As I sit to write this article I struggle with where to begin. The title I have chosen seems huge since I’ve included the word ultimate! Yet my eyes focus on two other words, act and love.
It brings me to that old saying, “actions speak louder than words”.
To me this says what I do (act or action) is ultimately more important than what I say.
As I apply this to love, I can tell my wife numerous times a day that I love her, but are my actions supporting my words? Don’t get me wrong, the spoken word is important, but what about when I know longer have a voice? That leaves only actions. What do I want the experience to be like for my family after I have died? What will I do or what action will I take to ultimately show my family that I loved them so much, I wanted to ease their burden?
For me the ultimate act of love is planning ahead.
I call it Death Etiquette™:
Death Etiquette™ – Being thoughtfully prepared for one’s own passing. Accordingly, making things easier for family and loved ones by leaving clear and concise instructions in regard to your final wishes for funeral desires as well as location and access to important documents and accounts. Further identifying who should be responsible for carrying out the final wishes and ultimately settling all the final affairs. It is a simple act which saves loved ones Stress, Time and Money…. the things which divide families!
I can’t imagine leaving my family scrambling for answers. Likely having to deal with months, if not longer, tracking down my documents, my accounts, and trying to close out all of the final affairs. Will they know what my funeral desires are? Will they be able to locate my Will, my insurance policies and all of my financial accounts? Do they know who my attorney and accountant are who will be able to assist them? Will they know how to access all of my online accounts from bill pay, pre-set auto drafts, and everything else from my Amazon account to all my social media accounts? Will they be able to unlock and access my computer, my tablet and my smart phone where I have so much valuable information stored? Will my children come to blows over who gets my watch, the china, the household furnishing and all my other stuff?
The sadness and grief of losing a loved one is enough hardship. I certainly don’t want to add frustration, confusion, stress, anxiety and anger to the list.
The good news is these things are easily avoidable by simply planning ahead.
So why don’t we?
Well I believe that for many of us we feel overwhelmed at what appears to be a daunting task. But it needn’t be if we tackle it logically. I like using a weight loss analogy. For example, if I want to lose 10 pounds, I can’t just wake up tomorrow morning and be 10 pounds lighter. That’s not realistic. Just like I can’t get all my planning done by tomorrow morning. It simply can’t be done that fast.
We have to look at it as a process.
Back to weight loss. If I say I will loss 10 pounds in the next 8 weeks, this becomes a very achievable goal. A little bit every day and each week doing the right things and 8 weeks from today, I will wake up 10 pounds lighter than I am today. BOOM, very doable!
I am hopeful you can see where I am headed. So, as it relates to planning. If I say I will have my planning done in the next 8 weeks, this also becomes a very achievable goal. Not so daunting or scary when I give myself some time. If I gather, sort and organize a little bit each day and each week, 8 weeks from today my planning will be done! BOOM, very doable!
Here are tips to get started:
o Make your funeral wishes known (burial or cremation, wake or no wake, etc.)
o Provide as much information as possible regarding financial accounts, such as life insurance policy numbers and beneficiaries, bank account numbers, safe deposit box locations, proof of ownership documentation, etc.
o Provide a list of your advisors. Attorney, accountant, financial & spiritual.
o Create a list of things you own and expenses.
o Create a list of all online accounts, social and otherwise including, user name, passwords, and challenge questions.
o Indicate how to access all of your technology, computers, tablets and smartphones.
o Have a plan to close your social media accounts.
o Be sure to update your beneficiary information.
o State healthcare advance directives, so you have a voice when you can no longer speak.
o Name a healthcare POA. Someone to act on your behalf I you are unable.
o Tell someone you trust—your spouse, your most responsible child, a trusted friend, or legal representative—where to find your stuff, in particular the location of a document that clearly tells people what to do and where to go for it all.
o Create a Will (move this one to the “Must Do” category if you have children).
o Create a trust for your minor children, if applicable.
o Periodically review your Will and beneficiary information.
o If you have pets, name who should be responsible for their continued care.
o Designate who gets which items (your stuff) to avoid potential family conflict.
o Make a list of causes and charities you wish to donate to after your passing.
o Pre-plan for funeral and memorial services.
And most importantly after you have completed your planning, keep it up to date! Things change and when they do, document it. It only takes a minute which could save your family hours.
For me, having been through this process and now having a plan in place, it has resulted in added benefits. I feel completely organized for the first time in my adult life. I know where all my stuff is, and I don’t need to go search them out when I need to refer to something. Keeping it current is a snap. And, probably the greatest feeling is the peace of mind knowing that whenever my time is up, my family will have all the information they need at their fingertips.
Knowing that I have done everything I can to ease their burden will allow me to rest in peace.
I believe that being thoughtfully prepared is possibly the greatest gift I can give my family.
It is truly an act of love.