Have you ever heard of a life file? It isn’t actually one file but rather a collection of documents and instructions that will go a long way towards helping your family wrap up your affairs and estate quickly and easily when you pass. Putting one together will take some time and effort but will save your loved ones and your executor hours of admin and frustration. Sonja Smith of Sonja Smith Elite Funeral Group helped us draw up a list of what should be in your file. Start today with just one document!
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Putting together your life file
It will take some time to put together your file, so we have prioritised the most important requirement for you in Section 1. Let your family, or a trusted person, know where your life file is and how to access it, as well as why you are putting it together and how it can help them when you pass.
Section 1: Your Will
Your Will details what must happen to your estate (all your assets and liabilities), including who inherits property such as a family home. It also names an executor, who is responsible for carrying out the instructions in your Will and winding down your estate. Include the contact details for your executor so your family knows who to contact when you pass.
If you don’t have a valid Will your estate will be divided according to the laws of intestate succession, which may not be what you want, or what your family needs. You can learn more about how to draw up a Will in this blog.
Top tip: Experts suggest reviewing your Will every three or four years, or when your circumstances change as these can change the terms of your Will. For example when your relationship or marital status changes, a dependant beneficiary reaches adulthood or you buy or sell a property
Section 2: Your funeral wishes
These will make it easy for your family to plan your funeral. Include:
- Your funeral policy details
- Preferences for your service, including mourning, funeral service and burial, and gathering
- Memorial and unveiling wishes
Sonja says you should update your funeral wishes as the years go by and leave some decisions to your family’s discretion. “They would like to take part in some of the planning when the time comes to say goodbye.”
Section 3: Important documents
Your family and the executor of your Will need to know everything about your official life (are you married for example) and your financial life. Sonja says you can make it easy for them to deal with your affairs when these documents and details are in your life file:
- Certified copies of your ID document
- Marriage certificate, any marriage contract and/or divorce agreement and/or cohabitation agreement
- Life and funeral insurance policies
- Short-term insurance policies
- Medical aid details
- Retirement annuities and pension plan documents
- Savings account and investments’ details such as any unit trust accounts or online share trading accounts
- List of liabilities (all your debts)
- Property title deeds and/or home loan details
- Copies of rental/lease agreements
- Motor vehicle registration papers and/or any vehicle finance contracts
- Details (name, account numbers) of all bank accounts, credit cards and store cards
- Employment details so your employer can be notified and any benefits claimed
- Tax number
- Telephone, cell phone, internet, DStv and streaming account details
- Municipal services accounts
- List of electronic equipment such as laptops, tablets and cell phones and how to access these
Top tip: Take your time on this section and be thorough. You may just find an investment you forgot about or duplicate accounts that you can cancel and save money on!
Section 4: Online accounts and profiles
South Africans have, on average, over seven social media accounts! Sonja says you can plan in advance what happens to your online accounts and profiles, or leave instructions for your family on what to do with these when you pass.
If you use Gmail, Google Docs other Google products, chances are the company has a lot of information about you stored on its servers. Use Inactive Account Manager to leave instructions on who should have access to your information or if you want accounts deleted.
You can choose to have your account permanently deleted should you pass away or appoint a legacy contact to look after a memorialised account.
Twitter will accept requests to deactivate an account from either an immediate family member or a person authorised to act on behalf of the estate.
Your immediate family can either report your account for memorialisation when you die or request the account to be removed. They must fill out a request to report your account on Instagram and provide a death certificate.
LinkedIn accounts can be closed or memorialised by authorised persons, such as an executor, who will need official documents such as a death certificate.
Start your life file today
There’s a lot that goes into a life file, and it should be reviewed regularly. However, when it is complete you know that your loved ones will have access to all they need to wind up your estate, can inherit quickly and have the time they need to grieve.