Your Life File should contain detailed instructions for handling your physical possessions. This can be done using a simple four-step process:
- Step 1: Make a list of your physical possessions
- Step 2: Designate how items will be given away
- Step 3: Dispose of sensitive items
- Step 4: Decide what to do with cash
Step 1: Make a list of your physical possessions
You don’t need to account for every book, every DVD, and every piece of tupperware. Just those items that are particularly valuable or meaningful that you want to ensure are given away in a specific way. This may include:
- Real estate (homes, vacation homes, land, etc.)
- Vehicles (cars, boats, etc.)
- Family heirlooms or other antiques
- Clothes and accessories
Then draft a “Where to Find…” document that details important items that your loved ones might need to locate after your death: the deed to your house, the title and keys to your car, your vital information like a social security and insurance cards, etc.
Step 2: Designate how items will be given away
You can include some or all of these items in your Will. However, you may want to start giving away meaningful items to specific people well before your death. Consider reading The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, by Margareta Magnusson, to give yourself some guidance on how to slowly distribute important things to your loved ones.
Step 3: Dispose of any sensitive possessions
There are some possessions you may not want your loved ones to find after your death; or items that need particular handling and care to be disposed of safely. Have a plan for these items, or give instructions about their disposal to friends or family members. Items like this may include:
- Prescription medication
- Illegal items
- Sexual materials, photos, and/or videos
- Embarrassing possessions you do not want people to know you had
- Possessions related to secrets you do not want to get out after your death
Step 4: Decide what to do with cash
This step is pretty self explanatory. If you have cash stored somewhere, make sure to provide instructions on how to find it and how to use it. Identify the location of any cash you have stored for emergencies and provide instructions on how to use it.