We hate to be the one to break it to you but… you are going to die.
It is just a matter of when, and what you do to prepare.
How well you prepare for something determines how successful it will be. If you prepare for an interview, the interview is likely to be a success. If you prepare your Little League team for the big game, it is likely to be a success. If you prepare for death, it will be a success too.
We define ‘success’ here as helping loved ones focus on the grieving process rather than becoming entangled in your messy affairs that may lead to stress or even bitter arguments between those who love you dearly. You are living a successful life: here are the ten things you need to do before you die to ensure a successful death.
The Legal Issues
1) Make sure you have a living will that directs your medical care wishes when you are unable to do so. In conjunction with your living will, designate a legal proxy or surrogate that will have your medical power of attorney. Make sure this person is in lockstep with the living will as, depending on the state, some surrogates or proxies may be able to override the living will.
2) Update your last will to ensure it thoroughly documents whom will inherit what parts of your estate. We advise you find a financial adviser who can help guide you through this process step-by-step not only to make the process go more smoothly, but also so you don’t feel alone or overwhelmed during this process. In addition, designate a trustworthy executor of your last will who can work with your financial planner. You may want to ask loved ones if they’d like to inherit something in particular and take that into account in your planning. Don’t make the reading of your last will a scene full of conflict fit for a Hollywood movie!
3) Separate from your last will, compose a document that outlines your funeral wishes. You will include items here such as whether you want a cremation or a burial. Be as specific as you want from desired music to who you want giving a eulogy. While you should also include this information in your last will, it is important to have a separate document detailing your funeral wishes that can be accessed quicker than your will because by the time it is read, funeral preparations have often already been made that may differ from the wishes stated in the last will.
The Financial Issues
4) Set aside money for your funeral. Funerals are more costly than many people realize which can cause much hardship for your loved ones. We suggest you set up a funeral trust through your funeral home or financial planner or otherwise put money aside specifically for this.
5) Set aside money for a grief counselor. It may be a good idea to handpick a desirable grief counselor beforehand so your loved ones are not left scouring through internet searches for one they trust.
The Logistical Stuff
6) Make a list of those who should be immediately notified when you die. Likewise, if there are any, make a list of people who you do not want notified or that you wish to not attend your funeral. Remember everything you specify is a decision your loved ones don’t have to make in a moment of grief.
7) Make a plan for your digital life. From online subscriptions to social media accounts, most of us have some kind of digital footprint. Considering how you want your online life handled is something to make a plan for. This New York Times article goes through some of the common options for sites like Facebook and Google.
The Emotional Stuff
8) Do all the silly things you had been always wanted to do. In addition to being fulfilling for yourself, these moments of joy will leave lasting positive impressions for your loved ones. If they are not yet financially (or otherwise) attainable, make a plan to make your bucket list items possible.
9) Spend time with loved ones.
10) Compose a letter or otherwise take some time to say goodbye to those you love and let them know how much they mean to you. It is never too redundant to repeat a sincere compliment, genuine happy memory, or simply say “I love you” to someone before you pass. These can be written or otherwise recorded and given to special people upon your death.
Death is sad but by following this key steps, you can make it a success by decreasing the financial and emotional burden of the loved ones you leave behind…and ensuring your wishes are met.