No one likes to get a call late at night and the call I got on December 23rd at 10:30 was bad news. My younger sister LuAnn had died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack. To complicate matters, LuAnn lives with and cares for Charlie, her 21 year old autistic son. My sister had done minimal end-of-life planning. What she had done was the paperwork naming her older son James, legal guardian of his brother in the event anything happened to her.
But that’s it. Her family now has the painful and messy task of figuring out what to do next.
This shouldn’t happen to anyone; and with the list below, you can prevent it from happening to you. (Thank you Deb C.)
• Prepare a list of every bill you expect each month/quarter/year. Include the company name, type of business (utility, insurance, etc.), account number, how you receive it (USPS or online), how you pay it (USPS, online, or automatic deduction), password(s), and who has access to this account.
• Name of all banks, account numbers, contact information, any joint account holders or other signers (and their
relationship to you and contact information). Also include retirement accounts, pensions, annuities, 401(k) s, etc.
• List vehicles owned or leased and include VINs, drivers, insurance company and coverage, and where it is garaged.
Consider changing coverage to ‘storage’ only while the primary driver is unable to drive or reduce coverage to a lesser coverage such as ‘pleasure only’ if the primary driver is not currently driving to work or is unemployed.
• Who needs to be contacted when you are incapacitated / deceased? Names, relationship to you, address, phone, emails. How much information about your condition do you want to be shared publicly? With family and friends?
• Location of your important documents: will, medical directive, Power of Attorney (POA), social security card, insurance coverage, safe deposit box and key. Who can access this information immediately and how will they know to do so and where to find the instructions/key(s)? Who is your personal representative? S/he must have this information.
• Funeral or Celebration of Life: Your written wishes including whether to have a casket (open or closed), a visitation, service components (location, order of service, music, readings), burial plot/columbarium and location, and participants (pall bearers, clergy, readers, etc.) – or whether to have a service of any kind. Consider writing the bulk of your obituary so it includes things important to you and your family. If you have a service, consider preparing photo boards and a list of other important items to display during the wake and service.
• Computer: List email accounts and passwords and all other accounts to which you subscribe and wish notified of any changes. Where are your back-up files /thumb drive stored? Passwords needed and where are they?• Cell Phone access: Password protected?
• Children: Location of emergency assistance and care for minor children. Where should they go or who should care for them immediately and in the future (this could be different)?
• Home and Business: Who will manage your household during this time? If you live in a managed community, what documents must be filed with HOA/management company to allow access while awaiting death certificates or other final documents? Can you reside in the residence and for how long?
Store this very personal information in your safe deposit box. Let someone know it is there and be sure that person have access to the box. If you have an attorney, discuss further distribution with him or her.
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“Death of a loved one at an unexpected time makes us see everything in life so differently. Suddenly most things are just not a big deal.”