Whatcha Know About Legacy Binders?

Got a note from a reader here after an unfortunate event happened at her work, and thought it was a great way to introduce a topic many of us don’t enjoy dealing with (and rightfully so ;)).

The timing was pretty impeccable too, as my father has once again asked me if I’ve filled out all the info from this book he keeps recommending to me and my siblings and I’m running out of excuses!

get it together book nolo

Here’s what she emailed me (names have been changed):

Someone from our branch died very suddenly and unexpectedly over the weekend.  Some other branch members were apparently talking earlier today and the topic of Legacy Binders came up, see below.  I immediately thought of you and your far-reaching blog.


A few of us were talking this morning about Carl and how quick things can happen.

What I saw my mom go through when my dad passed and how she struggled to find accounts and know where to turn, really wanted me to make it easier on Julia and the kids if anything were to happen to me, or if something were to happen to both Julia and I, and someone outside the family were to take care of the kids. This could be made for a wife, kids, or whoever. A few were interested what I had in it, so I’ll send out to the whole team.

Documents I placed in a binder for her to access:

  • Benefits info, which includes survivor benefits
  • Social Security Statement (downloaded from website)
  • Any Life Insurance Statements (Term, whole, military, through work, etc.)
  • Other insurance docs (health/medical/dental, umbrella, home, car, personal property, etc.)
  • Investment docs (IRA, 401k, mutual funds, stocks, etc.)
  • Mortgage Statement /rental info
  • Banking and credit card info
  • Will, trust, etc.
  • 529 college fund
  • Recurring bills (electric, cable, trash, water, etc.)
  • Usernames and passwords for any accounts/websites she may need to access
  • Soldiers note (some don’t like to think about writing a letter to a loved one, to be discovered later)

My goal is to update this info yearly. Hope I’m thinking of everything, but if you see anything missing, please let me know.

She then sent a follow up from another colleague who chimed in:

If possible, add something that proves your legal relationship to the deceased, marriage license for spouse, POA for other. Without that you may be delayed in gaining access to accounts or even being able to speak with anyone concerning the matter. You will often have to wait until a death certificate is issued. If the issuance of that is delayed, you won’t be able to get much done in any event. When the death is under unusual circumstances, the ME may not issue a certificate of death for 6-8 weeks. You’re stuck in that circumstance.

My step son faced that when her father died unexpectedly one day on vacation.

And my brother and I just did this for my father when his advanced age caught up with him. Him and my mother hid or destroyed all important documents. It took a concerted search and the help of others to reconstruct his affairs.

SUCH a good idea, isn’t it? Putting everything in one main place for whoever (and whenever) they need it? As I’ve already let on, I don’t technically have a Legacy Binder like this yet, but I have started a Google doc that’s shared with my wife which contains a gaggle of important data. It doesn’t have account numbers or passwords or any sensitive info like that in it (scary to put online!), but it would help immensely in the tragic loss of yours truly.

Here’s what’s in there:

  • Notes on all the bank accounts we have, and where they’re located
  • Notes on all the investment accounts we have, and where they’re located
  • Notes on all insurance/utilities/car loan stuff, etc, and where they’re located
  • Notes on all my blog and business account stuff, and where they’re located (you guys do want to be notified if something happens to me, right? ;))
  • And a handful of other random, but helpful, pieces of information that’s important to the running or maintaining of our household

I also keep sticky notes in our safe that houses all the logins and passwords of the important accounts/documents too – although probably good to upgrade them at some point ;)

Our safe also houses a mess of other important items as well: birth certificates, passports, checkbooks, back up hard drives, and even my nifty coin collection along with $500 in cash (never know when you need to flee in the middle of the night, right?)

So while we don’t have a binder, per se, we do have a spreadsheet/safe combo going on that will get you 80% of what’s needed in an unfortunate event. Which I think should win me some award, right?

Another trick we do is to house as many accounts under one roof as possible. For example, we have all our banking/insurance/credit card accounts with USAA – our favorite bank EVER – and then all our investment accounts with Vanguard – our favorite investment company EVER. Those two alone account for 90% of our accounts, (and 99% of our money!), both of which my wife has direct access to.

I know my dad’s still right in that this is just the tip of the iceberg with life/legacy stuff (“You don’t know, what you don’t know! That book forces you to think about all kinds of situations!”), but hey pops – one step at a time :)

Anyways, hopefully this is a good reminder for you, too, to start putting some things together if you haven’t already. If the Legacy Binder idea is too daunting for you, start by jotting down notes in a spreadsheet somewhere to get the main stuff down real fast, and then look to fill in the rest later.


It doesn’t do anyone a lick of good if they can’t find it, or even know it exists. If it helps, I can also give your number to my father to start pestering motivating you instead, if you’re looking for some accountability ;) He is early retired now you know, and has plenty of time to help out. Might even hook you up with some free Pabst!

Thanks for the great post idea, dearest reader, and for forcing us to think about all this stuff… Not fun, but certainly important!!

Now to go update those stickies…


UPDATE: Recently came across this free PDF for putting all your stuff together in one spot too – could prove quite helpful –>”The Big Book of Everything” (links to article about it where you can download it)

UPDATE II: A blogger friend just came out with this PDF too for legacy binders!! It does cost money ($29) but it’s pretty bad a$$… You can take a peek at it here when we named it our Resource of The Month: The ICE Binder (“In Case of Emergency”)

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  1. Apathy Ends June 28, 2017 at 6:40 AM

    This is a great Idea and something I need to finish up for Mrs AE since I run the majority of the finances/usernames/passwords. I have started but need to bring it all together in an easy to discover/follow way.

    1. J. Money June 28, 2017 at 7:34 AM

      Yeah, that’s definitely optimal. Although even just a list of all the accounts/users/passwords would be huge and better than nothing! That’s half the battle right there for most people – not knowing where everything is and/or not having access to it. I’d think our smart wives would be able to figure out the rest, even though they wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as we would :)

      1. Lance @ My Strategic Dollar June 28, 2017 at 7:51 AM

        So true! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been with my parents and they have to go search for 30 minutes to find the password to the internet, the phone bill, etc…I finally got them to write it down all together in one place.

        Great read!

        1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:20 AM

          haha – I’m glad they actually listened to you!

  2. Anna June 28, 2017 at 6:49 AM

    My husband and I have started it (it’s just a baby file folder right now) because my in-laws have scared the sh*t out of us. They want my husband to be the executor to the will but they don’t want him to have any info because it “isn’t time yet”. They are 81 and 83. I can’t do that to my kids. I just can’t leave them hanging like that!

    1. J. Money June 28, 2017 at 7:36 AM

      Ack! At least they’re getting everything together it seems! I’d imagine at some point they’d have “the talk” from there :)

    2. Suzi July 12, 2017 at 12:22 PM

      I wish more parents would be forthcoming with their kids about what’s what, and I wish more kids would be able to hear what their wishes are. I work in an industry that often deals with surprises–the kind of nasty surprises that can cause siblings to stop speaking to one another. Regardless of what the will says, it’s a generally a given that the parents never wanted that to happen!
      I think it’s best when everything is laid out on the table and discussed openly. We are going to start having annual “family meetings” to discuss what they can (and can’t!) expect when we’re gone.

      1. J. Money July 13, 2017 at 7:15 AM

        “Regardless of what the will says, it’s a generally a given that the parents never wanted that to happen” – exactly!!

        And good idea on the meetings :)

  3. Jacq June 28, 2017 at 7:07 AM

    My dad showed me their binder Thanksgiving weekend, me being 3rd in line behind his brothers to handle things. Then he had an unexpected heart attack just after Christmas. He is recovering very well! But knowing he had ‘the book’, I had less worries as my step mom made decisions knowing they’d discussed things as they built it. This spring, they have gone through it to update it, and they consolidated their bank account for ease of use.
    My mom also has her information gathered, and location discussed with people she trusts.
    I do need to make that list of bank / investment accounts, but I made a will earlier this year and am proud of taking that step, this is just like the finishing move, right?

    1. J. Money June 28, 2017 at 7:37 AM

      Smart parents!! And yeah – all these things are just extra moves to make our lives easier :) I don’t think they’ll ever end it seems, haha… Always something we can be working on!

  4. Budget on a Stick June 28, 2017 at 7:19 AM

    I’ve heard of things like this before but never thought to do it. they even did an episode of How I Met Your Mother about this topic!

