Thinking about dying is never easy so it’s perfectly normal to keep putting it off. Sadly it will happen to us all someday, and your loved ones will usually face a huge amount of admin when it does.
On average, it takes between nine and 12 months to settle your estate, according to Co-op Legal Services, but it can easily take much longer if your affairs are particularly disorganised or complicated.
One way you can make things easier for your loved ones is by making a list of all the essential information that someone might need to organise your estate as well as your wishes and anything else you might want to be known after you’ve died.
Here we explain what a ‘What to do when I die’ organiser is and what you might want to include in yours. We’ve also created this handy PDF that you can print off and fill out if you want to get started on your list.
What is a ‘What to do when I die’ organiser?
A ‘What to do when I die’ organiser is essentially all the information that someone might need when sorting out your estate once you’ve passed away in one centralised document. It can include anything you want it to, but generally, it will detail any important paperwork, personal information, key contacts, bank and investment account details, funeral wishes and so on. You may also want to include more sentimental items such as letters to loved ones or wording for your obituary or eulogy.
While many may think that a will would cover this kind of information, as many as 60% of the UK population don’t have a will, and even if you do, it may not include all the information loved ones need to sort out your affairs This is when a ‘What to do when I die’ organiser can help bridge the gap. Find out about why it’s important to have a will in our article The importance of writing a will.
Which? provide an easy and affordable way to write your will and ensure the people you care about are looked after when you’re gone.
They’ve done everything they can to make the process as straightforward as possible, including printing and delivery to your door. You can even get your will reviewed by their specialists to make sure it’s completed correctly.
Prices start at £99.
The exact contents of your ‘What to do when I die’ organiser and how you choose to document it will vary from person to person. Some people like to keep a box of important information locked away somewhere safe, while others have a file saved on their computer that their loved ones know about.
A few things to bear in mind
Before you start writing your ‘What to do when I die’ organiser, there are a couple of things you need to consider that may help make the process easier.
Take your time
Sitting down and thinking about what will need to be done when you die can be hard, so bear in mind that you don’t have to fill in this list all at once, and you don’t have to do it alone. Take your time filling in this document. You might want to consider filling in a section a week, or even a month. If you feel comfortable with it, you might find it easier to talk it through with someone. Sometimes, hearing someone else’s opinions might help you shape yours. Ultimately, remember, there’s usually no rush to get it completed, and you can fill in as little or as much as you want. Any information is likely to prove useful to those who will be sorting out your affairs.
Where will you store it?
A really important thing to remember is that the information you are going to be entering into this document or storing is very sensitive and you don’t want it falling into the wrong hands. Make sure that wherever you keep it, it is safe and secure. If you have a safe or a cabinet that locks, it could be good to store it in there, or if you are keeping it digitally, it could be worth password protecting it.
What might you want to include in your ‘What to do when I die’ organiser?
The list of what you might or might not include in your ‘What to do when I die’ organiser will be different depending on your individual circumstances, but generally, it will include:
This will usually be all the standard information that helps identify you, such as your name, date of birth, National Insurance number, driving licence and passport number, your next of kin, and so on.
Record of important documents
This will usually outline things such as where to find your will, your funeral plan if you have one, and any birth, marriage or divorce certificates you might have. Depending on how and where you decide to store your ‘What to do when I die’ organiser, you might want to keep actual copies of these documents in your file, or you might want to detail where these documents can be found and when the most recent version was made.
Around half of people who organise a funeral don’t actually know whether their loved one wanted a burial or cremation, and nearly one in five of us have no idea what preferences the person who has died had at all, according to SunLife’s 2023 Cost of Dying Report.
Outlining your funeral wishes clearly can take a lot of pressure off your loved ones, not to mention ease any guilt they might feel about getting it wrong.
It’s worth going into as much detail as you can, or if you aren’t too bothered then it’s worth saying that as well.
While at first glance you may think your finances are pretty straightforward, most of us will have multiple bank accounts, savings pots, loans, mortgages, pensions, insurances, bills and more. It’s really useful to explain in your organiser which companies you hold accounts with, any customer numbers which might be useful, and where you keep any statements or other documents relating to these accounts.
Whoever sorts out your estate is likely going to have to inform several people that you have passed away and get their assistance, such as your solicitor, accountant, financial advisor and so on. Make things easier for them by noting down the names, numbers and email addresses for all of these individuals.
that is becoming more relevant as technology becomes an increasingly large part of our lives. It may be that you have digital assets like music libraries or blogs, or maybe you just have your social media accounts, but regardless it helps to write down what you want to happen with these accounts when you’ve gone.
Rather than including all your passwords for social media accounts, it may be better to use an online password manager where you can collect them all and then share the password to this with someone you trust. Depending on which password manager you use, you might be able to assign this person as an emergency contact who can then obtain access to your passwords when needed.
If you have any children under the age of 18 (or 16 in Scotland) you will need to appoint a guardian for them. This is usually done in your will, but you can always reconfirm it in your ‘What to do when I die’ file.
Similarly, if you have any pets then you can outline what arrangements you would like for them.
There are no rules as to what you can and can’t include in your ‘What to do when I die’ file, so it’s worth having a think if there’s anything else you would like to include for your loved ones. Some people include letters to their children or partner, for example, or a list of people they’d really like to be invited to their funeral.
Find out more about some of the administrative tasks your loved ones are likely to face when you die in our guide What to do when someone dies.
Download your 'What to do when I die' organiser
While it’s not always easy to think about dying, getting your affairs in order now could be one of the most helpful things you can do for your loved ones.
Download and complete your free organiser and remember to:
- Take your time – there’s no rush.
- Talk about it with someone you trust.
- Keep your completed organiser somewhere safe and secure.