Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Preparing For Your Death

As Halloween is fast approaching, I thought that I would post about a rather morbid topic--preparing for your death.  Now we all know that death is inevitable, but we don't like to think about it.  However, it is really important that we have our plans in order so that our loved ones don't have to make these decisions for us while they are grieving.  So, I have prepared this list of a few of those things that we must all do in order to prepare for our deaths.  But remember, this type of a checklist can only be effective if we do those items on the list and if we put the completed checklist in a place where our loved ones can find it after our death.

1. Prepare a will.  I have previously posted on the importance of having a will, so see this post for more information about why a will is necessary.

2. Decide whether you would like to become an organ donor.  Organ donation can save many lives as well as enrich many lives, however, it is an intensely personal decision.  It is important to make this decision as early in life as possible, as we never know what may happen to us.  It is even more important to tell our family members of our decision and to memorialize the decision on our driver's licenses.

3. Decide whether you would like a funeral or a memorial service, and plan the service.  In essence, the difference between the two is that the body is present for a funeral and is not present for a memorial service.  A service typically involves use of poems or scripture, songs, and eulogies.  There are many websites available that assist in deciding what to songs, poems, and scripture to use.  Funeral directors as well as clergy can also be useful resources, as they have experience in planning these services.  However, remember that the service will be about you, so your preferences should be key.  The service can be very traditional or can be very unique.

4. Decide whether you would prefer burial or cremation.

5. Choose a funeral home.  Choosing a funeral home can make a world of difference for the family of the deceased.  It is important to focus not only on the cost, but also on the staff of a funeral home.  If they are easy to work with, professional, and kind, it will make the experience much easier for family.

6.  Keep copies of your will, living will, durable power of attorney, insurance policies, your checklist of wishes, funeral plans, and other important documents together in a fireproof safe where your loved ones are able to find it.  In the age of Internet, it is also wise to keep a list of your email and other online accounts with user names and passwords so that these accounts can be closed.

There are books and articles written on planning for death that are much more extensive than this post.  One that I have not read, but which seems to be well received is Death for Beginners.  A review of the book can be found here.

Obviously this list is not comprehensive, but instead is meant to get you thinking and planning for the eventuality of your death, so that it will be easier for your loved ones.  Please feel free to add additional items in the comments to this post, or to e-mail me.

Update 11/01/2010: This morning, I saw this interesting post about options for your body after death besides the traditional burial or cremation.

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