    The only thing I would probably add is a money map. That way Ms Blue Ribbon knows where and why money is automatically pulled out.

    1. Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions June 28, 2017 at 7:42 AM

      I love the money map idea too! We have a ton of auto pulls each month. We gave my parents and my brother listings of all important accounts a few years back after we had two friends die a few months apart. We haven’t given out the passwords though… The one thing I didn’t include was Social Security statements. We have them and that would have been good to include too. We also updated our wills and did our health care proxies and POA’s. It was a stressful process to get through but we definitely felt better knowing our wishes were clear and that everything was “on paper” so our family would have less stress in the event that we passed.

    2. J. Money June 28, 2017 at 7:43 AM

      OOooooh that’s a good idea! I like that! And even better a map of what happens when your income gets shut off too and how it might look being diverted at that point? Since the flow would probably change?

  5. Mrs. Adventure Rich June 28, 2017 at 7:23 AM

    This seems like a key part of financial planning to me… I think I need to go get a binder! In our family, one of us is often taking lead on an account or area of life (cars, etc) while the other is less involved in the details of that area. We try to keep a common place of passwords and important info, but we often find that we are not updating it regularly (Yikes!). I think this idea would be really helpful to keep us on track a bit more.

    1. J. Money June 28, 2017 at 7:44 AM

      Awesome – give it a shot! I’m actually going to go in now and set up calendar items to *remind me* to update the usernames/passwords every 6 months too. That way harder to forget, eh?

      1. Mrs. Adventure Rich June 28, 2017 at 9:06 AM

        I think I need to do the same!

  6. Chris @ Flipping A Dollar June 28, 2017 at 7:32 AM

    For passwords – LastPass has been a lifesaver. It’s $12 a year. Completely worth it. Stores every password and login so if I kick the bucket, my wife can get in. I don’t know why I waited so long to switch over to it.

    But yeah… we should totally review the will that came from our lawyer… but priorities man! We’re at the tail end of a kitchen remodel!

    1. J. Money June 28, 2017 at 7:46 AM

      Thx for the tip on LastPass – never heard of before! What happens if they go out of business though? They gonna be around for another 100 years or so until we pass? ;)

      1. Chris @ Flipping A Dollar June 29, 2017 at 8:06 AM

        If that happens, then you just have to manually reset your passwords. Same boat really if someone doesn’t know your logins!

        1. J. Money July 10, 2017 at 10:46 AM

          Good point.

  7. Amy @ Life Zemplified June 28, 2017 at 7:35 AM

    Excellent reminder! I do have a document with accounts listed and all of our documents in our safe, but the list isn’t as detailed as it could be. Thanks reader and J$, for the nudge to improve it and keep it updated.

  8. Chelsea @ Mama Fish Saves June 28, 2017 at 7:36 AM

    We have one of these files! We call it our “got hit by a bus” folder. It’s mostly for my husband if something happened to me, since I manage all our investments and insurance and he wouldn’t know how to access anything if something happened to me otherwise, but I suppose I should tell my mother where to find it!

  9. Steve Miller June 28, 2017 at 7:40 AM

    I’ve had to go through 2 estate settlements with my parents over the past 2 years and I can tell you it is painful trying to find all of their account information. Fidelity has a free tool called FidSafe that allows you to store all of this information electronically. As long as the family has the FidSafe login, they have access to all the legacy records that were placed there.

    1. J. Money June 28, 2017 at 7:50 AM

      Fantastic idea. I can’t even imagine having to go through all that stuff :( You always here horror stories of finding storage or safety deposit keys too but not knowing where they go to?! Can you imagine never being able to find that stuff? (at least the safety deposit box – the storage stuff is prob junk ;))

  10. Mrs. Groovy June 28, 2017 at 7:45 AM

    We created a document listing accounts, insurance policies, where they are held, and password details. We also stapled the business card from the lawyer who prepared our wills and gave this information to our executors (my brother/Mr Groovy’s sister). I like your recommendation to add utility information. A list of personal contacts would help too, so that friends may be notified.

    1. J. Money June 28, 2017 at 7:53 AM

      Yes, very smart to list friends there! Also who you want to task with updating your blog readers with what happened :) (And maybe anointing a new person to take it over? Haha…)

  11. Brian June 28, 2017 at 7:52 AM

    The estate lawyer my parents work with helped create these for them as part of their estate plan. There are physical copies and also a digital copy I have access to. At least once a year we meet with the lawyer and discuss the goings on and to review/make sure all the contact information is still correct.

