The subject of a Go-Box was brought up with some Estate Planning clients the other day. The young couple laughed when I mentioned it, thinking I was asking if they’d just left a restaurant with leftovers from dinner. We briefly discussed our favorite places to eat around town before we talked about the merits of a Go-Box.
A Go-Box is a container of documents and other important items you want the right people to find after your passing. It’s wonderfully useful for administering your estate. As a practical matter, we recommend that all of our Estate Planning clients have one. Their age doesn’t matter. We know the unfortunate reality that people sometimes pass on before their time.
The box itself isn’t as important as what’s in it and what it’s for. It’s simply a box that contains important legal documents and other information. The Go-Box is also a way to leave behind special sentiments. It could be a shoe box, a strong box or a cardboard file box. Its purpose is to help someone administer your estate when you pass on. Having everything easily accessible in one safe location makes it a lot easier. The best plan is to use a container that keeps everything safe, even in a flood or a fire.
What’s in the Go-Box
Here’s a list of things to include in your Go-Box. Some are critical and others are optional, more relating to personal preference.
Critical or Important Documents: These can be on a flash drive, but we recommend that these be printed out for immediate use. Think beyond your estate planning documents. Copies of insurance policies (life, health, long term care, etc.) are also useful when your estate is being administered.
List of Assets: Catalog your assets include checking and savings account information along with brokerage accounts, mutual funds etc. Catalog your valuables and if you have a safe deposit box make sure to have detailed instructions so the right people have access.
Friend and Family Contact Information: This lists the people who need to be notified of your passing, along with their contact information.
Religious Wishes: Describe your religious wishes and the things related to your funeral arrangements. Are there special people you want to attend? Any wishes for the ceremony?
Communication Wishes: How do you want announcements to be made in the newspaper and social media? Document your wishes. It will help you to understand the options available in Facebook.
Passwords: Almost everyone now has passwords to social media or other online accounts. Use your judgment about which you want to make known. Clients often put this information on a flash drive. This sensitive information is one reason we recommend that your Go-Box be stored in a secure location.
Personal Sentiments: Leaving behind your special thoughts offers a bright spot in an otherwise unfortunate situation. People might want to see your journal, read personal letters to close family members or view a few of your favorite memories captured in photographs.
What’s OUTSIDE the Go-Box?
A Go-Box isn’t any good if no one can find it or if it’s inconvenient to access in an emergency. There are things you want key people to have on hand and things you want to keep inside your home, but accessible to Emergency Responders.
If, for example, you’re named as the executor for a relative living several states away, you should have your own copy of the Medical Directive and the Healthcare Power of Attorney. If important decisions need to be made quickly, you want to be able to go straight to the hospital with everything you need in hand. Rooting through your brother’s home to find documents in an emergency is probably the last thing you want to do.
In addition to the few critical documents a family member needs to have on hand, it’s a good idea for them to have instructions telling them where to find your Go-Box and how to get access. If, for example, your Go-Box is locked in a fire safe, you should provide instructions on what to look for and where the key is hidden.
The File of Life documents your medical needs, wishes, conditions and medications. The idea is to have something easily accessible in your home for Emergency Responders to take with them if you need to be taken to the hospital. It can make a critical difference in the outcome. We will talk about this in another article.
Do YOU have a Go-Box?
Making your own Go-Box isn’t hard. It can even be enjoyable; especially when you think about the kind words and memories you want to leave behind.
Your Estate Planning attorney is a great resource when it comes to preparing for life’s most important events. Some of those events are planned, or at least foreseeable. Sometimes life throws a curve ball and pitches the unexpected. You can predict the IF, but you can’t predict the WHEN.
Think about those you will one day (hopefully later, rather than sooner) leave behind. The Go-Box is one way to make things easier for them, while taking some of the sting out of their loss. At the very least, be sure to have your documents prepared and accessible. They’ll be glad you did.