“…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” –Benjamin Franklin
It’s interesting that with a 100% mortality rate, very few of us take time to prepare for death the way we do for taxes. Perhaps it’s because, when it comes to death, there’s no “April 15th.” Each of us has an unknown deadline and unfortunately, we can’t apply for an extension.
We also don’t contemplate who the preparation is for. While spiritual preparation is for ourselves, the physical preparation is not. It’s for the loved ones we leave behind. Some family members receive “the call” and experience the nightmare of rummaging through piles of papers, searching for essential documents, planning a funeral without knowing the wishes of their loved one, and all the while feeling paralyzed by grief. It’s a painful and overwhelming task that none of us would wish for those we love.
Since we don’t know when our eleventh hour will come, now is the best time to prepare. It is our one last gift to those we love.
These Timely Tips are not exhaustive. It’s always necessary to confer with a licensed attorney regarding your own essential documents.
TIMELY TIPS - for one last gift
Documents to prepare:
- Will or Living Trust
- Advance Directives (DPA - Durable Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney, DNR -Do Not Resuscitate, Organ Donor)
- Asset Inventory
- Valuables Inventory
- Monthly Income and Source
- Emergency Care Authorization Forms (for dependents)
- Pet Care (Arrangements/Veterinarian)
Documents to compile:
- Birth Certificate
- Marriage Certificate
- Civil Union Documents
- Divorce Decrees
- Child Custody Decrees/Agreements
- Property Deeds/Trusts
- Vehicle Titles
- Military Records
- Social Security Card & Benefit Records
- Driver’s License - copy
- Employee ID
- Medicare/Medicaid Cards - copy
- Tax Return Archive (7 years - location of)
- Current Year Tax Documents (location of)
List of contact info for:
- Financial Advisor
- Insurance Agent
- Retirement Plan
- Notification of family, friends, neighbors, coworkers
List of accounts, policy numbers, passwords, signatories for:
- Insurance Policies - Life, Health, Dental, Disability/Long-Term, Homeowners, Auto
- Pensions/Memberships with Survivor Benefits
- Automatic Deposit Authorizations
- Automatic Withdrawal Authorizations
- Bank Accounts
- Credit Cards
- Time Share Agreement
- Service Providers and other bills
- Medical Records
- Social Media
- Electronics’ Access Codes
- Off-site Storage
Record location information for:
- Valuables (include on inventory list)
- Copies of keys for vehicles, home, safety deposit box, off-site storage
Record your wishes/plans and payment information for:
- Funeral Home
- Cremation (location of ashes)
- Burial (location)
- Grave Marker
Keep in mind that a service is another way to look after your loved ones in their grief. It’s a time for people who care about them to come together and offer their comfort and support. If you'd rather not have one, record your wishes but, give them permission to make that decision when the time comes.
Record your wishes for the following:
- Type of Service(s) – Viewing, Wake, Graveside, Funeral, Memorial
- Funeral – clothing/jewelry, type of casket; open/closed casket, pallbearers
- Service Location
- Clergy/Religious Preference
- Photos (choose one for newspaper, if desired)
- Memory Table Items
- Donation recipient in lieu of flowers
- Program (photo, scripture, poem)
Don’t feel you need to script the whole thing. Provide some ideas to help reduce the number of decisions required by your family.
What are some of aspects of your life you’d like your family and friends to remember? Record some accomplishments, career highlights, community service, military experience, spiritual journey, and special memories about people, events, and places you’ve experienced. Your family will treasure these and may draw from them to create your obituary.
Create a short list of your most precious belongings. You may designate them to individuals or families, if desired. Give your family permission to keep what’s most precious to them and let go of the rest. This is the icing on the cake of your one last gift!
Once you’ve compiled this info, scan and save, and/or make copies of the documents (See LivingSmartGuides.com for forms). Back up your computer files on an external hard drive or flash drive. You may also choose to store them in the cloud. Organize the original hard copies in a locking fire-safe security file or, place them in a file tote in a safe. Make sure your executor and trusted family member or friend have copies of or access to all of the above.
LivingSmartGuides.com is a comprehensive and FREE RESOURCE CENTER that provides the information and tools necessary to prepare for the expected and unexpected. It offers over 80 free forms that you can print or complete on your device. You can save, change, and electronically share the forms with friends and family.
I highly recommend you check it out before beginning to prepare your "one last gift" and consider using the Living Smart Guides forms to compile your information. You'll also find the founder's story fascinating at The Living Smart Story.
Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now. --Alan Lakein