Only a few of us love organizing things, but everyone needs a Life Book. Building your life book serves the purpose of extending your life for your loved ones. A life book helps those who must handle your affairs after your death. It provides confidence and information required for difficult decisions. It also provides solace during a time of grief.
Your Life Book answers specific questions about how you want things handled. It provides the necessary paperwork needed to close out your affairs. When building your life book it should contain three things.
- A master record of all assets and outstanding obligations you have.
- Instructions on how to access them.
- Personal wishes you want to occur and messages you want to deliver.
Here are the five steps to building your life book:
Step One to Building your Life Book
Begin with the most important items, such as IRAs, 401(K)s, annuities or other financial documents. This includes any long-term income sources that have a beneficiary or are transferable. Include account numbers, passwords, user names and pins needed to access those accounts. Include a copy of signed contracts, statements and forms of identification needed. If you cannot include an item (e.g. membership ID), then include instructions where to find it (your wallet). Make sure you include websites and secondary authentication information needed to access those accounts.
Step Two to Building your Life Book
Collect legal and insurance documents your family will need to present to a lawyer or the courts. Include a copy of your will and documents relating to trusts, if there are any. If you have a life insurance policy or a burial policy include that, as well. Check each of these to ensure the documents are accurate. They should include beneficiary names and contact information. It is also important to include information for your family on whom to contact and how to begin the process.
Step Three to Building your Life Book
Third consider any valuable assets you have that were not detailed in your will. These may be items in your home, safe, or offsite storage, such as a lock box or rented storage shed. Take the time to identify the item in detail, where it is, and whom you want to receive it. You may even want to include a photo of the item and record where it is and who is to receive it on the back of the photo. If it is okay with you to liquidate the item, you may want to leave instructions on how to do so. This is especially true if it is a collectible. You may also want to tell the person why you are bequeathing this item. Let them know why this item is important to you, why you want them to have it, and what you hope they do with it in the future.
Step Four to Building your Life Book
This step goes a long way when helping your loved ones deal with the grief of your passing. Consider including personal notes when building your life book. There may be things you wish you always said to someone, so do it now. Let your family know your thoughts on your life, how you lived it, and how you hope they continue to live theirs. Tell them what you are grateful for, and perhaps, what you regret. Your words can comfort your loved ones and help them feel, that for this moment, you are still with them. These notes may also help ease the grief of your passing.
Step Five Keep Your Life Book Relevant
Review your life book on a semi-annual or annual basis. Make sure the information in it is still accurate. Check that it contains all relevant documents and that those documents are current. Review items you have chosen to bequeath. Are they still in your possession and do you still want to bequeath them in the same way? Are there new items to include?
Why Build a Life Book?
Building your life book will reduce the stress of closing your estate for your family. It provides your loved ones with good documentation and clear instructions. It also includes any final thoughts you wish to leave. Building a Life Book is an act of love your family will appreciate. Don’t let it depress you. Have fun with it. See it as a celebration of your life and don’t limit yourself to a book. Make two or three books if you need to, and store them in a chest. Building your life book means that you will be there to help your family through a difficult time.