Death was an abstract concept to me until my mother unexpectedly passed away three years ago. You can’t prepare for the loss of a parent, but what blindsided me were the “death duties” that landed in my lap. I needed answers and she wasn’t around to guide me. What was her cell phone lock code? How did I access her bank account when I couldn’t afford to cremate her? There was no instruction manual to make the process easier, so I wrote one and created an unconventional advance-planning company called Good To Go! to prevent people from going through the same thing. Here’s how to sort your death out, even if you still have plenty of living left to do.
Step 1: THINK
Think about your death from a logistical perspective. If you died or fell into a coma, who has keys to your place to go through your stuff? Do you want a feeding tube? What online bills need paying and what are their passwords? Where is your important paperwork located? What do you want done with your electronic devices? Social media accounts? Your body? Do you want a party instead of a funeral? There are a million questions that your loved ones will have to answer. Don’t make them guess, it will only complicate their grief.
Step 2: WRITE
Fill out an Advance Healthcare Directive (aka a living will) to document your wishes concerning end-of-life medical treatments. Get one from your doctor or find legal forms for your state at caringinfo.org. You should also fill out an Advance Death Care Directive, a planning booklet that asks questions regarding body disposition and what sort of funeral or party you want, as well as logistical information about bills and belongings. (Good to Go! offers both as part of a comprehensive Departure File.) If you have children, or a lot of assets, go to a lawyer and get a will drawn up as well to outline what should be done with your property, debts, and taxes.
Step 3: SHARE
Talk to your loved ones about what you want done should there be an emergency or death. It might make that holiday gathering even more awkward, but it’s better to discuss it over eggnog than in the emergency room. Share the information in your directives with your friends and family and let them know where they are located (keep them with your taxes for easy annual updating). Then tell them you love them because none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow.
Article by Amy Pickard
Illustration by Melody Newcomb
This article originally appeared in the December/January print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!