Organizing Important Personal Information

Modern lives are complex, with many moving parts. We start out with a name and birth date, but as we move through life we become loyal friends, good students, enthusiastic fans, devoted parents, loving partners, hardworking employees and so much more.

When preparing for the end of life, it's important to record your personal details, so that when your family needs them, they can easily access it.

There's a lot of essential information your family will need in the days and weeks immediately after you pass, whether to get in touch with your friends, write your obituary, update your Facebook page or close your bank account. Gathering the information in one place—and then letting a key person know where to find it—is an important part of end-of-life planning.

The basics

The National Institute on Aging is a good place to start when you're getting your affairs in order. Your Dignity Memorial® Personal Planning Guide can also help and includes space for the following:

  • Full legal name
  • Date and place of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Name of spouse or partner
  • Employer
  • Education
  • Military service
  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of your parents
  • Personal ID numbers for driver's license, passport and like information

You should also make a list that includes names and phone numbers for:

  • Adult children
  • Close friends and relatives
  • Professional providers, including doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, insurance agents and your funeral home of choice
  • Religious contacts
  • School and caregiver contacts for minor children

Security codes

Security codes

Many of us have scores of passwords, starting with our phone and computer and going on from there. The New York Times has a great step-by-step article on preparing your digital life for death. Its primary lessons:

  • Use a password manager for your online accounts.
  • If you don't want to keep passwords under virtual lock and key, make a spreadsheet of all your passwords—just be sure to keep it up to date.
  • Be sure that spreadsheet includes a list of passwords for your devices and combinations for safes and lockboxes.
  • Assign someone to preserve your legacy online or delete your social accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).

Obituary information

Obituary information

Some people write their own obituaries. Others leave crafting that special story to their family, friends or funeral provider. If you want to tell your own story, type or write and include it with your other important documents. If you'd rather leave it to someone else, consider making a list of things you'd like in your obituary.

You can keep it serious or offer something silly—that's going to depend on your personality and how you'd like to be remembered. Think about:

  • Memberships in civic or social groups and religious or fraternal orders
  • Awards, designations, honors and recognitions
  • Appointed or elected positions
  • Philanthropic efforts
  • Greatest achievements
  • Worst disappointments
  • A thought you'd like to leave your loved ones

Keys, titles, deeds certificates, and more

Keys, titles, deeds, certificates and more

Spare keys are always a good idea. Have copies made for your car, recreational vehicles like a boat or motorcycle, vacation home, storage unit, safe deposit box, post office box, and any closet or chest in your home that you keep locked. Be sure to label the keys so that your family doesn't stress about guessing.

Keep them with your important documents, including:

  • Vehicle titles
  • Property titles and deeds
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificates
  • Divorce decrees
  • Adoption papers
  • Military discharge papers
  • Prepaid funeral plans
  • Final love letters and thank-you notes

Next steps

Once you've got the basics down, you're ready to organize financial information and legal papers and make sure your will and other estate planning documents are up to date.