Everyone should have a ‘When I die’ document. And here’s how to create yours.

What I saw on the desktop of my friend’s computer stopped me in my tracks. It was nothing raunchy or inappropriate. But simply a file folder labelled ‘When I die’.

My first thought was, ‘How morbid and inappropriate’. After all, he was in good health and it would likely be many years before his bucket was kicked and clogs popped.

But then came my second thought – as vivid memories came of those I know who would have loved their other half to have been this thoughtful. And not left stranded and confused at a time when grief made thinking and sorting a major challenge.

More than that, such information could even be needed well before death opens its door. Such as at a time of serious illness when everything has to be in the hands of others.

As a result, I went home and created my own When I Die’ file. Right now it is printed out and, with my will, birth and marriage certificates, in a place where those who need it know where to find it. If I had a funeral insurance plan the details would be there too along with contact details for the undertaker.

On reflection, though seemingly gloomy, this is one of the most loving and thoughtful things I could do for those I love the most. And if you have not yet done the same here’s my own check list that could also be yours.

The main document

Finance: This covers –

  • The name and contact details of your executor and solicitor
  • Who to contact, and how, regarding savings, investments and pension
  • Bank card pins
  • Login and security for online banking

Home stuff: Where to find details of –

  • Car, home and travel insurance
  • Receipts, instructions and guarantees for purchased items

Computer log in and passwords: These include –

  • Mobile phone
  • Utilities – gas, electricity and water
  • Email account
  • Social media
  • Loyalty cards
  • Apple ID
  • Skype
  • PayPal
  • Etc

This sensitive information is going to be on a document held on your computer. So you may want to use an online password manager to collect them all and then add the master password to the document by hand. Trustworthy password managers include Dashlane and RememBear.

Helpful info: It may also be helpful to others to have the following all in one place –

  • NHS number
  • Passport number
  • NIE number
  • Driving licence number

Funeral plans

I wouldn’t dare to tell anyone else what to say about their own funeral. But am happy to share my own thoughts – especially as I’ve seen well-intentioned requests becoming a burden when there were already too many weights to be carried.

So although I’d love to ask for everyone to be dressed in blue and white and for my ashes to be scattered on the centre circle at Stamford Bridge, I’ve gone for a more reasonable approach.

What I want my family to know is that whatever they do to mark my passing, I will not be there. So it is not about making me happy but meeting their needs.

That said, in the hope it saves my loved ones from hours of hand-wringing and ‘what would Peter want?’, I’ve made a few suggestions to help them on their way should they choose to follow them. Things like ‘buried or cremated?’ and a song or two that might work. But that’s it.

Is there anything you would add to this list? Or lesson learned from the death of someone close? Please tell all either here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, and escapes to Spain when he can.


  1. Thank you very much for this wise and timely advice. May I also suggest adding the Lasting Powers of Attorney for Health & Welfare and for Finance & Property (Office of the Public Guardian)? These need to be completed when one is in a state of “sound mind” – so the earlier, the better. These will relieve the minds of loved ones should anything happen to make it impossible for us to communicate – for example, they know in advance whether we would choose Do Not Resuscitate etc.!

  2. Great idea, but make sure someone knows your pc/laptop password, otherwise they will not be able to access the file in the first place.

  3. Address book is also very useful – in whatever format that may be, either electronic or paper. You may have friends whose contact details your family don’t know. They will need to know how to contact them to inform of your death and to send the details of the funeral in case they want to attend or send condolences.

  4. Excellent. As a former vicar ever since I retired I have two items marked ‘My End Game’ and ‘Frank’s Funeral Arrangements’ giving the steps, in sequence, of what to do and who to approach: Doctor, Registrar for Death Certificate, which Funeral Director to approach, press notifications; vicar, and parish church with which I’ve been associated almost 60 years together with those, with his permission, invited to participate. The location of the grave of my former wife is known as is the church in which I desire the service to take place; also I have indicated those who,with vicar’s permission, I would like to be approached to participate. Also in the end-game folder is the service outline and hymns to be sung together with the reasons/association for the choice. My choice of hotel to book for refreshments is also specified. Together with these details is the location of my will, insurance documents for house, car, etc. Also I have shared with my present wife where all relevant documents/insurances – car, property, etc. etc are located together with the churches and charities I would wish them to benefit. For by God’s grace I am what I am; and by His grace all that I have is His to share.

  5. Dear Peter
    Thank you for an excellent article ( I already have done most of what you sugest.)
    One other thing that you could add : A “CV ” of your life. Too often the other half/ family are scrabbling around to remember rough dates of jobs/ lived at such a place etc. Blessings on your work from West Sussex , Gerald

  6. Set a reminder to review your “When I die” document at least annually, as some of the information within could be useless if it is out of date, not to mention a cause of time-wasting and frustration for those looking after your affairs.

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The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years"

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife