Having a discussion about death can be an uncomfortable topic of conversation. Contemplating being separated from the one's we love, not knowing what comes after death, these fears can discourage us from having any meaningful discussions about what to do when we are gone. Death is a natural part of life though, so we all must come to terms with the eventuality of our passing at some point.
Dying is often unexpected, and when that time comes, it will generally fall to the family members of the deceased to make the final arrangements. There are legal forms and permits to sign, the planning of the funeral, figuring out where and how the burial will proceed, and deciding what to do with assets and property that are left behind. It can be overwhelming for whoever is involved, and if there is more than one person handling the decisions, there can be differences in opinion about how affairs should be handled.
Fortunately, many of the necessary arrangements can be made ahead of time should you decide to plan ahead. Let’s look at some of the practical reasons for having a plan in place:
Mourning the passing of a loved one can be a period of great sadness and grief. Emotions can run high, and a number of important decisions need to be made relatively quickly. For those members of the family tasked with making the final arrangements of the deceased, this can be a particularly stressful event to deal with. By having a plan in place beforehand, many of the necessary decisions will have already been decided. For those tasked with making the final arrangments, taking some of the guesswork out of the decision-making process can help alleviate some of the emotional burden.
It may seem crass to bring up money issues when discussing the eventual death of yourself or a loved one, but as a matter of practicality, it is something to keep in mind. Transportation fees and permits, processing of the remains, funeral services, burial, and ceremonies all have costs associated with them, and your remaining assets may not be enough to cover everything. At that point, the responsibility for payment falls to your family. Planning ahead gives you the chance to research costs and find the best prices. You can even pre-pay on items such as burial plots and headstones while you are living to mitigate costs that may be passed on to loved ones. On average, those who have planned for their death spend 20% less than those who have not.
Probably the biggest reason to have a plan in place for your eventual death is so that arrangements are made according to your wishes. It may be a little unsettling to contemplate, but most people probably have some idea of how they want the process to play out. Having a plan to follow takes out the guesswork. This makes things easier for those who have to make the arrangements because they know that they are doing things in accordance to your wishes, and you can feel better knowing that your final arrangements will be carried in a manner that you approve of.
Going through all the necessary decisions that constitute your final preparations may seem daunting at first. The simplest way to begin the checklist might be to go through the decisions that have no financial implications or require any outside legal assistance or representation.
If you wish to have an obituary published at the time of your death, then you may want to go ahead now and decide on a picture to be used and what you want the obituary to say.
Write down everybody that you wish to have contacted in the event of your death. In addition to family and friends, this list should also include any attorneys and/or power of attorney.
Think about all of the bills that you pay each month: TV, internet, phone, home owners/car insurance, utilities, etc. Make a list of all your important account information so that they can be easily closed.
Decisions of a legal nature should be made with the utmost consideration, and with attorneys and/or family and friends for which you have absolute trust. If you become incapacitated or otherwise judged to be unable to make your own decisions, those that you have designated will have authority to make decisions about your estate and potentially your life.
A will is simply a legal document that specifies who your remaining assets are passed on to after you die. This may be unecessary for sole heirs, but for instances where there are many surviving heirs or relatives, a will can remove complications and reduce arguments about who gets what. Family dynamics and personal relationships change over time, so it is recommended that an updated will be drawn up and signed and copies given to your Attorney and Power of Attorney (if designated).
A Power of Attorney is someone that you designate to make legal and financial decisions for you in the event that you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. A Power of Attorney has considerable authority to make decisions on your behalf, so you should absolutely trust that the person you designate will carry out your wishes faithfully.
An Advanced Directive is a legal directive to hospital personnel on whether or not they should use extraordinary means to keep you alive. Directives can be issued for various scenarios based on the likelihood of recovery. This is an extremely personal issue and in some cases there may be little or no hope of recovery. By having an Advanced Directive in place you are making sure that your wishes are followed, and alleviating the emotional burden of the person that has to make this difficult decisions in your place. Once an Advanced Directive is made, a copy should be given to your Attorney and/or Power of Attorney (if applicable). If you don't have a Power of Attorney, this decision will fall to your spouse or oldest immediate family member.
Be sure to make a list that includes all of your bank accounts, assets, insurance policies, and death benefits. As a beneficiary, it is much easier to manage these accounts and assets when all of the relevent information is at hand. At best, this process becomes much harder without proper information or documentation. At worst, without a clear accounting of assets, certain policies or benefits may go unclaimed; essentially leaving money on the table. Also, from the moment of death there is a window of time for which all financial matters must be settled before it becomes unavoidable to have to go through official legal proceedings in the court system.
Make a list general insurance policies like home owners or auto insurance. This assures no missed payments or possible lapses in coverage. It is also important to keep together documents and information about death benefits such as social security pensions for spouses and life insurance.
Make a list of all bank accounts and physical assets, along with any titles and registrations. Almost all transfers of ownership will require a death certificate, but the process becomes much easier when all of the original documentation and pertinent information is at hand.
If it is your wish to have a visitation and/or funeral it can be helpful to have a contact list of the people that you want to make sure get an invitation. Your family members may not be aware of all of your acquaintences or how to contact them, so this is a way to make sure no one gets left out that had wished to be there. On the other side of the coin, you may also want to make a list of people who you don't want invited.
Think about the type of funeral service that you want. Will the visitation and funeral take place on separate days? The same day? Will you forego the visitation all together? Will the service be located at a funeral home, a place of worship, or some other location? Do you have someone that you wish to speak at your funeral? Is there certain music you would like played or passages heard. Will any groups you belong to (ex. military, fire, police, ect.) require special transportation or perform special ceremonies during the funeral? These are all preferences that can be made in advance.
When planning to use the services of a funeral home, it is advisable to use a business that is proven to be reputable and professional. Locally, we recommend the following funeral homes:Fitch-Denny Funeral Home
Of course, River View Cemetery would be happy to be your choice for a final resting place. We are happy discuss any concerns you may have regarding what type of burial you would like, purchasing plots, or anything else. If you already have a specific funeral home in mind they will be able to help you with burial considerations, as well.