Our 4-Step Death Preparation Checklist
No one knows for sure when they’re going to die. Rather than worrying about when the time will come, The Postage believes in proactive preparation for yourself and your loved ones. With our comprehensive death preparation checklist, you’ll learn about the decisions you should make, the documents you need to collect, and how to best organize the details of your life for when the time comes — however long or short that may be.
There are four documents you must always keep in proper working order:
- Last will and testament
- Living will
- Funeral plans
- Ethical will
Taking care of the items on this list will give you and your family peace of mind about the future, as you aren’t leaving behind any loose ends for others to tie up when you pass away.
1. Assemble Your Last Will and Testament
Despite what you might think, if you own anything, have dependents, or have any financial or legal responsibilities, you need a last will and testament. This document provides specific directions to your friends, family, and loved ones about your life, and it should include the following:
- Your estate: your assets, debts, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, etc.
- Your beneficiaries: who will receive the items in your estate
- The details: the terms of how the estate will be given to your beneficiaries
- The executor: the person or people in charge of the details
You must be clear and explicit when it comes to estate planning. Any ambiguity here will place your estate in probate for a judge to review, costing undue time, money, and stress for your loved ones. For this reason, we recommend you work with legal and financial experts when creating your last will and testament so that it’s legally and financially airtight.
2. Create an Advanced Directive
Known as a “living will” in some states, an advanced directive delivers specific instructions for doctors and your loved ones on what you want to happen if you are incapacitated or die suddenly. An essential part of your death preparation checklist, this planning document relieves stress on your loved ones by providing clear decisions for potentially difficult situations.
It should contain the following:
- Medical decisions
- DNR: Can a doctor resuscitate you if you die?
- POLST: Specific orders regarding medical care (e.g. nutrition, ventilator, etc.)
- A medical power of attorney
- Where you want to spend your last days: hospital, hospice, or home
- Financial decisions
- Durable power of attorney
- Who pays your bills
- Who makes the choices
- Bodily decisions
- Burial v. cremation
- Interment of remains
- Organ donor
- Donation to science
While you don’t necessarily need to have a lawyer review this document, it wouldn’t hurt to verify that everything you’ve decided is legally sound. The last thing you want to do is cause confusion during your last days about what you want to happen to your body.
3. Develop Your Funeral Plans
At The Postage, we encourage people to plan their own funerals, as it lessens the burden on families and friends left behind. Your grieving loved ones do not need to worry about your funeral details.
Things to consider for your funeral can include:
- Type of event
Whether you choose a somber reflection or celebratory event, you should ensure that your funeral expresses how you want to be remembered while also giving your loved ones the space to mourn you.
4. Write Your Ethical Will
The ethical will, a concept originating from Jewish cultural traditions, is growing in popularity as a heartfelt way to share your final thoughts outside of the legal — and often stuffy — estate planning proceedings.
An ethical will’s themes and contents typically include:
- Favorite stories
- Family recipes
- Personal messages
- Distribution of heirlooms not included in the estate
While an ethical will is not legally binding, it has been used by judges to determine intent if an estate goes into probate. Moreover, it provides your loved ones with your final thoughts in a way they can reflect upon for years to come.
The Importance of Completing Your Death Preparation Checklist
Making plans for the end of your life doesn’t make you morbid. It makes you prepared. Statistics tell us that most Americans have never created any end-of-life plans, including high-profile celebrities and others with substantial estates. When this happens, their last days are spent undesirably — negotiating and debating amongst family, legal teams, and accountants.
When you take the time to prepare for death, you put your loved ones’ needs first. Yes, it’s your life being discussed, but you’re actually giving people clear instructions about what you want to see happen when you die. When there are no questions about your last wishes, your family and friends can spend more time remembering and grieving you.
It truly is one of the best gifts you can ever give them, and The Postage can help you fulfill that.