I just finished a three-part series on weddings or, more specifically, being a wedding guest. This week, I am addressing a completely different topic: funerals. Hence, the title for this column.
My uncle took his life over the weekend, and we (the family) learned he had made no arrangements nor had he left a will. His wife, who is fragile in general, is now left to deal with the loss of her husband, in addition to figuring out how to deal with his body. Since it was a suicide, there is an investigation going on, and in a couple of days she will need to figure out what to do, but that is just the tip of her personal iceberg.
Since I live the closest to her, and am good with details, I offered to take on the task of gathering information for her so she can make a decision of what she wishes to do. I must say, I feel rather educated on the subject of funerals, cremation, and death, and that knowledge is what prompted me to write this week’s column on:
Planning for the Inevitable
While you are still alive, you might want to, and should actually, take a bit of time to learn about the options you have with regard to what happens to your body after you are done living in it. There are many decisions to make and some paperwork prep you can pull together to make the process of handling your death easier on those you love and those who will be dealing with the loss of the wonderful you.
Preparing information is necessary and is such a huge help to those left to take care of your estate after you pass on. It is best to have your will and something stating your wishes where others can easily get to it. A safe deposit box is not wise, as by the time your loved ones can get access to it, many things may have already happened you didn’t want done. You can put the information in a file folder in your home or office labeled “Legal” or “Important,” or if you wish to be so bold and direct, “Death Info.”
Here is a list of items you will want to make note of:
1. Have a good copy of your will with clear directions of what is to happen with the things you leave behind, including your money.
2. Have a copy of what you wish to have done with your body, and let loved ones as well as your attorney and physician know what you want done, too. That goes for DNR (do not resuscitate) directives, no drastic measures instructions, or requests of no life-support past a certain point. These may seem like hard decisions now, but they become even more difficult for those mourning your death (or imminent death) when forced to make quick decisions on your behalf.
3. Decide between the various options for your funeral and final resting place. Here is a list of options you can consider in order to make your decision:
Burial — casket decision required
Cremation — decision of where ashes will go
Donate your body to science/organ donations
Memorial Service at funeral facility
Memorial Service at a personal place of worship or home, etc.
Service at the burial site
Service at a location for cremation remains
4. Paperwork is a big concern for most at this time. Below is a list of places that will need a copy of your death certificate before they will take direction on legal or financial matters from someone other than you. (Most will require an original copy, at a cost of about $15-$16 each, and some may accept a copy.) Keeping these documents together and in an obvious place like a file cabinet will help those who must deal with these details.
• Each life insurance company
• DMV — Department of Motor Vehicles
• Pension, IRA, or other retirement benefits
• Probate of will
• Each bank where account is maintained
• Final tax return
• Stocks and bonds
• Real property
• Your own files
Most mortuary facilities will send a courtesy notification to Social Security. Once you receive the Death Certificate, you can contact them to see if you are entitled to any benefit.
I know this is a subject few relish spending time on, but bottom line, it is inevitable, and planning ahead for your demise is thoughtful and kind. A dear friend was facing death this year, and since she had time before passing, she planned her funeral and every part of what to do with her body in fine detail, making her death a time to remember her and honor her. It was beautiful and far better than scurrying around taking care of major decisions when dealing with losing her, too.
Think about how you would feel being the one left with all those decisions to make if someone you loved passed on without anything planned out.