My husband was up to something. He was pounding away at the computer and printing like a madman. When I didn’t hear the whir of the printer, there was the distinct sound of the three-hole punch chewing its way through paper.
“I’m working on something,” is all he would say. It seemed to excite him, this project. I wondered what it was.
When “it” appeared, it wasn’t impressive looking. It was a plain white three-ring binder.
“Open it,” is all he said, smiling.
I wondered if it was something romantic. I didn’t figure him as a poet; could I have missed that after all these years of marriage?
He was beaming like a cat that just dragged home a bird carcass as an affectionate offering.
“What is it?” I asked.
“The Death Book.” For some strange reason, he was still smiling. “In case something should happen to me, this book will tell you where everything is, who you need to contact…” he continued on, but I wasn’t listening any longer.
I recoiled from this stark white book like it was a jinx.
“Look at it, this is important,” he said.
He wasn’t smiling any longer. He looked irritated that I didn’t share his enthusiasm for The Death Book.
“It’s morbid,” I said, “I don’t like thinking about this stuff.”
“Well if something were to happen to me and you were stuck digging around trying to find out all this information, then you’d really be depressed.”
He flipped open the book, eager to show me that taking care of business from the great beyond would be his final loving act and would allow him to truly rest in peace.
In it was all the information I could possibly need: Copies of our wills, all the account numbers, passwords, and phone numbers for the kids’ college funds, our joint accounts and retirement accounts, information about his pension, the details of our life insurance policies, and social security information. He had totaled up what kind of payout I could expect. His excitement morphed into relief as he shut the book.
“Well, that’s that,” he said. “Everything is taken care of.”
I had the sense that he would sleep better that night knowing that this was off his shoulders. As for me, I told myself that The Death Book was the best insurance policy I could have that my husband would live a long, long life.
Want to Build Your Own Book?
There are books out there that you can buy, or you can simply get a three ring binder or folder and put the following in it:
- Copies of your wills, healthcare proxies, durable power of attorney
- Contact information for your estate planner/attorney, tax advisor and financial planner
- Social Security cards and statements/log in information
- Birth Certificates
- Marriage Certificate
- Divorce Papers
- Titles/Deeds to house and cars and any other real estate
- Current statements for all Bank Accounts, including account numbers and passwords
- Current statements for all retirement accounts, including account numbers and passwords
- Current statements for all taxable individual and joint investment accounts, including account numbers and passwords
- Current statements for all college savings accounts, including account numbers and passwords
- All savings bonds (or list of them with maturity dates)
- Insurance policies (account number, passwords, terms of payout)
- Employer sponsored retirement accounts, including account numbers and passwords
- Pension funds (account number, passwords, terms of payout)
- Any lists of instructions you have for family members
- Any list of personal effects that you would like handed down to specific family members and/or friends (or specific instructions on how to disburse these assets)
- Any funeral information (cemetery plots, preferences, etc.)
- Some people personalize their books with family stories that they want handed down, or with personal messages (letters) to loved ones