Prepare Now

Seems like I have had a lot of friends lose loved ones this year. It is inevitable. There is no way we are getting out of this alive. One thing I have learned that is common is that hardly anyone of these loved ones left their “affairs in order” to the extent that would be easy for their family.

Some thought they had their financial life in order, but even though they had tried they left many lose ends. Some had prepared their final wishes, but living up to them was sometimes hard for the family. Some had downsized their home and belongings, but moving things to storage units does not count as dealing with your belongings.

After learning from the various friends of the things that were hard for them, especially when a parent passed away, I have started amassing a big list of what I need to do.

First, have a will. Russ and I have a will we had drafted when we got married. Although we made provisions for future children we have not really updated it recently. Second, if you are asking someone to be your executor, tell them in advance so it does not come as a surprise. And if you are asking one child and not another tell them both what the plan is. Don’t make the one who is chosen to be the executor tell the one that is not that they were not chosen. Not that it is a job anyone wants.

Clean out your paperwork regularly. My father-in-law has been doing this, bless his sole, but there is no reason to save 55 years of MasterCard bills where the ink has disappeared from them. I know that we personally have every tax return and all supporting documents for thirty years in my office. There is no need for this. No one, not even the government cares about things that are more than seven years old and in most cases it is only three years. I am yet to meet anyone who liked to look lovingly at how much their grandparents paid in taxes as a way of reminiscing about them.

If you own any valuable furniture, jewelry or art let your loved ones know it is valuable. Don’t hide valuable things around your house and expect your kids to find it. Then again, what was once valuable to you may not be valuable to anyone else ever again.

One great bit of advice I learned today is for you to put the executor to your estate as a signer on your checking account while you are alive. My friend Nancy’s father passed away a few days before the end of the year and left bills she needed to pay for him. Being on his checking account makes things easier in the short run.

Talk about your funeral, memorial service or other celebrations of life while you are well and happy. Even better go on and write a draft of your obituary. It saves the grieving loved ones from one more thing to do and perhaps your legacy. You can always tell when the black sheep of the family writes the obituary and the newspaper prints some scandalous obit. It makes for great reading but you may not want your dirty laundry or family squabbles aired as the last thing printed about you.

Put together all the important stuff in one folder and tell your people where it is. If you don’t want them to read it before you go give it to a lawyer. But for goodness sake don’t mix your life insurance, titles of the cars with your high school love letters. Speaking of love letters, get rid of anything you don’t want others to know about, why are you keeping it anyway?

Personally we are way behind doing all this. When Russ went in for his operation I got to worrying, but thankfully it was premature. But as friends this year have told me, it’s not just your 94 year old mother you need to worry about. So prepare now and your family will love you even more. The last thing you want is them cursing you about your basement full of glass jars you had been saving your whole life.


2 Comments on “Prepare Now”

  1. Jane C Wagstaff says:

    Dana – great blog and something we should all heed. As a wardrobe consultant, I’d like to add for the women, HAVE YOUR OUTFIT IN THE CLOSET!!! I cannot tell you how many clients and friends have had to go shop for an outfit the day they lose they loved one or the next. I cannot think of anything more miserable than having to do that that. Have that “go to” outfit hanging in the ready. You’ll be so glad you did ….

  2. Carol Walker says:

    Would you like to be an ad for my husband. Jack hits all of your bullet points with every client. Would that we all would listen. People don’t want to think about dying but they don’t realize what a mess that leaves for those they supposedly loved the most. Get that will done gal and have it updated every 5years or so. Think of it as you do your annual physical with your doctor. Things change!


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