In today’s Dear Abby column, a single person with grown children wrote in saying, “I want to make sure I am not a burden to them even after death. I have a will and no bills. What else do I need to do?” The correspondent poses a great end-of-life preparation question.
Dear Abby replied with questions about whether he/she had an advance directive for health care, at least one health care advocate named to carry out those wishes, a cemetery plot selected and paid for and money set aside for a funeral or memorial. And if those items were taken care of, just make the children aware of it.
That sounds simple enough. However, she could have gone further. Here are five tips from The Doyenne of Death® to round out Dear Abby’s advice:
Tip One: Write your own obituary. It’s your life story, tell it your way. Your kids may not know all the details that you’d want known. They can edit it down for the newspaper to minimize that cost or run it free online in all its full glory. Colorful, humorous obituaries can make you famous when they go viral. Plus, you’ll take that burden off their shoulders.
Tip Two: Decide what kind of disposition method you want. Dear Abby assumed the person would be buried, not cremated. A national average of 42% of Americans are choosing cremation, with rates of 60-78% of the population in Western states being cremated. You can also donate your body to science, but the paperwork must be filled out while you’re alive and in sound mental shape.
Tip Three: Put your funeral plans on file with a reputable funeral home, and let your kids know you’ve pre-planned. If you can afford to pre-pay with a guaranteed funeral trust or insurance policy, let them know you’ve done that and where the kids can find the paperwork.
Tip Four: Don’t assume the kids will be level-headed about splitting up your personal possessions. Have a sit-down meeting at your home and let the siblings discuss which of your items they want. Then put labels on those items to help head off disputes after you’re gone.
Tip Five: What about being a burden before death? Very few of us go from being healthy to dead quickly. The idea of going to sleep and not waking up is appealing, but highly unlikely. What insurance do you have in place to help you avoid being a burden if you become a frail elderly or demented person? A health care crisis without insurance is a fast track to bankruptcy. Medicare only covers so much.
It’s also a good idea to make a master file of information on accounts and benefits that you have – everything from banks and brokerages to utilities and veterans information. If you’ve got a will and no bills, these additional funeral planning tips will help you avoid being a burden on your kids.
Gail Rubin, CT, The Doyenne of Death®, is author of the award-winning book and host of the TV and radio shows A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die. She is Certified in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement by the Association for Death Education and Counseling. A pioneering Death Café hostess, she brings a light touch to serious subjects, using humor and funny films to attract people to discuss mortality and funeral planning issues. Her website is https://agoodgoodbye.com/