Being Organized for the Time After Life

When my father died in September, 2014 I was certain that his affairs were in order—he had an estate plan and since the death of my mother nearly 20 years prior we’d updated his plan at least twice. I knew his attorney and was comfortable going to her after he died.

But what was hard for me was everything outside the estate plan and all of the documents, relevant and outdated in the two desks, banker’s boxes and filing cabinets in his house. Both of my parents were children of the Depression and throwing things away wasn’t easy for them.  In basement filing cabinet I found my mother’s very first tax return, it was confidently handwritten, in ink from her first year of teaching in 1956. With it was every tax return she and my dad filed. Yes, there was that much stuff. I found a valuable annuity policy—but didn’t know if it was still valid. I found multiple life insurance policies, some from companies that no longer exist and from some that do; there were copies of savings bonds and stock certificates that may or may not have been cashed in. I couldn’t be certain of my dad’s exact service years and finding his Navy discharge papers was important to his funeral arrangements.  All this disorganization made his death more difficult for me as his only child and executor of his estate.

The point of all of this is there’s a way to be better organized for the After Life. The Community Foundation has created a PDF personal organizer that will help with this aspect of your estate planning.  It’s a document that you can fill out and save on your own computer or share with the executor of your estate or your estate planning attorney. It’s easy to update as things change and you can keep it secure.  You can find the document at  Just fill in your name and e mail and it will take you to a download area where you can get the document and secure it on your own computer. A year from now we’ll remind you (by email) to review and update it, too.

To learn more about estate planning and planned giving, please contact one of my great co-workers--Marilyn, Shaun, Jonse or Gina in development at 616.454.1751.

Photo: Robert and Roberta King