Death can cause frustration and unnecessary expense to those you leave behind when they struggle to locate assets.Your assets include passwords to social media accounts; proof of ownership for property, investments, retirement accounts, and the value of any life insurance you may have.

If survivors don’t know how to access information those assets are lost to them when needed the most – or even forever!

An 18 year old man with a rare form of cancer died before he could express his funeral wishes. His notes were stored on his iPad along with many photos of him and family members. His mother did not know the password. She is mourning his death as well as the loss of those memories.

One family was told about a valuable piece of property left behind when an out-of-state relative died. The heirs will need an attorney and a long process to recover the inheritance because they cannot find the papers they need.

Life insurance proceeds go unclaimed every year when beneficiaries don’t know about policies and cannot file a claim. Wills and trusts are often impossible to locate without time and energy better spent on mourning the loss of a loved one.

Think about photos: A picture from the 1930’s or those of relatives who served in WWII are irreplaceable. Medical records and DNA test results can be extremely valuable when there is a rare genetic family condition, and could be helpful many years after a death occurs.

It’s tax season. The perfect time to organize your valuables and establish a way to access, share, and preserve your assets. Don’t make your family dig through file drawers, hunt through boxes, or try to guess passwords. Set up a way to access, share and manage what you leave behind.

One suggestion is to transfer vital records to a portable thumb drive. It might work if the drive is not lost or if it travels with the individual at all times. Another option is to use a scanner like Paper Port, which converts documents to PDFs. But still the question remains: how to store and share whatever is scanned. When you die – where will survivors know to look?

A new and better way is using a service like AfterVault. Once you store your documents, you decide WHO can access everything. AfterVault stays in touch with you automatically. When you die, your designated “Guardian” knows how to locate and preserve everything you left behind.

Talk About Your Final Plans. Locating important documents should be part of the conversation. If you want more ideas, email or call me.