    I should probably create something like this for my wife incase I pass, since she has very little interest in the nuts and bolts of our long term finances.

  12. Natalie June 28, 2017 at 8:06 AM

    This is basically what full wealth management financial advisors do for their clients (at least that’s what we do at my firm). Super interesting to see it in a book!

  13. Melissa June 28, 2017 at 8:18 AM

    Another thing to include is a list of friends and their phone numbers so your family can let them know.

  14. Paul June 28, 2017 at 8:29 AM

    This reminds me I need to make a will…. especially with 4 kids its unacceptable that I have nothing written down about who would care for them and who would get our money to help with their care.

    Also, passwords.google.com is cheaper than buying an app and probably more secure if you enable 2 factor.

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:22 AM

      Ooooh I didn’t know Google offered that! Just another way they’re trying to own us! Haha…

      1. Paul June 29, 2017 at 2:58 PM

        its true but their tools are so much better than other companies….. Although I did switch to Duck Duck Go because I didn’t like my search history being recorded for the purposes of further advertising to me…

  15. Cath @ Get MoneyWise June 28, 2017 at 8:38 AM

    I need to do this. I pretty much handle all the finance side of things in the relationship.

    I have asked hubby before what he would do if I died. He said he would take our girls and move in with his mum till all the shit got sorted. It’s a decent plan B I suppose haha.

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:23 AM

      Haha…. Tell him not to forget to bring the binder you’ve prepared for him! :)

  16. Brian June 28, 2017 at 8:46 AM

    We have a small fireproof box with a bunch of this stuff in but needed to be updated. When my dad passed away a few years back I had to help my mom uncover a bunch of these things. My dad was fairly organized, but not everything was together, and it’s really the last thing you want to do when you’re of griefing.

  17. Miss Mazuma June 28, 2017 at 8:51 AM

    I was just thinking about this on Sunday…

    My mom has a “red folder” that she keeps all her info in that we are supposed to find when she dies. Um, my mom can’t even find the glasses on top of her head so it’s unlikely we would find the folder in a hurry especially since she is always moving and reorganizing things! As the executor of her estate, I think it would be more beneficial for ME to hold her red folder. She can seal it up however she likes, but knowing someone has immediate access to it makes more sense than having to go to her house and look through all her things (especially when grief stricken). As a result of my big idea, I decided it would also make sense for me to give my red folder (or legacy binder) to my mom. That way she doesn’t have to go through all my things to find the important nuggets. Being single, this arrangement makes sense. If you live with a partner, it may not be necessary to give your legacy binder to someone outside the home, but it might also be nice to have the info elsewhere in the event of a fire. Just some morbid things to think about on a Wednesday morning! ;)

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:27 AM

      Agree completely!

      Another idea is to set up a safe-deposit box at a bank or credit union too. That’s what my parents have done so almost everything we would need is there in that box. Of course you have to remember to give the key to those who need it, as well as put them on the form so the bank knows who you are, but it’s all super helpful with this stuff. Of course a red folder works too :)

  18. Franklin Bach June 28, 2017 at 8:53 AM

    Thanks for posting this valuable topic. I’ve been doing this for quite some time and call my file the Asset Map. I update it annually in an excel spread sheet which I print out and keep in a safe place without account numbers or log in info. I also save the file on a USB drive with account numbers, user names and passswords. I store this USB drive in the safety deposit box in the bank along with the important papers you listed in the legacy file. Since there is no longer a paper trail that comes through the mail, this is really the only way to communicate this critical information along to the survivors. Once you take the time to set this up, maintenance on the file is convenient.

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:28 AM


  19. sfmitch June 28, 2017 at 9:18 AM

    I’ve been trying to figure out where to keep something like this. I’m single w/ no kids.

    I want to make it easy for my family to get this information if something should happen to me but don’t want anyone to have this information until then.

    Anyone have a good idea?

    1. Miss Mazuma June 28, 2017 at 10:54 AM

      Hi!! I too am single with no kids so I feel ya! I think in your case a safe deposit box at the bank would be helpful. I used to have one but decided to simplify and instead I am making two copies of everything. One for my house, one for my mom (or someone else you trust). See my comment above for my reasoning. :) Good luck!!

