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What Documents Are Needed After Someone Dies?

Statements, Bills, and Legal Documents

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After someone dies, the surviving family members will need to gather up all of the decedent's important papers. This will give the family members and/or probate attorney who will be assisting with settling the decedent's final affairs all of the pertinent information needed to complete the settlement process. Here's the list of documents that will be needed to settle an estate or trust. Copies of the documents will work just fine unless otherwise noted.

Asset information


Copies or originals of the following documents will be needed:

  1. Account Statements - including bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts for at least the three months prior to death

  2. Life Insurance Policies - note that some insurance companies will require the return of the original insurance policy

  3. Beneficiary Designations - for life insurance, retirement accounts, and payable on death accounts

  4. Deeds for Real Estate - there's a common misconception that the original deed is needed, but a copy will work just fine

  5. Automobile and Boat Titles - the originals will be needed to transfer legal title

  6. Stock and Bond Certificates - for stocks or bonds held in certificate form, the original certificate will be needed to transfer legal title

Business Documents


If the decedent owned a business, then copies or originals of the following documents will be needed:

  1. Corporate, LLC or Partnership Documents - this includes copies of the corporate charter or articles of organization and minutes; a copy of the shareholder's agreement, operating agreement, or partnership agreement; and original stock or LLC certificates to transfer legal title

  2. Account Statements - including bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts for at least the three months prior to death

  3. Automobile and Boat Titles - the originals will be needed if legal title will be transferred

  4. Contracts - including leases, loans, and employment agreements

  5. Business Licenses - including local and state licenses

  6. Income Tax Returns - past three years

Contracts


Copies or originals of the following contracts will be needed:

  1. Prenuptial Agreements - including any amendments

  2. Postnuptial Agreements - including any amendments

  3. Loans - including personal loans, lines of credit, and mortgages, along with the original promissory notes

  4. Leases - including real estate and automobile leases

Bills


Copies of the following bills will be needed:

  1. Utility Bills
  2. Cell Phone Bills

  3. Credit Card Bills

  4. Mortgages and Personal Loans - including lines of credit

  5. Real Estate Tax Bills

  6. Storage Unit Bills

  7. Medical Bills

  8. Funeral Bill

Estate Planning Documents


If the decedent had an estate plan, then copies or originals of the following documents will be needed:

  1. Last Will and Testament and Any Codicils - the originals will be required because if the originals can't be found, then it's presumed the decedent destroyed them

  2. Revocable Living Trust and Any Amendments - strangely a copy of the trust or amendment is all that's usually needed

Tax Returns


Copies of the last three years of the following tax returns will be needed:

  1. Federal Income Tax Returns

  2. State Income Tax Returns

  3. Gift Tax Returns

Death Certificates


Multiple, original death certificates will be needed to settle the decedent's affairs. I tell my clients to order ten at a minimum.

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