Death is an important part of life that we don't always like to think about. We are taught at an early age that it is the natural order of things for people and animals to age and then pass on, but not how to face these facts or plan for them. But while the thought of death may frighten us, confuse us, and sadden us at times, it doesn't have to be as overwhelming as it seems. There are steps you can take today to make sure that your wishes will be carried out and save you and your family many unexpected emotional and financial difficulties in the future.
Step 1: Prepare Your Estate
Over the course of a lifetime you may have acquired bank accounts, properties, assets, and debts. It is never too early to start thinking about preparing a will or instructions on to whom you leave your priceless baseball card collection. When you pass, will your current assets be able to cover your debts? You will want to contact professional legal counsel to help you ensure you leave your possessions to your family and not a sizable loan with a high interest rate. Collect all of your bank account numbers, passport, and other important documents and store them in a secure place like a security box or safe. Here is a list of items you should have:
- Documents you may need to complete the tasks
- Death Certificates (10 - 15 certified copies)
- Social Security Card
- Marriage Certificate
- Birth Certificate
- Birth Certificate for each child, if applicable
- Insurance Policies
- Deed and Titles to Property
- Stock Certificates
- Bank Books
- Honorable Discharge Papers for a Veteran and/or V.A. Claim Number
- Recent Income Tax Forms and W-2 Forms
- Automobile Title and Registration Papers
Step 2: Select a Funeral Home and a Cemetery
The funeral home and cemetery are some of the largest costs your family will have to pay if your arrangements aren't pre-planned. Your family will be struggling to adjust to losing a family member, not to mention deciding where you will be buried, what casket to choose, what will you be wearing for your funeral, where to find a florist, notifying family and friends of your passing, purchasing plots at a cemetery, selecting and designing a headstone...the list goes on. The more you can get done today the better! Even pre-paying for services, plots at the cemetery, and purchasing your headstone could save you thousands of dollars with the increasing cost of land, resources, and labor. People have come in to our store with deeds they purchased for $5.00 a piece when cemeteries were just opening their gates. Now those deeds are worth up to $500! Do the math, and you may realize that if its something you and your family will have to spend money on someday, there is no day like the present.
In our industry we are finding more and more families are choosing pre-planning when it comes to choosing a headstone. You may have loved to fish, but would you want a big mouth bass on your stone? Those are questions that can't be answered after the fact. Take the time to have your stone designed the way you want it, and be remembered how you would like to be remembered. The headstone can be placed at the cemetery with 95% of the cost paid for with the stone and plots purchased. The only thing your family will have to purchase is the engraving of the final date which is a minimal expense, or you can choose to pre-pay a funeral director to have the work done when the time comes.
Note: Veterans may be able to get assistance with his/her funeral, plot, or marker. Contact the U.S. Dept of Veteran Affairs and have your DD214 to qualify. Visit their website here or call 1-800-827-1000.
Step 3: Talk to Your Family
It is sad to say, but sometimes this is the one step that is left off the list. Talking with your family about your arrangements and letting them know your wishes is key. You can appoint someone in your family to be in charge of handling your affairs after your passing and communicate with them what exactly they will be responsible for. They may have to notify family and friends as to when the funeral and wake will be, ensure that your will and estate are taken care of properly, and communicate with the funeral home about the process so that they can let your family and friends know what is going to happen after death has occurred.
Using additional resources besides family, such as a counselor, is also a good idea. Getting your thoughts and emotions together in a constructive way can give you the perspective you need to get things in order and to decide what activities or destinations you would like to experience if you are able.
Working in the family business since I was sixteen has really given me a lot of different perspectives from the families our company has served. I have had the chance to meet many different individuals and have come to the understanding that no matter how different or unique we as human beings may be, we all do have things in common. Businesses like Kovenz Memorial and your local funeral homes will always be more than happy to discuss end of life decisions with you and make what is sometimes a difficult time, at the very least, a little less confusing with a comforting hand.