In addition to everything else you have going through your mind and body, there are some other matters needing attention that will aid your loved ones now and after you’re gone. It’s hard to think about others when your life is in such upheaval. However, it is a lasting gift you can give to them…a legacy of sorts. By putting your ducks in a row, so to speak, you allow them the opportunity to mourn your death with fewer practical and financial issues to conquer. So often I hear people complaining that they don’t know where certain documents are, that their credit cards were not joint accounts, that the cars were in his name only, that they have no idea who to call to repair the car, lawnmower, furnace, etc., they have no idea how to use the washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, iron. You get the picture.
It’s been interesting over the years working with people at the end of their lives. Usually I despise generalizations, but in this area, there do seem to be some generalizations. Men tend to make sure their loved ones know where to find the water shut-off and women want to make sure the right person gets the good china. Male or female, practical or emotional, there is a great deal you can do to make the grieving process just a tiny bit less overwhelming by making some advance preparations. This is by no means an exhaustive list (exhausting maybe…), but it’s a good starting point for the practical matters…
1. The Will
If you don’t have one, get one. Immediately. Right now. Stop reading and go get one. There are lots of convenient options on line if you don’t want to hire an attorney. Legal Zoom, Legacy Writer, and others offer legal will options at a very reasonable price without having to leave home. Just be sure that if you choose this route, you follow through on the instructions once you are in receipt of the will. It will likely need to be notarized.
If you do have a will, make sure it is updated and outlines what you want done with your assets. And make sure your loved ones know where it is.
Be sure to have someone trustworthy as your executor. You want to make sure they have the time, skills, and integrity to follow your wishes exactly and that everyone entitled to something (based on your will) gets their share.
2. The Funeral
This was discussed before, but it’s a good reminder to make sure your loved ones know exactly what you want. Cremation? Burial? Headstone? Music? Pallbearers? Casket? Wake? Think about it and pass the information on. This prevents potential disagreements and questions about what you would want.
You could consider prepaying your funeral.
3. The Finances
Make sure all accounts and possessions (cars, house, boats, RV’s, properties, checking/savings accounts, investments, credit cards, etc.) are in both names if you are in a relationship.
Make sure your loved ones/executor know all of your passwords, security questions, account numbers, location of assets, insurance policies, etc.
Provide your loved ones with the names and contact information for any attorneys, tax preparers, financial planners, bankers, insurance agents, etc. related to your finances for future references.
If you always paid the bills, balanced the check book, handled the investments, teach your partner how to do these things and who to call for assistance.
4. The House
Outside: make a list of who to call for lawn care, snow plowing, machine repair. Make sure your loved ones know how to do anything that needs doing – where to find the supplies, how to operate any machinery, etc. Make a list of chores, setting it up by season (example: cleaning out the gutters in the Spring).
Inside: make a list of who to call for furnace maintenance, plumbing, electrical work, chimney sweeping, appliance repair. Make sure your loved ones know how to operate anything indoors. Make a list of chores they might not think about (example: cleaning out the dryer vents).
If the house is to be sold, or if you live in an apartment that will need to be cleared out, try to spend some time going through papers, closets, drawers, to discard or donate to make it easier on your loved ones. You may not have the energy to clear it all, but if you can, tackle the important or more cluttered areas.
5. The Legacy Items
If you have family heirlooms or items you would like to pass down, consider doing it personally. Wrap Grandpa’s watch or Grandma’s sugar bowl and give it to the person of your choice. This can be a very intimate moment and afford you both the opportunity to say what you would like to say.
This concludes this series on the emotional, physical, spiritual and practical matters related to your terminal illness and end of life. I hope it’s been helpful and I invite you to share your comments below or email me privately.
Copyright 2014 Lisa B. Wolfe, Translating Grief, LLC