No one likes to think about his or her death. However, not thinking about it doesn’t mean it won’t one day happen. Not thinking about it also can put an undue burden on those you leave behind. I’ve recently witnessed firsthand the stress and anxiety thrust upon grieving friends and family members when no instructions or a Will exist.
One of the nicest things you can do for those you love is to have plans in place in case of your death.
If you’ve never taken the time to think about your death, please consider the following actions.
- Think about all of your job responsibilities and determine what you could do to help your boss and co-workers fulfill these responsibilities if you were to suddenly and unexpectedly leave your job. Then, do the things you know could help them. This might include creating a list of all you do, regular deadlines, important contact information, and names of vital files and passwords. Write a memo, put it in an “in case of” envelope, and give it to human resources to be placed in your personnel file. Be sure to tell your boss about the letter, and let her know you’re not planning on anything happening, you’re just being organized. Suggest your co-workers do the same, and review your document every six months to make sure it’s current.
- If you own your business, meet with a lawyer and have a document drawn up that explicitly says what will happen to your company if you are no longer capable of running it. Identify if the company will be dissolved, sold, or passed on to heirs, as well as how debts and profits will be handled.
Your personal life:
- Meet with a lawyer and have a Last Will and Testament created.
- Write a letter detailing exactly what you want done with your body after you death, how you envision your funeral, and any other relevant information. Be specific about any religious traditions you might have, anything you want included in your obituary, and how you will cover the costs of all your wishes. Give a copy of the letter to the executor of your Will and another copy to your lawyer.
- Review your life insurance policy and make sure it will cover all of your funeral expenses, and any additional insurance you might wish to carry. If you don’t have a life insurance policy, get one.
- If you wish to be buried, buy a burial plot.
- Write a letter detailing what you want done with your personal possessions after your death. If you want a niece to have your engagement ring, put it in this letter. Give a copy of the letter to your lawyer.
- Similar to what was mentioned earlier in the Your Job section, think about all of your responsibilities in your home and personal life. Create a list of all you do, bills and accounts, names of vital files, passwords, contact information for your children’s school, etc. Put this information in an envelope, and put it in a home safe that is secured to the floor. Give a copy of the key and/or code to the executor of your Will to access only in an emergency.
- Review these documents once a year (or more, if necessary), to ensure they match your current wishes and responsibilities.
Have you taken these steps? Have you planned even more than this? If we have forgotten something on this list, please add it to the comments.