The difference between settling a Washington D.C. estate quickly after a loved one's death and a time-consuming and expensive process could be as simple as locating all of the materials needed to administer the estate. Estate planning documents need to be found easily by a decedent's family after death. Just because the documents are signed does not mean that everything will go according to plan.
First, any documentation for the assets contained in the estate plan should be kept with the will and/or trust. This way, family members will not have to search for such items as deeds, insurance policies and other important papers. In addition, a list of the assets with contact information -- including any login information and passwords, if applicable -- can be helpful.
Second, it's important to keep all of the information in one place known to whomever the individual trusts. Safe deposit boxes may be useful during the life of the box's renter, but they could prove difficult to access by family in the event of death. In many cases, it could take a court order to gain access to the box, which could waste precious time and resources.
The information should also be kept up-to-date as circumstances change. Often, the necessary documentation is gathered in order to complete the estate planning process. It may be easiest just to keep that documentation together with the finalized and executed documents and put into a file. In the end, a Washington, DC resident's family will be thankful that he or she took the extra steps to make things easier on them during an already trying time.
Source: MSN Money, "What should be in your 'death' file", Beth Pinsker, Aug. 1, 2014