No one likes to think about their own mortality, but it’s important to have a plan in place in case the worst should happen. Once you pass, your executors, whether that be a family member, a friend, a lawyer, or someone else, will need to have access to your personal information to do their jobs. Here are a few things your family will need to know before you die, so they can be prepared for anything.
- Where everything is kept
Your Will is an important part of your final arrangements, and you should alert your family and executor as to where that is kept, but it’s not the only thing. Your executors will need to notify all beneficiaries of your will, and, depending on your circumstances, pay debts and bills, establish trusts for underaged beneficiaries, organise transfers or divisions of business or property, and close off your utilities and ongoing arrangements. It’s a lot of work, made more difficult by not knowing where any of the documents are.
Make a folder to keep with your will containing all your relevant information and KEEP IT UP TO DATE. Include in it the details for your utilities providers, the banks you use, insurance information, investment, and safety deposit details. A copy of past bills or statements are a good way to do this as they contain account numbers and relevant information. Provide as many details as possible for your beneficiaries to make them as easy to track down as possible, particularly if you haven’t seen them in a while. Also add copies of your personal information, copies of birth certificates, marriage or divorce documents, medicare and drivers licence details. This is particularly important if you’ve immigrated from another country, as accessing documents from overseas can often involve consulates, bureaucratic red tape, translators, and a lot of headaches for your family. For extra security, leave a copy of your file with your next of kin, if you are medically incapacitated. These are many of the same details they will need to take care of your obligations until you recover.
(Physical copies are best, but if you’re doing to keep this folder digitally, make sure it’s security, these kinds of details are a goldmine to hackers.)
- Your Wishes for Final Arrangements
Do you want to be cremated or buried? Do you have a specific funeral service in mind? Do you want your ashes scattered in a certain place? Maybe you want to be sent back to your country of origin to be buried with your forebears. Maybe you want the same celebrant who did your son’s wedding to officiate your funeral. If you don’t make those wishes clear, how can they be acted on?
Let your family know what you have in mind for final arrangements so they can make sure they are carried out according to your wishes. If you feel uncomfortable about telling them directly, you can write down your wishes and alert them to where the document is kept, or pre-plan your funeral yourself to make sure everything is done the way you’d like it. If you’d like to know more about pre-planning funerals, read this article (link).
- Your Digital Life
In today’s digital world, more and more of our lives are online. From social media accounts to online banking, our digital lives can be just as important as our physical ones. This is often called the Digital Afterlife, and is something society is still working out a way to cope with.
A death notice in the paper doesn’t always cut it these days, and social accounts are often useful to families trying to work out who needs to be notified about a death or funeral arrangements. They can also serve as a memorial, as they contain photographs, comments, interactions, and things that made you laugh in life.
Before you die, make sure your family knows how to access and what to do with all of your online accounts. Some platforms will allow the account to be memorialised, Facebook and Instagram for example, while others like Twitter and Tiktok will deactivate the account once notified of death.
Online subscription services will also need to be cancelled, so make sure you have a list of those available. Cloud-based services often store important information, so make sure it’s location is also listed with other important documents, as it’s not the first place most people will think to look for it.
Photos, diaries, memories
It might seem obvious to you where important memories are kept, but it may not occur to your family that those one-of-a-kind albums are wrapped in plastic in your storage unit. If your mother’s handwritten sponge cake recipe is important to you, better tell someone you use it as a bookmark to keep it flat. Cleaning out someone’s belongings after they’ve died is a difficult and emotional time, it’s easy for things to get lost. If it’s important to you that something be kept and cherished, tell someone where it is. Also write it down and keep it in the folder with your important information.
It’s important to think about what will happen when you pass, and planning of this kind can save your family many headaches at an already difficult time. To learn more about what others have found helpful in dealing with death in their lives, check out the latest episodes of our podcast, Death Defined