The Elephant in the Room: How to Prepare Your Family for “The End”
Expanded from the October 3, 2019 article in PMEA Retired Member Network eNEWS.
Few people want to talk about it… what co-authors Shoshana Berger and BJ Miller discuss in their book, A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death:
It may sound morbid, but creating a findable file, binder, cloud-based drive, or even shoe-box where you store estate documents and meaningful personal effects will save your loved ones incalculable time, money, and suffering. — “Why You Need to Make a ‘When I Die’ File – Before It Is Too Late” (Berger and Miller)
Do you have a Will? A Power of Attorney? A Living Will or Medical Power of Attorney?
According to their TIME blogpost at https://time.com/5640494/why-you-need-to-make-a-when-i-die-file-before-its-too-late/?utm_source=pocket-newtab, here are a few things you will want to put into your “When I Die” file/folder:
- An advance directive that is signed and notarized
- A will* and living trust
- Marriage or divorce certificates
- Passwords for phone, computer, email, and social media accounts
- Instructions for your funeral and final disposition
- An ethical will*
- Letters to loved ones
* Where a legal will transfers assets, an ethical will transfers immaterial things: your life lessons and values. For a discussion on the latter, seek out the book Ethical Wills: Putting Your Values on Paper by Dr. Barry Baines.
Berger and Miller also recommended to purchase and set-up an online password manager to safeguard your data and share the master password with someone you trust. (For more info on password management software, read my “tech rant” blog here.)
With greater detail, we also learn from https://www.wealthmanagement.com/news/final-letter-instructions-family-important the importance of leaving a “final letter of instructions” to your loved ones. The website reports what Neuberger Berman Trust Company advises should be archived in a document to be read after your death.
- The location of all estate planning documents, such as wills and trust agreements
- A list of relevant advisors with contact information
- List of other people to contact on your death
- Location of any safe deposit boxes, inventory list, location of keys, who is authorized to open
- List of life insurance policies, location and beneficiaries
- List of bank accounts and how they are titled
- Investment and trust account information
- A description of other assets
- Any debts or other liabilities
- Listing of all credit card accounts
- Inventory of other important documents like deeds and titles, and where they are held
- Location of keys to all residences
- Description of any pension benefits and who to contact
- Instructions concerning funeral or memorial services
They add that this document should be held by your attorney, spouse, and adult children.
What would you say to those nearest and dearest to you if you couldn’t (or didn’t) tell them in person? Consider writing individual letters to your partner, children, or other family members “as a way of leaving a few last words.” Check out Frish Brandt’s inspiring website, “Last[ing] Letters.”
A Lasting Letter is a letter written to someone you care about, someone who you wish to hear your voice and read your words long into the future. Sometimes referred to as a ‘legacy letter,’ this letter holds the words that carry one’s voice forward in time.
The letter can take many forms: long or short, a memento of a moment or a history of a lifetime, a connection made or missed, an instruction or a confession, a love letter, and everything in between.
Each letter is unique: each voice, each intention is individual.
Everyone has a letter in them. — https://www.mylastingletters.com/ (Brandt)
Finally, in their July 25, 2019 YouTube video recorded at the Commonwealth Club (https://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/archive/video/beginners-guide-end-life), Berger quoted the framework by Ira Byock “The Four Things That Matter Most… to say to someone before you die” (yet another book): https://irabyock.org/books/the-four-things-that-matter-most/:
- “Please forgive me.”
- “I forgive you.”
- “Thank you.”
- “I love you.”
And one more that was added later: “I am proud of you.”
Photo credits in order from Pixabay.com:
- “death” by carolynabooth
- “hand” by Gerd Altmann
- “notebook” by Monfocus
- “puzzle” by PIRO4D