While helping my niece and nephew yesterday to deal with the mess left behind after their father's recent death I learned a few important facts that I thought I'd pass along. While we can never be totally prepared for the death of a loved one or totally come to grips with our own mortality there are some things that we can do to make things easier for those that are left behind. My niece and nephew have had to deal with so much fallout from their father's death that I don't think they've been able to fully grieve yet.
So here are a few tips to help your loved ones cope in case of an unexpected loss:
- insure your debts so your loved ones aren't left holding the bag for money you owe, especially on large debts like lines of credit, mortgages, personal loans
- write down what you envision your "ideal" funeral reception would look like; do you want to be cremated, do you want your ashes dispersed somewhere? what kind of music do you want, do you want a service at all? who would you like to be there? Prepaying this expense is one of the kindest acts you can do for your loved ones.
- do you have certain possessions that you would like certain people to have; label these things or even better, give them NOW
- downsize and declutter - this one is HUGE! don't leave 50 or 100 years of accumulated belongings behind for someone else to cope with - believe me, it's overwhelming!
- keep your home in good repair inside and out, including re-decorating, updates to appliances etc. Often this is the only asset left so leave it in sellable condition...keep it clean....oh please keep it clean! If you can't manage these things anymore then it's time to move to something smaller and easier to manage
- keep all of your important papers together in one spot and let those close to you know where that spot is! Give power of attorney to someone you trust, designate who you want your executor to be
- leave a will so there is no confusion about your wishes
- if you have assets that you know you will be leaving behind when you die, gift them while you are alive thereby (in Canada anyways) avoiding losing so much to probate fees. (Ex. my father sold his home before he died and gifted the money to me and my 4 siblings - we didn't lose a cent to probate and gifts of this sort do NOT have to be claimed on your income tax!)
- if your family doesn't live closeby, have an arrangement with a neighbour to check up on each other daily. Illnesses caught early don't have to result in a premature death.
- Don't loan money out to anyone without consulting with family first, but if you decide you really want/need to then make the arrangements through a lawyer
- check out "investment opportunities" online - they could be scams
- just because you're getting older doesn't mean you are exempt from following a nutritional diet - malnutrition and poor diet are the causes of/or contributors to many illnesses
- stay in touch with your family and friends and keep them up-to-date on all aspects of your life, don't leave behind surprises!! If you are a friend or family member that has been left behind - please put any differences of opinion aside, take a break from old grudges and feuds and better yet, take this opportunity to mend fences with those members of your family you've had disagreements with...life is too short to carry such limiting and self-defeating judgments around with you.
Following these suggestions will ensure that your family and friends have the opportunity to do what they need to do: celebrate your life and grieve your loss secure in the knowledge that you really really cared for them.