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In the Event of my Death: Organizing Vital Papers

In the Event of my Death: Organizing Vital Papers

Getting “Vital Papers” in Order 


Have you ever needed vital papers, such as a birth certificate and can’t seem to remember where you filed them? I can picture it now, last second running around trying to find the documents, “thinking, I know I had these things.” Yep, I pictured myself, because, you guessed it, I have had my fair share of similar experiences.  When preplanning for a funeral or other end of life decisions it is very important to have all your “vital papers” available.


I have come to realize how much more efficient it is to have an organized system for filing vital papers. If you are like me, you will put vital papers away and have full confidence in being able to find them later.  It made sense when you put them there after all. Trying to explain their location for someone else to find is a whole other story. What happens when you are the only one who understands your “organization”? What happens if you are no longer able to retrace your steps to find these vital papers?


 Now imagine you have passed away and your loved ones have to take care of funeral and other end of life decisions.  Will they be sent on a wild goose chase to find your important information? Great, you preplanned your funeral and prepared many end-of-life decisions. Having preplanned will put your family in a much better place than not having done it at all. The question is will they need a treasure map to find it? If so…..did you create the map for them?


Death is so unpredictable and can come when we least expect it.  We hope and plan to live long and healthy lives, but many of us know that is not always the case.


Creating a Master File of Vital Papers

Let’s talk about getting those “vital papers” in order and into a file. You might have a file here, a spreadsheet there and a notebook in the drawer next to the bed. Disjointed preplanning, while far better than no plan at all, can still create a headache for survivors. Heaven forbid they can not find information and your desires are not followed through with.


Let’s Get Started


  • Gather crucial information. Ie: Insurance Information, funeral plans, finances, instructions in case of emergency, etc. 
  • Create a master file that is complete with all the vital papers
  • Label each file clearly with as many “sub-files” as needed. For example: all insurance info may fit in one file, some may need to break it into multiple folders. Color coding said folders with clearly written labels is a great way to show that they are “like information”. 
  • Alphabetize, color code, whip out the ever entertaining label maker and get organizing.  Be as creative as you want to during this process.
  • Inform your spouse or other trusted person ie; executor, accountant, attorney. Have at least one person who will know how to access this master file of vital papers and information in the case that you are incapacitated or deceased.


 Preplanning is one of the best gifts you can give your loved ones. The best thing that you can do with this gift is to wrap it all up into one gift box, if you will.  Your end-of-life decisions will be easy to find and understood by those who will be managing your affairs.  


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