  20. Owen @ PlanEasy June 28, 2017 at 9:23 AM

    This is a fantastic idea. Something I haven’t heard of before.

    It would be pretty difficult for my wife to piece together all our financial information should I pass away suddenly. So much of our stuff is paperless now. Unless I were to specifically print out a statement there isn’t much info for my financial accounts.

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:28 AM

      Looks like you have a goal for this weekend then :)

  21. Mercedes June 28, 2017 at 10:15 AM

    While you are at it, add a simple note for your children that says, “I love you,” or something similar, and sign it. I read a story of a lady whose mother had died. She was driving herself crazy digging through her mother’s house, until she realized she was looking for a note that didn’t exist.

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:29 AM

      Awwww, good idea – I like that a lot :) Even more so if you set up an entire system where someone you know mails a new letter to them every year like you see in the movies! haha.. so beautiful!

  22. Iva June 28, 2017 at 10:34 AM

    This is a pretty timely post. About a month ago, I bit the bullet and bought The Freedom Filer system. I had been sitting on the notion for about a year because it was (as I perceive) pricey at $40 for some stickers. Not the hanging files, not the folders. Just the stickers.

    But I’m glad I did! My personal files have always been a mess with no rhyme or reason to them. The FF helped me organize my thoughts and my paperwork into a usable system. Now, these important documents mentioned above are in a file. I’ve shown both my husband and my children where to find them.

    Other documents (marriage certificate, SS cards, birth certificates) are in a fire-proof safe. Again, the key is accessible to everyone in the house. (My kids are older – 19 & 15).

    I recently went through what could have been a huge mess with my mother when she passed away a year ago. She knew she was going to die (cancer diagnosis), so she did most of the legwork for me. It made it very easy, from what other people have said. The emotional struggle was there, so believe me – having her do the legwork was a huge blessing.

    This article, your reader, and your father (!!) are right on the money (no pun intended).

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:30 AM

      Thanks for the tip on the stickers! It’s really interesting seeing all the different ideas out there :)

  23. FullTimeFinance June 28, 2017 at 11:14 AM

    I recently consolidated some accounts because of this very reason. The rest of the information is consolidated in a safe like you referenced.

  24. Joe June 28, 2017 at 11:15 AM

    Our binder is a mess. Everything is in an Exel spreadsheet and only I can decipher it. I gotta get Mrs. RB40 in on this, but she is too busy. It’s a tough topic that nobody wants to talk about.
    My parents don’t need a binder because they don’t have much.

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:33 AM

      That’s why you need a print out that lists directions or thoughts/reasons behind why you set things up the way you did :) That way she doesn’t have to care or know anything until the day when you’re up in heaven! (Not ideal, of course, but makes a worst case scenario at least a better case one, eh?)

  25. RA Sims June 28, 2017 at 11:31 AM

    This is a great idea and reminder to take care of this part of our lives that we’d rather ignore. We think that we always have time, but I’m only 48 and have lost all of my immediate family – mom very suddenly, dad and brother to illness. Thankfully settling things was never overly complicated, but grief can be overwhelming and the more you have organized and outlined, the better. The other thing – GET A WILL. Now. Immediately. Don’t care if you are young or don’t have kids or any other excuse. And especially if there are any family issues – for the longest time, my legal next of kin would have been my brother who at the time had addiction issues, etc. and would NOT have been who I wanted making medical decisions for me. Much happier once I had a medical POA that put three nurses in charge of those decisions :-) Best money I’ve ever spent getting everything done properly.

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:36 AM

      YES!!!! And something we desperately still need to work on too. We got one started but it’s now 3 years old and not even sure our 2nd son is listed/mentioned in it? So I’m def. in the #FAIL department there too.

  26. Finances with Purpose June 28, 2017 at 12:21 PM

    Fantastic thought – and a great kick-in-the-pants reminder! I recently reminded my wife where she can find all of our account info, but I need to make a more comprehensive document with everything together for her in case something were to happen.

    My father did this extraordinarily well for my mother. He knew he was dying at some point, so he put everything in her name, gave her all the info she needed, organized it for her, and, candidly, it made that portion of his passing very easy to handle (relatively). I sympathize with those for whom it’s much more of a challenge, as a friend (now going through it) related to me last night about his own family. It’s so much better if your loved ones know where things are and what they are.

