Sunday, May 26, 2019

Tips for preparing for death

Death is not something we like to think about but the sooner you start to get yourself organised for death, the better it is for you and your family.

I have recently found this out the hard way. A family member passed away a few months ago. This person was well into their 80s, and what we'd call 'old school' which included a considerable reluctance to talk to family about death, funeral arrangements and financial matters. I understand this may be a generational issue, but boy, did it make things difficult when the person passed. We didn't even know what sort of funeral the person wanted which was very distressing to us, as we had no way of knowing if we were doing the right thing. In the end, our decisions were driven by finance, which was a horrible position to be in, and not one I want to inflict on my family.

Being the wrong side of 55, this experience has got me thinking about how well prepared I am for old age, sickness and death, especially in relation to the responsibilities it brings to my own family. I have spoken to my kids about what sort of funeral service I want. And I keep talking about updating my Will, but that's about all I have done. 

So, based on my experiences of the last few months, here are a couple of tips that I suggest you start to think about and do to prepare for your own death. This will make life so much easier for your family at a time that they will be particularly stressed and upset.

1. Have an up to date Will
This is not rocket science and there really is no excuse not to have one in place, even if you are in your 20s/30s. If you cannot afford to get a solicitor to put one together, you will find your state Office of the Public Advocate will be able to help, or you can write a home made Will

Your Will will include financial matters, and gives you the opportunity to make specific requests, for example, what you want done to your body (gifted to the local medical school?) and funeral arrangements. Leaving clear instructions is a favour to your family because, let's face it, you won't be any the wiser on the day! 

2. Have your affairs organised and up to date
One of the things that I found very time consuming following death of our family member was trying to work out their financial affairs. For example, what bank accounts were current....what insurance policies were in place...where birth and marriage certificates were kept...and so on. 

I think the big favour you can do for your loved ones is to keep all your documentation up together and up to date so that family know where to find stuff, and your executor/s can carry out their duties with the least amount of hassle as possible after your death.

I have put all my documentation in a file and printed out a master document with all the details I can think of, from the password to my lap top (which I'll have to remember to keep updated) to my log-ins to my bank account. So if the worse comes to the worse and I get knocked off my bicycle this afternoon, my kids will know exactly what accounts/insurance/mortgage/superannuation/property contracts etc I have, and how to access them. I have even listed all my bills and utilities. 

The other thing I have on my list of to-dos is set up my enduring power of attorney.    

3. Talk to your family about your death
The problem with many of the older generation is that talking about death is not the done thing. I have tried to talk to my parents about their deaths and funeral arrangement etc, which sounds very cold I know. But to this day, I don't know what they want, or how I'll need to manage their financial affairs. This is particularly tricky if one parent dies, and the other parent is not capable of organising their affairs. 

My kids know how I want to die and what sort of funeral I want because we talk about death fairly regularly, especially as I have got older, and I will document request in my Will which I am about to update. The other thing I have just done is gone through my master document with all my personal details on with the kids. They are not keen on the conversation at the moment but one day, they'll be grateful that I am as organised as I am.

There are heaps of resources online and in the community that will help you ask the right questions about death and how to prepare including:
 How are you preparing for death?



Peta Wilson said...

Great article Sarah. I couldn't agree more and I certainly have mine all written down. I have a master list like you do also. Have spoken endlessly with the children/family all to the same response as your children but am sure all my wishes will come to them at the time.

Without any legal advice , I believe a Power of Attorney is given to someone to manage your affairs when you are still alive - like signing documents if you are overseas.

One needs to organize a Lasting Power of Attorney - a Health and Welfare LPA - appointing someone who knows what you wish for that end of life period - where you live, your health and medical decisions, including life support decisions, AND/OR a Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Financial Affairs - to appoint someone to make decisions re your property and financial affairs. These LPAs are also in force if you are incapable of making your own decisions, where as this aspect is not the covered by a simple Power Attorney being in place.

Enduring Power of Attorney have been replaced by the LPA s since 2007.

I have also gone one step further and started “giving” my more special and unused Jewellery to those that I wish to have this gift.
We could also discuss organ (only) donation.

KerryJ said...

Make a list of all of your accounts - financial, insurance, social media. Always know where your most important papers are - passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, deeds, vehicle titles, mortgages, etc and keep them in the same spot -preferably a safe.

Make a list of all of your subscriptions and memberships - free and otherwise.

If you know death is impending in the next 12 months, thin out your possessions and organise the rest. Cancel subscriptions and memberships. Be clear on who gets what and why if it's not in your will.

Tell your side of the family how it's going to go down financially and why so that your remaining spouse isn't left having to defend themselves.

Regularly review your insurances to ensure there is enough in your estate to cover expenses relating to your death.

Be very clear as to if and how you want your life remembered and then sign a document or create a video to prove it was your idea.

Always know who is going to look after your pets in the event of your demise.

Tell the people who love you and you love what they mean to you now.

Sarah Stewart said...

Tips from Tracey

Curate your worldly goods - If you intend to leave your family heirloom china to someone, check they actually want it. Then give it to them and encourage them to use it and enjoy it. If they sell it on eBay don’t get upset.

Plan your dying days - You may not be lucky enough to die quickly. Where do you want to die? What do you want to listen to, smell, or eat? I wish I’d brought my Mum home to die where she could listen to the ocean. Some hospitals don’t tell you that a dying person needs very little medical intervention and you could take them home.

Consider the impact of inheritance - Consider those who don’t benefit from your death and how they may make the others feel miserable.

Forgive - forgive those who have wronged you during your life and let them know they are forgiven. They may not care but it will ease your heart.

HeiditheMidwife said...

My mother died recently,and she had managed the death and estates of her father, her mother, great aunt, and my father. She was the person I would have asked "what do i do now?" and she knew that. She left us a file on her desk top called "What to do when I die" that included not only all her id numbers and financial information, but who to call in what order with their numbers. It was an instruction manual we appreciated so much in the shock after her death. It was all the places like government offices, pension agency, all policies and agencies we needed to notify. Everything, how to get her name off the title of her car, cancel her auto insurance. Her estate was prepared through an attorney, and he said to us " well, this is simple, we make all our money on the people who are not well prepared, not people like your parents". So having a good estate planner made it easy and painless, and also cheap. It was the best way to mother and support us through her loss, since as I said, there was no time I needed my mother more than when I lost my mother. When my father died, one of his last conscious act was to write down how to work the television remote for my mother. It was always the two of them together in their chair in front of the tv, and resigning his seat and command post as home IT guy was his last earthly business.It seemed so sweet to me, that this small daily division of labor was the only thing he had left to worry about.