ESTATE PLANNING: Don’t forget the most important document… your “In case of emergency” file
There’s nothing sadder than a family putting together an elaborate funeral for a loved one, only to realize afterwards – because they hadn’t read the decedent’s wishes - that he or she would have preferred a simple service with just family.
Executors typically spend a lot of time searching for pieces of paper: the will, bank statements, insurance policies, birth and marriage certificates, divorce decrees, cemetery deeds, etc. Even if you think you’re organized, that doesn’t mean your executor will know where to look.
Your “In case of emergency” (ICE) file will save your loved ones, and those administering your will, time, frustration and grief.
In a file folder or binder, collect the documents people will need, including:
- Names and contact information of important people (relatives, doctor, accountant, financial advisor, neighbours, insurance agent, etc.)
- Funeral preferences
- Bank statements
- Birth certificate
- Brokerage statement
- Insurance policies or cards (car, house, life, healthcare)
- Deeds to real estate
- Divorce decree
- Marriage certificate
- Property tax records
- Most recent tax return
- Computer user IDs and passwords
- If you’re a business owner, include a copy of your business continuity plan and/or succession plan
- Organ and body donor information
- List of bills and/or debts, payment amounts, dates that you pay them each month, and customer service contact info
- List of all assets/valuables (i.e. homes, cars, storage units, jewellery, artwork, electronics, etc.) and pertinent information about each asset (i.e. location, serial number, model number, vehicle identification number (VIN), estimated value, date of purchase, etc.)
- Trust document
Silence is NOT golden. Your ICE file should be easy to find.
Some people keep the original in a safety deposit box or with their lawyer. Consider keeping a copy somewhere in your home, in a spot where people would logically look. Either way, ensure that your executor and perhaps a family member know where it is.