the death of a parent and thought, “If only they’d pre-planned.”


  3. My goodness, what a good post! I thought we were pretty well organized with our “stuff’ for our Executor but you have given us some things to think about and do. Thanks for sharing!


    1. I thought we were well organized too, but it was an eye opener to actually round up the details and put them all on a few sheets of paper.


    1. I found it quite liberating to get it all down on paper. I will have to deal with my husband’s affairs or he will have to deal with mine, and our daughter will have to deal with what is left when the second of us passes. It seemed fair and respectful not to leave a messy puzzle for anyone to deal with…


        1. Just think of it as documenting a travel adventure. Stroll down memory lane, find the treasures, celebrate how far you’ve come and how you got here, made some new plans for the future. Shred and recycle the stuff you don’t need anymore.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. The list is a good way to start – it might help to drive the decision to update the will. I expect succession planning is a critical element in your occupation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is but we are such a small operation compared to others in this area. We do have one son who would probably be interested in farming it when we are gone. He drives a semi and thinks it would fit nicely with that occupation!


        1. We have friends who moved to the bare quarter of land that his dad had owned. They built a home there. Their children decided they loved the land as much as their parents did. Now that the parents are too old to remain on the farm, their daughter and grand daughter have made their homes on the farm.
          I think there is a value to the land that has nothing to do with economics, but much to do with how the land lives in your heart.
          You know that – maybe your son will feel like that too!

          Liked by 1 person

    1. The Car Guy’s dad was Swedish – don’t know if he had come across that term, though he certainly had downsized his home and life in a big way during the last year of his life. Now, if he had just written a list of where the remaining things were…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is excellent information, especially listing your passwords and hiding places. My husband’s grandmother had a great mistrust of banks, and for years after her death, they were finding money stashed around the house and hidden in linings of boxes. Who knows how much was lost in items that were donated before that!


  5. Excellently presented! I preach these points informally at odd and various times with different family members when the topic arises but I can take a few more of your points to action myself!
    Thank you!!


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