10 Must-Have Documents

Key takeaways

  • While most people know about the importance of a Last Will and Testament, there are many other documents that can help ensure your estate is handled according to your wishes.
  • There are 10 documents that you might consider in addition to your will and, if applicable, trust.
  • Not all 10 documents apply to every state or every personal situation, but it’s a good idea to review the list to make sure you’re covered.

Here at the office, we have a picture which appeared in The New Yorker magazine back in the 1940s. In it, you see an elderly gentleman sitting next to his lawyer and the caption reads, “Now read me the part again where I disinherit everyone.”

That’s funny, but, hopefully you love your family and have no reason to disinherit them. Since I’m almost positive that’s the case, I’m sharing the 10 Must-Have Documents to make sure everything goes smoothly when the time comes.

10 Must-Have Documents

Even though I’m saying, “must have,” keep in mind that they may not all be relevant to your individual situation, but looking at this checklist is a good idea anyway. Later on, I’ll give you a downloadable form you can print to check off the documents you have in place.

  1. Last Will and Testament. Your Last Will and Testament could include a Trust as well. Why is this important? First, every state has its own statutes regarding this, so if you’ve recently moved from one state to another, you need to redo it. If you have children, make sure you’ve designated a legal guardian. Of course, the Last Will and Testament document lists where your assets and other property go; or, a related Trust document can ensure your wishes are carried out.
  2. Personal Property Memorandum. What is that? Here’s an example describing how it works: Imagine you want your pearl necklace to go to Aunt Susie and you have an antique sofa that’s going to your brother. Whatever it happens to be, you put instructions for that in the memorandum. The memorandum states where these personal property pieces go, rather than including them in the will itself. This isn’t the only way to do it, but it’s one way.
  3. Power of Attorney for Healthcare. This document designates how your healthcare will be carried out, and by whom, when you can no longer make those decisions yourself.
  4. Power of Attorney for Property or Finance. The purpose of this one is to take care of all your bills and related obligations if you’re incapacitated and can no longer do it. Again, these are state-specific documents, so if you move, you’ll need to have them redone.
  5. Living Will. Again, this one is state specific and lays out your wishes regarding lifesaving treatments. You can have this document in addition to the Power of Attorney for Healthcare because it ensures your wishes are carried out based on how you want (or don’t want) your life extended, not based on circumstances.
  6. Do Not Resuscitate or Do Not Intubate (DNR/DNI). Intubation is where a medical team inserts a tube down your throat, when they deem it necessary to extend your life. It’s important to have these in place if you do not want that. Now, it’s also important to understand that medical staff may try to resuscitate or intubate anyway, unless you have the next document.
  7. Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). The POLST form provides more specific information than does a DNR/DNI. It tells medical professionals whether you want full treatment, limited intervention, or comfort measures only.
  8. Organ Donor Registry. Most people think that if they have an organ donor card they don’t need this. Believe it or not, emergency medical staff will check the registry to see what you wanted to donate, especially if it isn’t listed on your state driver’s license.
  9. To Inform Families First (TIFF). Only a few states have this form available. Illinois and Florida, states where many of you might currently live, actually do have it. It provides online instructions about who to inform if you’re found in a ditch somewhere.
  10. In Case of Emergency (ICE). This is another document you can fill out and the information is put online. That way, if you have an emergency and can’t communicate, responders can find out who to contact on your behalf.

I’ve created a checklist for your convenience—just click on this downloadable document and print it out. You may want to take it to your estate planning attorney, so you can go through it together to ensure you’re covered. Again, not all of them apply everywhere or in every individual situation. But, I thought you’d like to have access to an all-inclusive list of things you might need to make sure your estate is all taken care of. Until next time, enjoy.


Gary Klaben is in our Glenview, IL office and serves our clients who are now located all over the country.  He has over 30 years of experience and is the author of Changing the Conversation, Wealth of Everything and co-author of The Business BattlefieldWhether advising his clients, mentoring his team, or coaching entrepreneurs, he is always simplifying complexity and motivating others to take the next action that’s right for them.

Learn more about TransformingWealth™ , our proprietary approach, designed to get your arms around the big picture so you can make informed financial decisions. Ask Gary about Coyle’s TransformingWealth Preview Meeting, and schedule a complimentary consultation and start living the Good Life Managed Well™.
800-480-7913 |

We value your comments and opinions, but due to regulatory restrictions, we cannot accept comments directly onto our blog.  We welcome your comments via e-mail and look forward to hearing from you.

All information is from sources deemed reliable, but no warranty is made to its accuracy or completeness.   This material is being provided for informational or educational purposes only, and does not take into account the investment objectives or financial situation of any client or prospective client.  The information is not intended as investment advice, and is not a recommendation to buy, sell, or invest in any particular investment or market segment.  Those seeking information regarding their particular investment needs should contact a financial professional.  Coyle, our employees, or our clients, may or may not be invested in any individual securities or market segments discussed in this material.  The opinions expressed were current as of the date of posting, but are subject to change without notice due to market, political, or economic conditions.


book img2

A Comprehensive Guide To Safeguarding Your Financial and Family Wealth.

Subscribe to our blog

Looking for Something?

Coyle Financial
Counsel Events

Recommended Reading

book img3
Download Free Chapter on
Lifelong Learning

Watch More Videos