End of Life Planning

1/17/2024 | By Terri L. Jones

After a person’s death, their assets are divided and distributed, typically by their executor. But those assets can be hard to locate without a clear record. By organizing your assets and recording them, you can ensure that your property will go to beneficiaries as you wish. Seniors Guide outlines considerations for common categories of assets, from money to jewelry and real estate.

If you’ve ever had to hunt down a loved one’s assets after they’ve died, you know how difficult it can be. In the midst of your grief, you spend days or weeks searching for bank accounts, precious family heirlooms and your family member’s prized coin collection. However, despite that experience, you might do the same to your loved ones, mainly because we all think that we have plenty of time. But don’t put it off!

Below are some of the more important assets the executor of your estate should be aware of and know how to locate.

Categories for recording your assets

Monetary assets

A person’s greatest asset is usually monetary. This includes financial accounts, savings bonds, life insurance, and even that big jar of coins squirreled away in the closet.

You’ll want to make sure that the executor of your estate or someone you trust knows the financial institutions where your accounts are located, along with account numbers and other needed information. Show them where you keep insurance policy documents and other monetary assets. If you have a financial advisor handling your portfolio, be sure to give them that person’s contact info.


As a person is recording their assets and wishes for the future: a last will and testament, with fountain pen and cup of coffee and reading glasses. Image by Fabiobalbi

Even if you don’t know an emerald from an emerald cut, you probably have at least a few prized pieces of jewelry. And as you get older and family members pass away, you accumulate even more – from your mother’s engagement ring to your great grandfather’s pocket watch. Try to consolidate all the jewelry that you don’t wear on a regular basis in one place, such as a locked jewelry box, a safe or a safety deposit box, and share the key or combination with your executor or other family member. It’s also helpful to include any appraisals you have and identify the origin of certain pieces for future generations.

Antiques, heirlooms and one-of-a-kinds

Do you have antique furniture that you’ve collected through the years, pieces of original artwork, a decades-old collection or your grandmother’s set of sterling silver flatware? While these items may not appeal to your younger family members, they may have monetary value. Inventory those possessions that have more than just sentimental value and what you think they’re worth (appraisals are ideal but the internet can sometimes provide approximate values), so that your family doesn’t sell them for cheap in a yard sale or, worse yet, send them to the landfill. If you give any of these items away before you die, remember to update your inventory.

Personal property

Maybe you have a motorcycle garaged at a friend’s house or a rental property in another state. Make your executor aware of such property and leave them easy access to deeds and titles.

Related: Eight important end-of-life documents

Start recording your assets now, including where to find them, let your executor know how to access that list, and keep your records updated. If you have preferences as to where certain assets should go, such as a loved one or a nonprofit, make sure you specify that, in your will, in a personal property memorandum that accompanies your will (in some states) or in an informal (non-binding) letter that you leave for your family.

When your time comes, your family will be dealing with enough. A comprehensive list of your assets will save them time, money and a whole lot of stress and ensure the assets you worked hard for receive the attention they deserve.

A journal designed specifically for the purpose of recording your assets in one place can make the task easier, breaking it down into manageable pieces and providing ongoing guidance. “Information My Family Needs to Know Organizer,” for example, provides pages with prompts for financial affairs, insurance policies, final wishes, notes of where documents are stored, pockets for documents, and more. Having a guide like this can bring peace of mind to you and your loved ones, too.

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Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over ten years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide.

Terri Jones