    Great tip!

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:37 AM

      Your dad was a good man :)

  27. Dads Dollars debts June 28, 2017 at 1:35 PM

    I just had this conversation wuth my wife. I have run the finances so if I die then she needs a plan to follow while also grieving. This is clutch. Thanks for the post!

  28. Kristy June 28, 2017 at 3:32 PM

    I put one together a couple of years ago before a medical procedure. I was quite thorough–even included list of friends to contact immediately; and out of town friends, to send obit notice later. I have written a draft of obituary also. I have shown the kids (all adults now!) the binder, so they have an idea of what is included, and my final instructions. We have not created wills or trust as of yet, (on my to do list this year) but this would get them through with what needs to be done, & most accounts are TOD thus far. Also include letters to to my sister and cousin, who can help follow up on things, in the event my sudden demise. Every year before we leave on vacation, — I prepare a detailed document of such info for my sister, just in case something would happen to us.

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:38 AM

      Freaky about obituary!!! Kinda cool at the same time though I’d imagine writing it out yourself… And much better knowing you’re ALIVE too so far, haha…

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:38 AM

      Much better name for it :)

      (Unless your heirs are going to be your father or brother, haha….)

  29. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life June 28, 2017 at 3:49 PM

    I’ve got some of these put together. Our wills and trust documents are in a binder, and I’m putting together all the basic information on all our accounts and life insurance policies. My problem is that accounts change fairly frequently so it’s a bit of a job keeping them updated in a timely way. It should probably be a monthly thing once I have the full folder compiled for PiC.

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:40 AM

      That is the most annoying/tricky part :( nothing a google reminder can’t fix though every X months! I just set mine up for 6 months so will see if that gets the job done.

  30. Mrs. Picky Pincher June 28, 2017 at 4:45 PM

    I LOOOOOVE love love love this idea. My mom passed away very unexpectedly when I was 19 and we had nothing on her. No life insurance, no will, nada. We didn’t even know what her funeral wishes were (or how we were going to pay for the funeral, for that matter). Take one hour out of your day and put together one of these binders!!!!

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:40 AM

      Dang, I’m so sorry to hear that :(

  31. steveark June 28, 2017 at 5:22 PM

    My dad passed away two years ago. For years before he kept showing me where everything was in his spreadsheet, where he filed everything and why he was invested the way he was. I was the executor of his estate, which was divided evenly between me and my brother. It would have been a nightmare but he had the binder and I was able to manage it fairly well. Almost everything passed directly without probate and my bro and I never had a single squabble about how to split things. I was always uncomfortable with the conversation with my dad, who wants to talk about death? But it will happen and being prepared like my dad was made our lives much easier. It was an act of love on his part.

  32. April June 28, 2017 at 6:25 PM

    When keeping important information like usernames and passwords in a safe at home, what exactly kind of safe is everyone using? I mean, I have a little fireproof safe… but if someone was to break into my house I assume that is one of the first things they would walk away with, hoping there was money inside.

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:42 AM

      I use a heavier metal one, but you’re right in that anyone can nab it and walk away with it (they’d have to be super strong though!). I’ve heard that a lot of people screw them into the ground which helps, and/or uses safety deposit boxes at banks for certain stuff (this is popular among coin collectors too so all their treasures aren’t hidden in their house :))

  33. Primal Prosperity June 28, 2017 at 11:59 PM

    “but hey pops – one step at a time :)”

    That was such a cute line. :)

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:43 AM

      Thanks :) I don’t know why I wrote “pops” there as I’ve literally never called him that before.

    2. Suzi July 13, 2017 at 11:22 AM

      I LOVE that you called him Pops–I am the sole heir of my biological father’s estate (he is estranged from my siblings), and while he thinks he is all organized because he has a will and has shown it to me, all the account info, etc. is nowhere to be found (although, the paperwork he has shown me does include a POA for me to access his accounts if he is unable but still kicking). I think I’m going to print out this article, complete with “…hey Pops…” (I might even highlight it) and hand it to him, together with a binder and a hole puncher, and tell him to get to it!

