Important Papers to Locate After Someone Dies
After someone dies, family members will need to locate all of the decedent's important papers. It will give family members and, if necessary, the estate attorney assisting the family with settling the decedent's final affairs, all of the pertinent information needed to complete probate or the trust settlement process.
Below is the list of documents that are needed to settle an estate or trust. Copies of the documents are fine unless otherwise noted.
Copies or originals of the following documents will be needed:
- Account statements: Including bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and retirement accounts (IRAs, 401(k)s and annuities) for at least a few months prior to death.
- Life insurance policies: Note that for some older policies the insurance company will require the return of the original policy.
- Beneficiary designations: For life insurance, retirement accounts, payable on death accounts and transfer on death accounts.
- Deeds for real estate: There is a common misconception that the original deed is needed, but a copy is fine.
- Automobile and boat titles: The original titles will be required to transfer legal title.
- Stock and bond certificates: For stocks or bonds held in certificate form, the original certificate will be required to transfer legal title.
Closely-Held Business Documents
If the decedent owned a closely-held business, then copies or originals of the following documents will be needed:
- 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; minutes documenting meetings and decisions; and original stock or LLC certificates to transfer legal title.
- Account statements: Including bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and retirement, accounts for at least a few months prior to death.
- Automobile and boat titles: The original titles will be required if the legal title will be transferred.
- Contracts: Including leases, loans, vehicle loans, and employment agreements.
- Business licenses: Including local and state licenses.
- Income tax returns: Federal and state returns for the past three years.
Copies or originals of the following contracts will be needed:
Estate Planning Documents
If the decedent had an estate plan, then copies or originals of the following documents will be needed: