topic | preparing for end of life - final days

Step 4: locate important documents

It is necessary to secure important documents before filing for various benefits and caring for financial matters. They may be hidden or tucked away, so it is helpful to locate these items prior to death.

Legal Contacts, Legal Documents, Business Documents and Accounts may already contain information useful for locating these documents. If not, use these forms as a guide as you gather information. Although utmost care and sensitivity is necessary, collecting this information or its whereabouts from the soon-to-be deceased or other family members is helpful to estate administration efforts downstream.

Best Practices

Important Information for Veterans
A copy of the Military Discharge Papers is necessary for the funeral home to arrange veteran’s burial benefits. If discharge papers cannot be located, contact National Personnel Records Center, 9700 Page Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63132. Send it to the attention of the branch in which the person served.

Activity 1
Locate the Will or Trust

A Will or Trust is critical in the administration of the estate. If the Will is in a Safe Deposit Box determine: 

  • How to obtain access
  • If an additional copy can be obtained for use prior to death
  • If Power of Attorney is necessary to obtain access to a safe deposit box prior to the death
  • If the bank or credit union requires the owner's death certificate prior to checking the box's contents for the Will.  Laws vary by state.

Activity 2
Obtain Power of Attorney if Appropriate

An application for Power of Attorney may be obtained from your state’s Bar Association website or from an attorney. It must be signed (and witnessed by a notary) prior to death. Power of Attorney is only valid prior to the death.

Best Practices

Asking questions about the location of these important documents can be very difficult. If possible, ask a surviving spouse or other family member, care giver, or other trusted person for the needed information. They may be able to help. It may also be beneficial to have a family member assist in asking questions at various times.

(if this Step is complete)
to Step 5

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