Planning the paperwork of your passing

Planning the paperwork of your passing
Why everyone should have a ‘death file’

When you're gone, you can alleviate the burden and stress on your loved ones by putting together a "red file" (also known as a death file) which will house all your valuable information needed to carry out your funeral as well as to settle your estate.

Nadia Hadebe
Nadia Hadebe - Legal Advisor
8 October 2020 | 5 minute read
3Rd Quarter Banner Death Folder

Death is difficult to deal with. Yet, the reality is we need not only to accept our eventual passing, but also to plan for it. Although we may be gone, it will be an act of care for our loved ones to make the administration after our death easier.

We can do this by preparing what is called an ‘in-case-of-death’ folder or a ‘red file’. This is a set of practical information that is needed for the arrangements after someone dies.

Although we all know how important it is to have a will, in fact there is a lot more information that is needed to wrap up a person’s affairs.

Here is a list of 5 KEY documents that you should include in an ‘in-case-of-death’ folder:

  • A copy of your willand instructions about where the original is being kept.
    Also include the contact details of the person whom you have appointed as your executor (the person who will carry out the instructions of your will).
  • Information about any funeral policies you have.
    Include the policy numbers as well as the company’s contact details.
  • A copy of your identity document and instructions about where to find the original.
  • A copy of your marriage or divorce certificates and instructions about where to find the original.
  • The contact details of your next-of-kin: the most important person to contact in the case of something happening to you.

Here are 5 FINANCIAL documents that you should include in a red file:

You should also include these 5 documents to help close off your DIGITAL LIFE:

  • Your cell phone/computer password.
  • Instructions about any information on your phone/computer that you would want saved or deleted.
  • Usernames and passwords to any social media accounts that you own.
  • Any instructions you might want to give for how to close these down.
  • A list of any other devices about which action needs to be taken – for example, returning a laptop belonging to your work.

These 5 PERSONAL documents are also very important:

  • A list of contact numbers of everyone who needs to be told of your death.
    Remember your family is unlikely to know all your friends or your workplace colleagues and similarly, your friends might not know all your extended relatives. Remember also to include the contact details of any loved ones living overseas. If you have a service provider you see regularly, such as a hairdresser, counsellor, doctor etc., you might also want them to be informed.
  • Any instructions for the immediate care of minor children.
  • Any instructions for pets that are in your household.
  • Details of any particular funeral planning or practices that you would like carried out.
  • Directions of where any important possessions or family heirlooms (precious objects that have emotional or monetary meaning) can be found.
Here are some suggestions of extra information you might want to include:

Letters to loved ones

Consider writing letters or making video recordings for those nearest and dearest to you which you would like them to receive after you die. This could help them with their grief in the early days of coming to terms with their loss.

Instructions in the case of incapacity

To be incapacitated means that you are injured in a way in which you can no longer take control over your life. In this case you might want to include what is called a ‘Living Will’ which will give detail on matters such as your choices over medical treatment and family living arrangements.

What next?

Once you have compiled your folder, you might want to keep all these documents in hard copy or you might want the folder to be saved on a computer and ideally ‘on the cloud’. To save something ‘on the cloud’ means you save it through a program like Google Drive or Dropbox, whereby it can be accessed from anywhere and by anyone who has internet and the password.

The most useful and safe option would be to keep your ‘in-case-of-death’ folder in both these formats.

The next decision you need to make is with whom to share this information. Choose somebody who you trust and who you know is organised and careful.

In summary, here is a list of important information to include in your 'red file':

  • The contact details of your lawyer, insurance broker, financial advisers, doctors and tax consultants all of whom need to be notified when you pass away
  • A copy of your will and your living will (communicating your desire not to be kept on life support)
  • Medical information and history for yourself and other dependent family members
  • Unabridged birth certificates for each member of the family
  • Your ID book or card and Driver’s license
  • Your Marriage certificate
  • Should you have one, a copy of your ante nuptial contract
  • In the case of being divorced, copies of any divorce and maintenance agreements
  • In the event that you are widowed, certified copy of your late partners’ death certificate as well as information of the executor who attended to the deceased estate of your deceased partner
  • The most updated tax assessment for both yourself and your partner
  • Passwords or pins for phones, computers and bank accounts
  • Bank details – cheque, credit card, vehicle finance, bond and call accounts
  • A list of debit orders that go off every month, when they go off and how much they usually are
  • Your current employer details and employee number
  • A comprehensive list of insurance, pension funds, trusts and investments
  • Copies of insurance and funeral policies as well as contact information to reach the insurance company
  • Copies of lease agreements between you and a lessee
  • Copies of house and car insurance policies
  • Medical aid and gap cover policies
  • Copies of updated utility documents
  • Firearm details
  • Car ownership documentation
  • Title deeds of all your properties (if you have a bond over the property, the title deed should be with the bank)
  • Various documents if you own a business or shares of a company, such as partnership agreements
  • Letters for desired funeral arrangements

With Legal&Tax you’re not alone

Remember Legal and Tax Services is your companion when dealing with the tough topic of death. We offer affordable funeral plans and also assist with estate planning


The content of this article was correct at the time of publishing, but the legislation or underlying information forming the basis of this article may have changed. You should always speak to a qualified advisor before making any decisions.

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