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Have you prepared ‘THE’ Folder?

By Sue Regan
This article is published on: 9th January 2023

I like to read articles written by my Spectrum colleagues, especially those working in France, but also those by colleagues working in other European countries as I find it interesting to read what the hot topics are in their areas and how they compare to France. I came across a very interesting one recently entitled ‘THE Folder’, written by my colleague, Gareth Horsfall, who lives and works in Italy.

The article is of universal interest and although the subject matter could be viewed as having rather depressing undertones, it includes some really useful tips on keeping our affairs in good order, not only for ourselves but, more importantly, to help those close to us who may be tasked with taking over at a time when we may not be around to/or capable of doing it ourselves. Under ‘normal’ circumstances this would be a stressful and difficult time for family but potentially far more difficult for anyone trying to deal with the affairs of someone who lives/lived in a different county, with little or no knowledge of that country’s legal or financial system and unable to speak the language.

I like to think of myself as being fairly well organised when it comes to keeping my ‘filing’ in order. I say ‘my filing’ because my husband sees finance and admin as my department (not surprising given my occupation) and he is more than happy to leave everything to me. Like many of you, I am sure, I have a drawer with lots of itemised dividers separating out all our important documents, statements, bills, birth & marriage certificates, etc so that I can lay my hands on everything very quickly, and I have a spreadsheet of our various bank accounts, investments and pension arrangements, etc so that I can keep track of everything.

For a while now, I have been mindful of the need to provide relatives with details of our affairs, especially as we live in France, which only further complicates matters for them if left to take over. However, on reading Gareth’s article, I realised that there is so much more I should do to make things as easy as possible for them if the unthinkable were to happen. So, I have made a start on putting together ‘Our Folder’ based on the very comprehensive list in Gareth’s article, which I have used below to share with you in the hope that it will be a useful guide for those of you who may need it.

The Folder

So what is ‘THE’ folder?
It is a single file (digital or physical – preferably both) where you keep all of your important personal and financial information together. It allows easy access to these documents in the event that you’re no longer around to help. It is really important to have it in place especially where one family member takes the lead with the family finances.

It seems like a lot of work – is it worth the effort?
Yes, absolutely!  A time of loss can be stressful enough without having to try and piece together the deceased’s financial affairs. Don’t underestimate the benefit this will provide to the executors of your estate if you have one place with all your financial and legal documents in an easy to understand format. I know from experience it will be very much appreciated – my dear Dad was a stickler for record keeping and had put together his version of his and Mum’s ‘Folder’ which made it much easier for my Mum, my sisters and I to sort things out after he passed.

However, preparing ‘THE’ folder is more than avoiding stress – if you leave behind an administrative nightmare you could delay the accessing of funds by inheritors and the potential for racking up sizeable legal fees.

So which is best…..physical or digital?
This comes down to personal preference, but I would recommend both, if possible.  Whether you choose to have a digital folder with all these documents in or not, you should at the very least have your documents scanned in case of fire or theft, and quite often companies will now accept scanned copies of documents instead of hard copies, if they can be certified or electronically signed.

A digital file can be password protected and you can give access to a trusted individual who can access it in the event of your death. (Remember they will also get access during your life, so ensure they are a ‘trusted’ individual). A Google file, for example, can be updated over time and to which you and a family member have shared access. This file can then be stored on your main computer, in the cloud or on an external hard drive.  You can use a physical folder to keep hard copies of all the same information together.

I will do both when building ours, as I still like to have paper copies, and I will share the digital folder with family members.

What goes in The folder

So what should go in ‘THE’ folder?


  • Wills / Testaments + details of the Notaire or legal firm that helped create it, if relevant
  • Instruction letter/bequests
  • Trust documents
  • Burial / Cremation wishes
  • A copy of a living will, should you have ‘end of life’ instructions that you want medical professionals to be aware of should you be unable to communicate these due to severe illness or disability
  • Copy passports and driving licences (in case originals go missing)

Birth, marriage and divorce

  • Personal birth certificate(s)
  • Deed Poll documents
  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce papers
  • Birth certificates / adoption papers for minor children
  • Livre de Famille (if you have French nationality)

Life insurance and retirement

  • Life insurance policy documents, including beneficiary nomination forms
  • Details of any employer death in service benefits
  • Personal pension documents (including any beneficiary nomination forms)
  • Occupational / Final Salary pension details
  • Annuity documents
  • Details of any entitlements to state pensions

Bank accounts

  • List of bank accounts with account numbers, contact details, login details and passwords
  • Details of any credit cards
  • Details of any safety deposit boxes


  • Property, land and cemetery deeds
  • Timeshare ownership
  • Proof of loans made
  • Vehicle ownership documents
  • Stock certificates, brokerage accounts, investment platform details and online investment account details
  • Details of holding of premium bonds, government bonds and investment bonds (including assurance vie policies)
  • Partnership and corporate operating/ownership agreements ( including offshore companies)


  • Mortgage details
  • Proof of debts owned
  • Details of gifts (whether notarised or not)
  • Dates and amounts / values (potentially helpful when calculating inheritance tax liabilities)

Income sources, tax and social security

  • Making a list of all your sources of income, especially the ones which your family may not know about
  • Employer details
  • Social security affiliation (CPAM, URSSAF)
  • A copy of your most recent tax return or accounts

Monthly expenses (so they can be continued after death or accounts closed)

  • Utilities
  • Insurances – car, house, medical/Mutuelle, travel
  • Rent / mortgage
  • Loans
  • Subscriptions / membership details / TV supplier

Email and social media account details

Contact details

  • List of names and contacts numbers for: financial adviser, doctor, lawyer/solicitor/notaire, accountant, insurance broker etc
  • A trusted Handholder or Professional Translator who could translate documents and would be willing to attend meetings with family members who do not speak French
time for a review

How often should ‘THE’ folder be reviewed?

Firstly, it is sensible to note the date that it was last reviewed so that anyone using it has an idea of how up-to-date the details are. Going forward, reviewing the file on an annual basis should be sufficient.

And finally…
We’re coming into winter now – what better time to make a start? Ensuring that your papers are in order in the event of your sudden death is incredibly important when living in another country. It will provide you with peace of mind that your loved ones will not have too much difficulty in administering your estate and your family will be eternally thankful that you did it for them. Once it’s done be sure to tell someone about it. There is little point going to the effort of creating such a folder if no-one knows of its existence or where to find it!

If you need help with putting your folder together, are unsure where to start or would simply like a review of your financial situation please feel free to contact me below.

Article by Sue Regan

If you are based in the Midi Pyrenees & Languedoc Roussillon area you can contact Sue at: for more information. If you are based in another area within Europe, please complete the form below and we will put a local adviser in touch with you.

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