In recent months the Plan and Prep family has lost two of our elder members as they have moved on to the Great Homestead in the Sky. Although both members had significant medical difficulties the passing of one was rather unexpected and the other passing so close behind has created difficulties we had not considered.
Although I won’t be going into the specifics of our issues I wanted to use this experience to point out an area of “prepping” that many people don’t consider, myself included, as being related to our daily pursuits of food storage, security, safety and flashlights. Today’s article will focus on the preparations we should be making for the possibility of our untimely demise and how to remove much of the work and stress for those that we leave behind.
The Final Preps
One of the most important things to consider when you are preparing all of your final preparations is to ensure that everything you do is known by those that will survive you. This can be done by sharing the information with family members verbally, writing instructions or leaving information with a lawyer or trusted friend. If the information is shared verbally then the person receiving the information should immediately make physical notes and keep them in a safe and secure location. If written instructions are provided the same care should be given to secure them somewhere safe and accessible.
Last Will and Testament
In the case of those that we lost recently we have been unable to locate any Last Will and Testament documentation for them. This is not to say that they didn’t create these documents, we simply have been unable to locate any. That being said we are placed in the unenviable position of disposing of all of the real property “the best way we can” while trying to explain to relatives that although we are sure their loved ones would agree that they should get the car or the boat, there are bills that need to be paid first.
Speaking of bills, we all need to make a concerted effort to ensure that those we leave behind have the financial ability to make our final wishes possible, or just to put us in the ground or in an urn. Both of our loved ones had expressed a desire for cremation, but didn’t have the available funds to pay for the service. Luckily the family was able to pay for the service, but coming up with over $800 for each cremation might not be possible for everyone. I would suggest that along with your standard life insurance policies you should consider a separate policy specifically catered to paying your final expenses. This should include your funeral or cremation costs, enough money to provide a memorial service befitting your wishes, money to pay your final bills for credit cards, car loans, mortgages, etc. (It might be a good idea to look into your larger bills to see if there is a payoff insurance you can add in case of death). Lastly, it may be a good idea to consider a policy large enough to provide transportation expenses for family members that have fallen on hard times or don’t have the means to attend the service without assistance.
This Isn’t Easy
Another thing to consider if possible is to have someone outside of the family designated as the Executor of the Will as well as in charge of setting up the services and getting the bills and everything taken care of after you have passed. Obviously this should be someone trustworthy or legally bound, such as a lawyer, to complete the process and provide proof back to your family. In our case my wife had to assume control of the situation and make sure everything was considered. I helped as much as possible and her sister provided a lot of support, but her other brothers and sisters were, well, less than helpful. Due to this, my wife was unable to actually grieve and say goodbye in a healthy way and must now deal with those thoughts and regrets. It would have been a lot easier if she could have spent her time with her mother and siblings instead of cleaning out the apartment, contacting the creditors and landlord and closing out all of the monthly services. Planning ahead could have provided for all of these things to be taken care of with little or no intervention from the family.
Creditors and Leases
In case you have not dealt with a situation like this in the past, I will warn you now that creditors and lease owners are not always pleasant nor do they seem to care about your loss. Although many were quick to offer condolences and write off the outstanding debts once proof of death was provided, some were very quick to stake their claim let their intentions be known. Case in point was the apartment leasing company we had to deal with about our loss. Although BOTH occupants (the only two people on the lease) died within two weeks of each other, the leasing company was adamant that the “estate” was responsible for paying out the PENALTY for “breaking the lease” by passing away. I can understand paying out the next month’s rent, but a penalty??? Needless to say we were furious and it took a lot of energy to argue with these people. Luckily we were able to locate an attorney to take over the battle and we haven’t heard a peep since.
An Ongoing Process
Our family members passed away in October and we have yet to close out all of their accounts and responsibilities because of their lack of preparation. It wasn’t that they didn’t care, or that they refused to accept their mortality, it was that they simply didn’t have the means to use their limited funds to prepare for an event they could not control. They were much more focused on paying their bills today, not after they passed. Consider this though, had they documented everything, including their accounts and responsibilities, we would not have to wait for collection letters to start hitting our mailbox to know there is an account out there. Had they left behind information on how to get into their email accounts we could look for electronic billing statements and managed most of this stuff without spending so much time and effort playing Sherlock Holmes.
Sit down and discuss with your spouse the plans that you need to have in place so that your family can grieve and mourn without the added pain of dealing with your final expenses and problems. At the minimum you should provide a means for your surviving family members to close out all of your accounts and responsibilities. Make CERTAIN that anything you have in regards to life insurance is documented and safe, and that someone knows where to access it.
The passing in our family forced us to question other family members about their plans. We were happy to learn that our other elder members had everything planned and documented, just in case. That’s a good thing because I am not nearly as strong as my wife, and I would never be able to handle everything that she handled if it were my parents that passed.
Plan and Prep