  34. Mystery Money Man June 29, 2017 at 12:43 AM

    This is such a great idea. I have something similar which I keep in a plastic file box. What I need to do a better job of is writing down a summary of contents or set of “what to do if” instructions. With so many married couples, and we’re no different, one person handles the majority of the finances, which can leave the other at a loss if the unexpected were to happen. Thanks for sharing, J.!

  35. Abails June 29, 2017 at 12:53 AM

    I have my binder of “if I die tomorrow” because I was afraid I would die in childbirth. Thankfully I didn’t after a bunch of kids, but it proved very helpful when we decided to move across country, because everything we needed was already in one place. I keep a sheet of paper for each account, all info about that account like when the credit card statement periods are. I write down the website and login info, since it isn’t online I feel safe. Our passports and other important docs Are in there in case we do need to run in the middle of the night (we used to live on the Gulf Coast, so HURRICANES!). Now when I pay bills I just go thru my binder and then I know everything is paid, and most importantly, up to date, just in case. Thanks for the blog! This topic is so important.

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:44 AM

      I’m so glad you’re still here and able to love/produce more kids! :)

  36. Colin @ Building-Income June 29, 2017 at 12:55 AM

    This is great stuff.

    I actually had a former Marine turn me on to this idea years ago. I’ve kept updating every year, especially after adding assets such as new properties.

    I’ve always labeled it the In Case of Death binder. I like Legacy Binder much better. It won’t freak out the family any more.

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:44 AM

      Yes, good call.

      Also “legacy” sounds like you’re much more important :)

  37. PolkaDot June 29, 2017 at 5:51 AM

    Thanks for this article. My father was super organized. Every year or so as he and my mom got older, he would call my sister and me into the bedroom and he would open up a metal file he kept in the closet. Then, he would go through all of the documents and notes. It was uncomfortable at the time, but I was so blessed when I needed to fulfill my duties as executors of both estates. Unfortunately, I have not been so organized. I have purchased the book from Amazon and will use it to help me to put my “stuff” in order.

    1. J. Money June 29, 2017 at 10:45 AM

      Good!!! He’ll be looking down at you giving you the sign of approval too :)

  38. Kyle June 30, 2017 at 10:29 AM

    I’ve got a flash drive that I told my wife to find if something ever happens to me. It’s locked in our little room safe along with the hard copies of our marriage certificate, passports, and other fun stuff. It’s got all of my passwords, account numbers, copies of all our legal documents, instructions for life insurance, and a letter to her that I’ve never been able to bring myself to finish. Perhaps I need to get on that and make sure everything’s updated while I’m at it…

    1. J. Money July 10, 2017 at 10:48 AM

      Wowww you’re doing great over there! Flash drive is an excellent idea (along w/ the letter :) I hope you did end up finishing it! Or maybe you can end it with “… I’ll tell you the rest when I see you in heaven :)”)

  39. Krystal @ Simple Finance Mom June 30, 2017 at 3:35 PM

    It seems so morbid to think ahead like this, but I have a “legacy folder.” My husband, my sister, and my best friend all know where it is in case the worst happens. It has all of our bank account info and passwords, as well as investments, letters to my husband and girls, and a few things I would like to have done after my passing. It seems so heartless even typing it all out. But several years ago, my grandfather passed with no will and it put a lot of tension between my dad and one of his siblings. I vowed that week that I would never do that to my family! My husband and/or kids won’t be left scrambling to find all of our financial information and I left a little something to hopefully comfort them if they ever in that situation. I need to get better about updating it every other year or so. Thanks for the reminder about this important task!

    1. J. Money July 10, 2017 at 10:49 AM

      Very very very very VERY smart – well done :)

  40. Ellen July 2, 2017 at 2:35 PM

    My mother died suddenly 19 years ago at the age of 52 without a will or any of this information compiled in one place. I knew some of her wishes because she’d told me, but there were adamant disagreements with my grandparents about those wishes and so my mom was buried and not cremated, as I know she would have preferred. If she’d had anything written down everything would have been so much easier.

    As a result, I have compiled what I’ve called our “Red Binder,” but I like the name Legacy Binder so much better. It has everything anyone would need to handle our affairs should one of us (or both of us) died. All accounts & financial info, insurance, birth cert., marriage cert., passports, SS info, driver license info, house deed, auto titles, password to 1Password which contains all of our passwords, wills, living trust, medical directives, and my wishes for my funeral. (I can’t get my husband to commit his in writing.) It also has Emergency Preparedness info in case of an earthquake, fire, or any disaster. This binder is kept in a fireproof safe and is the first thing I’d grab in case of an evacuation or any emergency.

