You can't even begin to fathom the overwhelming ricochet of endless paperwork, crazymaking logistics, hours of frustrating phone calls, impossible to decipher financials, hastily scheduled appointments, and avalanche of decisions that can assault a family who has lost a loved one. And all the wasted hours frantically pawing through teetering piles and unordered files and jam-packed drawers and musty junk, futilely trying to track down must-have information.
The demands of the urgent collide with our stunning grief and stretch even the healthiest of relationships right to the edge of the breaking point. One thing careens on top of another, making it more than difficult to do any necessary task well.
Especially the grieving.
My parents refused to let their family go there. So years ago, they sat down and took care of business. All of it. It took them months to pull everything together, but they did it well. The financials, health care and end of life decisions, bank info, insurance details, funeral plans, every name and number that would remotely be necessary for someone someday to get their hands on. All carefully documented and encased in blue folders, one for my sister, one for me.
And we all breathed a collective sigh of relief when my parents handed us these gifts that were yet one more substantial assurance of how much they truly cared about us.
My friend Sharon is right now in the middle of her own grief and has her own story. She writes:
I'd like to share some advice that I found really helpful when John died. Many years ago I sat down with him and wrote down where all of our investments were and where his retirement funds were. (He always took care of these things and I had no clue or desire to mess with it). Then 4 years ago I sat down one day and typed up all the information our kids would need if something happened to both of us.
Well, death only came to one of us first, but what I typed was really helpful to me after John was gone. Today I re-typed everything for my kids and it will save them so much time and headaches whenever my last day comes....whether it's tomorrow or in 30 years ...
Let me share with you the lists I made and will keep with my will:
(1) people - plus phone numbers - to contact upon my death (relatives, friends)
(2) doctors to contact at some point
(3) my obituary
(4) my funeral service
(5) our attorney's name, address & phone number
(6) insurance policies, plus the agents & their phone numbers
(7) investments, plus our financial adviser's name, address & phone number
(8) all bank accounts & account numbers
(9) monthly payments - utilities, donations, insurance, etc.
(10) what possessions I want the kids and grandkids to have as keepsakes.
I realize some of you might have trouble dealing with putting these things on paper, but keep in mind how hard it is on the surviving family members when they all of a sudden have to deal with all of this and need names, phone numbers and all the other information. I had enough stress with paperwork and phone calls, without having to deal with tracking down everything before I got started. This made it so much easier. Please consider doing this for your family. It will be a wonderful gift to leave for them when the time comes.
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I'm speaking to myself as I speak to you today, dear reader. Taking care of business now will someday be worth more than any amount of money or possessions left behind. This is part of the legacy we leave. I know, I know ... who wants to plan their own funeral or write their own obituary. Get decisions made, put everything in writing ... especially when we're just so busy getting from day to day.
The bottom line is this. Do we really want our grief stricken family stunned with an overwhelming avalanche of decisions that we ourselves should have taken care of?