If you have experienced the death of anyone close enough that you were involved in making their final arrangements, you know how difficult it can be. Cremation or burial, buying a plot, funeral or memorial service, who gives the eulogy and on and on. If a funeral is planned, this is done within 3 days, normally. All of this puts tremendous strain on family and friends in the first days of their new grief. Emotionally and financially.
Pre-planning your own end-of-life arrangements is a God-send for your loved ones and something we all need to do. Not later. Now. Most of us don't like to think of our own mortality, but we all die. It's a sure, definite, unavoidable fact. Whether by accident (which could happen today or tomorrow) or natural causes (which could happen today or tomorrow), we will all make the transition from this plane to the next. It certainly isn't anything to fear, and it won't happen just because you have made the arrangements (as some superstitious people might think). These tips let you decide what happens after you're gone and will make things much easier on the people you love while coping with their loss.
1) Fill out an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD)! This end-of-life form designates another person and an alternative to make health care decisions for you if you are unable. You must make known whether or not to use extraordinary means to keep you alive if you are incapacitated. If your brain is gone, would you want to remain in a vegetative state? Should a DNR (Do Not Resusitate) be on file if your heart stops when you're terminally ill with cancer or do they resusitate so you can linger a few more hours or days? What about organ donation? Some families can't or don't want to think of this if you're dying, so you must make the decision for them beforehand. Many of your body parts, not just major organs, can improve many others' lives. You've gone on to a much better place (guaranteed - there is no hell!), so, why not share what you can? Better yet, donate your whole body to science.
2) Make out a will or trust! I'm not a legal expert, but know trusts are better protection of assets, especially if you have a larger estate. It's easy enough to find your best options with or without an attorney initially, but do it NOW; at the very least, make out a simple will and have it witnessed. Then, put it in a safe-deposit box or where it will be found easily.
3) Pre-plan and pay for your cremation, burial, and/or funeral! Shop around for the best prices. Be sure to look into the Neptune and Trident Societies. More people are opting for cremation and no services, so funeral homes are trying to make up lost money. Prices for a simple cremation with no service have, in this area, gone from a little over $1,000 two years ago, to more than $1,200 last year, to $1,600 this year. They charge $195 for the cardboard box they cremate the body in! I told them I'd run down to the market nearby and grab one, but they acted like they hadn't heard me.
4) If you hold a mortgage, get insurance that pays it off if you die! For an extra $20 or so a month, it ensures your property goes to your heir(s). My brother, who was in poor health for years, left me his home, but his insurance only pays in the event of accidental death. With such strict credit rules now, I don't know if we'll qualify to assume the loan.
5) Keep an address book handy so notifications can be made! It can be very distressing to both parties when someone asks you how so-and-so is; out of town friends appreciate a note or phone call letting them know of the passing.
6) Please, keep your important paperwork together! Banking, credit cards, and Social Security information; insurance policies; pink slips for all your vehicles; VA and military records, especially discharge papers; real estate deeds and mortgage info; marriage license; birth certificate; passport; AHCD; pre-planned funeral papers; anything else you might think of.
7) If you have anything of value, such a jewelry or art collection, specify in writing who it goes to or who gets what! I'm willing to bet that more families are split up due to hard feelings over estates unless it is clearly specified. Don't think for a minute this would never happen in your family. A death will bring out the worst in people.
8) The VA may pay part of your expenses! If you were or are in the military and meet eligibility requirements, the money will be reimbursed to you by the funeral home.
As I said before, the sooner these things are done, the better. I can't stress enough the importance of managing your affairs before the inevitable happens.
One last suggestion - have photos taken of you and your family together. I don't have any of my brother and me together and very few of me and the son I lost last year. Although pictures may be hard to look at at first, they come to mean more as time begins to heal the grief.