The End of Life Documents Checklist: How to Get Your End of Life Documents in Order

by | Mar 28, 2022 | Insights

Have you ever been asked a Mack truck question? It’s a lighthearted way of asking what would happen if you died. In the financial planning world, here’s a common one:

If you were hit by a Mack truck, how would I access our investment accounts? Who would I call? What would I do?

Would your loved ones know how to access your most important legal and financial information? It’s common for one person in marriage, family, or business partnership to take the lead on managing the financial logistics. If you’re the finance member of the team, your spouse, family, or business partners rely on you and would need direction on what to do if you passed away unexpectedly. So how can you prepare them and prevent confusion and chaos?

We recommend choosing a single place to consolidate copies of your most important legal and financial documents. Some call it your “In Case of Death” file…I like to call it your “Mack truck” file. This is an often overlooked, but important step to make things easy for those who need to know.

Here’s what you should put in your Mack truck file, how to store it, and who should know about it.

What goes in my Mack truck file?

Those who need access to your legal and financial information should find copies of everything they need here. This falls into a few categories:

Legal documents

  • Your most recent will
  • Trusts
  • Powers of Attorney (POA), including for medical decisions
  • Healthcare directives
  • Property deeds
  • Automobile titles

Personal information

  • Social security card
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage license
  • Driver license and/or passport
  • Usernames and passwords for all social media accounts

Financial documents

  • Checking, savings, and money market
  • Stocks, bonds and other investments
  • 401(k)s, IRAs, and other retirement accounts
  • Mortgage, car, student, and other loans
  • Life insurance policies
  • List of websites, usernames, and passwords for all financial websites. If you use a password manager like LastPass, include this login information, as well.
  • Include account title, number, and company – “Fidelity Traditional IRA #1234567”

Professional contact information

  • Will and estate attorney
  • Financial advisor
  • Life insurance agent
  • CPA / accountant

Healthcare wishes

In addition to a healthcare directive, which is a legal document that goes into force if you are incapacitated, consider outlining any other healthcare related wishes you might have. This could include burial or cremation, tissue and organ donation, and any other preferences you want to make known.

Letter of Intent or “Love Letter”

This is a specific message to those who will carry on your legacy – your spouse, kids, grandkids, business partners, or anyone else who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes. This is one last opportunity to share your hopes and dreams for them, and how you hope they’ll remember you.


How should I store my Mack truck file?

Now that you have your documents assembled and in order, it’s time to store it in a secure location that would be easily accessible for those you trust. You might prefer a physical location, digital location, or both.


Do you prefer physical documents in a physical location? Consider using a safe or other secure location in your home or a safe deposit box at a bank. Physical documents stored aren’t subject to cyber risks like digital ones but can be challenging to access for those who don’t live near you.


Do you like being able to access everything from anywhere? Consider storing your documents online through something like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, or other secure online storage. Our clients can store these documents in their digital vault, which is part of their Alterra Dashboard. While some have concerns about keeping their most sensitive information online, this can be far easier to access for those you love in any location.


Who should know about my Mack truck file?

You should choose a few trusted friends or family members to share this information with, including those you’ve named as executor of your will and guardian for minor children. It’s common to provide a copy to your attorney or financial advisor, as well. This doesn’t have to be a sad conversation. You can explain that your financial planning includes making sure everything is prepared and organized for your loved ones when the time comes.

Make sure they know where to locate your information, how to access it, and who to call if they have any questions. If keeping your information online, walk them through this to make sure they can successfully access the information.


When should I update my Mack truck file?

Keep your list of legal and financial documents handy and, whenever there’s an account opened, closed, or changed, make sure to update your Mack truck file accordingly. If there are no changes, it’s a good idea to revisit this every couple of years anyway, perhaps in an annual review with your financial advisor. It’s not uncommon to make a big legal or financial change and forget to update your Mack truck file.

With all the careful consideration you give to your financial and estate plans, it’s just a little extra effort on your part to organize these important details and save your loved ones a world of confusion when the time comes.

Alterra Advisors - Josh Whelan

Craig Hamilton

Strategic Advisor

About the Author

With over 30 years of experience as a Certified Financial Planner, Craig Hamilton joins Alterra as a sort of paternal figure and has a position of respected “special counsel” to the firm. This role is likely familiar to Craig as one of his four children is also a financial advisor. Mr. Hamilton is also a Certified Public Accountant with a degree in Business from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, where he graduated magna cum laude.

Craig was born and raised in the Pacific NW and built a family here that now includes seven grandchildren. In Craig’s words, “coaching, counseling, and mentoring are in my DNA.” This approach also characterized Craig’s financial career for 20-plus years as an Investment Officer for Russell Investment Services and their later incarnation as The Threshold Group. Throughout that time, Craig approached financial planning as “a critical tool to manage financial priorities and achieve a client’s dreams,” a philosophy perfectly aligned with the Alterra approach.

Craig took an early interest in all things financial — purchasing his first security while still in elementary school. Given his history, it’s not surprising multi-generation investing and legacy planning are his special interest. Listening to the stories of his clients and then helping them along the path to their goals brings Craig personal joy. So, it will likely come as no surprise that Craig was also a college tennis coach for over 20 years. To repeat Craig’s catchphrase, “coaching, counseling, and mentoring are assets” that he will invest in Alterra Advisors.

The “Alterra” name was coined by joining the Latin roots “alter”, the origin of the word “altruism” with “terra” meaning earth or land. This name reflects the company philosophy of “clients before profits” and providing firmly grounded advice.

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