    I have also written letters to each of my children and my husband. I haven’t updated them in a couple of years and need to do so. It’s hard to do and I bawled my eyes out when I wrote them, but what I wouldn’t give to have had a letter like that from my own mom.

  41. Cindy July 4, 2017 at 11:55 AM

    Suggestion for non savvy Tech people regarding password storage. I got my parents an address book to jot down the website, user ID, and password and tell them to store it somewhere safe. When I have to do stuff for them, they bring out the address book, I log in, do whatever needs done, and log out. I don’t own it, just help maintain it. Anyone of my sibling can help as well. My parents feel they own it and not any one of us feels the burden of having to manage it.

    1. J. Money July 10, 2017 at 10:53 AM

      Beautiful idea! Thank you!

  42. Cody @ Dollar Habits July 10, 2017 at 12:50 PM

    Great post and thank you for the nudge. This has been on my list for a while. Time to pull the trigger.

    1. J. Money July 17, 2017 at 9:50 AM


  43. AnnieG July 14, 2017 at 4:18 PM

    I used the downloadable documents from that book to make a spreadsheet. That is more my style than a binder. But, I have to say, this book needs a serious update, not just another publication year with virtually no changes. It really has not kept up with the changing world.

    1. J. Money July 17, 2017 at 9:50 AM

      I wish I could tell you the same myself, but I have yet to open it up – womp womp…

  44. Keith "Shin" Schindler July 15, 2017 at 7:06 PM

    Great post!

    When my Dad passed in ’97, we had to hunt for everything. My mom said that she was going to have everything in order. Nope, that didn’t happen. We had to hunt through her stuff too.

    I have a Legacy Box, but I REALLY need to update it. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. J. Money July 17, 2017 at 9:51 AM

      Dang, that blows… glad you’re going to break the chain! :)

  45. MB July 28, 2017 at 7:25 AM

    Several years ago, I saw this concept come up and put together my “Binder of Information”. I had printouts of my password spreadsheet, printouts of Doctor’s bios, copies of insurance cards, Life ins docs, bank accounts and regular bills. I managed almost all of the finances. Last Fall the husband decided he was through with the marriage and I had the luxury of being able to move out first. I’d get texts/calls asking about this or that and I kept referring him back to the binder. I was able to easily remove pages that concerned my assets and find the file on my car and left the rest for him. When I built the binder, I made sure not not only tell the Husband about it, but our 2 boys. I figured the one who woudl remember it would be the older son who is already out of the house.

    No I have a 3-pronged folder with page protectors where I keep all of my account and such. I was a cheap solution when I was unemployed. As it is, it will fit in my fire proof suitcase safe. I tried to regularly remind my 17YO who spends part of his time living with me.

    I also put the log in to my PC and my phone pin # in my password spreadsheet. I keep a copy on a cloud storage. Not account number, just a brief description of the account/website, userid and password. I accidentally erased my latest version, so I am rebuilding it.

    1. J. Money July 28, 2017 at 1:45 PM

      SMART SMART SMART!! And good thing you hooked up your ex too like that or else he’d be in even more hot water ;)

  46. ZJ Thorne August 5, 2017 at 5:20 PM

    This is such a good idea. I keep all of my important documentation in a handy plastic binder. Right now it is just preparing me for a mortgage, but if she marries me, it will prepare her for something happening to me.

  47. B"H April 23, 2020 at 2:06 PM

    Hi J,

    Thought you might be interested in this new ‘Quarantine Project’ I’ve been working on: https://www.freelegacybinder.com/

    I’ve been editing it for a couple years along with some financial coaches and FIRE folk, and I finally decided it needs its own site. Would love feedback from you or anyone else reading this.

    PS – Funny story, because this was being worked on by only financially savvy people, it took several edits before anyone though to add a car loan!

    1. J. Money April 24, 2020 at 8:02 AM


      very cool!

      how similar is this to Chelsea’s “ICE” binder?

      love that it’s free, of course :) Will click over and check it out, thx!