Get Your Affairs in Order by Organizing Your Life Before Death
The phrase “Get your affairs in order” immediately conjures up images of a doctor diagnosing you or a close family member with a terminal illness. As uncomfortable as that conversation is, health care professionals issue this directive because most people don’t prepare for death. While such an awful situation is definitely a reason for someone to plan for their passing, we believe the time to begin preparations is long before you hear those words. It’s important that people give some thought to what will happen after they pass.
In this article, we want to help you understand the following about getting your affairs in order before death:
- The documents you should collect
- The information you need
- The forms you must fill out
- The conversations you must have
- The planning you should do
- Why general organizing is important
Our goal is to help people prepare for the future by showing them the benefits of organizing in the present.
Our 5-Step Guide to Preparing for the Future Today
Let’s be honest: lots of people aren’t comfortable talking about death, dying, or the general idea that people they love (and they themselves) will all pass away someday. Not only do we want to remove the stigma from discussing death, but we also want to help people make end-of-life preparations well before they think they need it. Because no one really knows when it will happen.
When you plan for the future in the present, you can reduce the stress and anxiety around the topic of death for you and your family. More importantly, you won’t have to worry about doing all this when you’re dying, which means you can spend your remaining time with your family and loved ones.
1. Assemble Essential Documents
This is the first step on our checklist because it’s the most time-consuming and requires you to be the most detail-oriented. These documents can be broken down into 4 distinct areas:
- Personal – Birth certificate, Social Security number, employment records, etc.
- Medical – Insurance paperwork, Medicare, chronic conditions, DNR, etc.
- Financial – Income, bank accounts, investments, debts, assets, etc.
- Home & Property – Financing paperwork, lease information, auto loans, auto insurance, etc.
Once you’ve finished gathering everything together, it’s essential that you choose a single, secure location to keep everything and then tell someone. It won’t help your family with your after-death details if they can’t find everything in one fell swoop.
2. Collect Your Daily Details
Taking care of the big picture is essential, but the activities of everyday life are just as important. This is especially true when you consider the full extent of your digital presence.
- Contact Information – the names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of your most important family members and friends
- Social Media / Digital Life – your profile names, passwords, and what you want to happen to these online locations after you’re gone
- Medicines – what you take, when, and why in case you become compromised before you pass away
- Utilities – your account information about your electricity, gas, water, and lawn maintenance
- Technology Services – your account information for your cable, streaming platforms, cloud, and similar services
You need to take this step seriously, as it’s easy to forget such information because they feel so commonplace and habitual.
3. Prepare Your Estate
These legal documents are what most people think about when they hear “get your affairs in order,” mostly because it’s what we see in television and movies. But you can’t complete this one effectively without first taking care of steps 1 and 2.
- Last Will & Testament – What will happen with your possessions, responsibilities, and essential documents, including the executor who will be in charge of this process
- Durable Power of Attorney – Who will be responsible for your after-death affairs
- Trusts – Any special long-term arrangements for financial gifts
- Beneficiaries – Who will receive anything from your estate after your passing
Don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals for this step. Yes, there are online resources available to walk you through these crucial legal documents, but experts exist for a reason. While there is a cost involved with their services, you’ll probably save by taking care of things well in advance of your actual need.
4. Determine Your Decision-Makers
Here’s a big one, as it entails talking to people about death. It’s one thing to gather together a bunch of forms because you’re a good planner, but it’s something else entirely to actually share with people how you’re planning. Hence, you should get people’s approval and permission to be specifically named as part of your after-death care team.
- Estate – The aforementioned executor from step 3
- Healthcare – The person who will make the big decisions about your life if you are unable to do to
- Dependents – The people who will care for your dependents after you pass
- Pets – What will happen to your pets after you pass
Think of it this way: if you found out, without warning, that you were supposed to make heavy and serious decisions for a family member who was either incapacitated or deceased, wouldn’t you want to know beforehand?
This is why you will need the official “Do Not Resuscitate” document as we mentioned in step 1. It tells your family exactly what your wishes are if you ever enter a vegetative or unresponsive state. When you share with your loved ones whether or not you want to be let go without any life-saving measures (CPR, ventilators, etc), it removes the responsibility for the decision from their shoulders (as well as any potential guilt). While we do recommend an official DNR, even a few notes or instructions collected with your other documents would help your family in a difficult moment.
5. Plan Your Funeral
This might seem frivolous or macabre to some, but this is a very tangible way to help your family after you pass away. Providing these details in advance will be a huge boon to everyone.
- Your body – How you want your remains to be treated: traditional burial, cremation, turned into a diamond, buried in a tree, converted into a physical memorial
- Ceremony type – Whether it’s a funeral, memorial, wake, church service, military service, big party, or nothing at all
- Music – The songs you would like to commemorate your life
- Invitees – Who you want to attend the event (and who shouldn’t)
- Speakers – The people whom you think might want to say a few words
This is also a good opportunity to create your afterlife instructions about who gets the personal family heirlooms that don’t necessarily get accounted for in estate planning. While some people include such plans in their Last Will and Testament, others prefer to include a heartfelt message to the recipients of each gift as one last “goodbye.” In fact, The Postage provides you the opportunity to develop, record, and schedule when and how those messages will be sent out to the necessary people in your life.
Preparing for a memorial service without any idea of your wishes is not the stress your loved ones need. They deserve time to grieve — not worry about the guest list.
The Importance of Everyday Organization
Here’s the twist you might not have expected: once you get everything assembled in steps 1 through 5, you have to keep up with everything on a regular basis. Just doing everything once won’t help if your information changes between now and then. It’s crucial that you accomplish the following:
- Review your records once a year and update them accordingly
- Tell your essential family members and/or decision-makers where you keep this essential material
- Talk to your decision-makers if a big change occurs
- Get help from friends, family, loved ones, and trusted professionals
Don’t worry — everyday organization doesn’t mean turning your home into a Marie Kondo paradise, but it does require that you learn a couple of new habits. If it helps, think of it as learning a new routine. We recommend these starting points:
- Find a place for everything and put everything where it belongs as soon as possible
- Clean “hotspots” regularly, those places where you automatically drop everything when you enter the house
- Write everything down, whether on paper or in a time management app
- Review your records once a year, complete with sending the old stuff through a shredder
- Store your passwords and access information in a secure location
With a little bit of organization, the upkeep of both your daily records and big-picture information won’t be a difficult task. If you don’t know where to start, you should join The Postage. The Postage makes it simple to create your will, create your legacy plans, and share them with those who matter most. Start your planning today and give your loved ones the gift of peace of mind.