Death is unpreventable but how we choose to handle it and the decisions we make beforehand can leave our heartbroken loved ones with even more difficult situations if we’re not prepared. For those that want to prepare well in advance in case of illness or accidents, a getting affairs in order before death checklist can make the task easier. End of life planning can help ease the burden on your family, while planning your own funeral details can guide decision-making during a difficult time.
First, there are some important steps to take to make sure your paperwork and finances are in order, so that your family isn’t left with a jumble to sort through while they’re grieving. Although the process may look different for everyone, here are some necessary documents and steps you’ll need to take regardless of your situation.
End of Life Planning Documents
Some of these details may seem quite simple but having the essential identification documentation as well as ownership documents will avoid problematic issues. Here’s what you’ll need to gather and have on file for your loved ones:
- Birth certificate
- Marriage, divorce, or adoption certificates
- A living will with power of attorney information and any legal paperwork
- Deeds to properties – houses, land, autos
- Bank information – account numbers and necessary documents as well as a credit card, debit card, and bank contact information
- Investment information for any stocks, bonds, or other investments
- Income and assets like 401(k)s, IRAs, pension, retirement, and interest information
- Recurring bills and account information for utilities
- Children’s teachers, doctors, history of necessary information such as allergies, health issues, etc.
- Pet veterinarians, records of pet history, and care information
- Contact information for attorneys, accountants, financial planners, stockbrokers, and any other important business partners or associates.
Getting your affairs in order before death by creating a file with the necessary information for your loved ones is a great first step. End of life planning can be an emotional and daunting time, but your family will be protected and provided peace of mind with your forethought and decisions.. Planning your own funeral is also becoming more commonplace. By specifying the details of your funeral, you’ll take a burden off your family and determine exactly how you choose to be celebrated and remembered.
Planning Your Own Funeral
The first step toward planning a funeral is deciding what type of service or event you’d like to have, along with what type of burial. Here are the types of services and memorials you can choose:
- Funeral service
- Graveside service
- Crematory service
- Memorial service
- Cremation viewing
- No funeral home events
- A private event
- A celebration of life
Additional details of events you can decide on are:
- A viewing – these can be held formally at the funeral home once the body has been prepared, or at a gathering with a cremation urn or memorial photos on display.
- A wake or visitation before the funeral – these are traditionally held at the homes of family members or loved ones.
- A reception after the funeral – held either at the funeral home or privately.
- Any specific religious events
You can also decide what is done with your body. If you are opting for a lower cost, cremation may be the way to go, with some cremations costing as little as $1,000 and affordable urn options. If you’re eco-conscious, you can choose various green burials, or even ocean burials. You can also dictate where you’d like your ashes scattered, or donate your body to help make scientific breakthroughs. Both physicians and even criminal investigators can use bodies for organ transplants, to identify illness or disease, or even to study decomposition to help discover or identify missing persons.
Finances can play a role in how you choose to plan your funeral. A traditional burial organized through a funeral home can include many different funeral costs and can leave your family in debt, since the average costs of burials can be anywhere from a few thousand up to $20,000 or more. Knowing the cost of burials might steer your decision towards cremation and a private viewing at your own home. It may also push you to start a savings account dedicated to funeral costs so that your loved ones aren’t left scrambling financially. Some funeral homes may even allow you to pre-plan and start contributing monthly payments toward your desired services before death.
Leaving your loved ones with a dedicated plan down to the personal touches can help you be remembered the way you wish. Here are some additional details you can plan:
- Location of funeral, service, or other events
- Officiates and pallbearers
- Who will deliver eulogies, prayers, readings
- The music you wish to be played
- Any flowers or plants to be displayed
- Photos for display
- Any catering wishes
- Who can attend and anybody you’d prefer not attend
- Writing your own obituary
Since death is inevitable, end of life planning should not be considered morbid; however, family and friends may shy away from having conversations about death. Taking small steps to prepare and organize now will make having the conversation with your loved ones easier. It’ll be important to discuss details and decisions with them to prepare them for when the time comes. Plan your last hurrah the way you’d want to be remembered – creating a space for your loved ones to celebrate your life, their memories with you, or to mourn if they need to. A good funeral or memorial will be an event that allows for laughter or tears.
The checklist below will help guide you in getting your affairs in order before death and to include necessary plans you’d like carried out upon your death. You can also use the planning your own funeral checklist to fill in the details you’d like adhered to, and to relieve your loved ones of any hard decision-making during a time of grief.
Getting Affairs in Order Before Death Checklist
Gather important documents and make copies to store in a file for your loved ones with labels or any necessary explanations for the below documents.
- Social Security
- Birth Certificate
- Marriage and/or divorce certificates
- Adoption certificates
- Deeds – house, cars, property and any mortgage or loan information
- Bank information – accounts, debit and credit cards
- Retirement, pension, 401k and related documentation from previous employers.
- Recurring bills, including relevant payment information
- Stocks, bonds, investor contact information
- Business partner contracts and contact information
- Business ownership – all necessary documents
- Pets – include your pet documents, vet information, previous history, feeding info, and any related information for the care of your animals
- Children – If children are young, any school-related information and historical paperwork including medical documents, etc.
- Living will, power of attorney, and solicitor contact information
Planning Your Own Funeral Checklist
We have made the planning process one step easier for you and created a helpful checklist you may use to plan your own funeral. Click HERE to view this checklist and print it at home to go with your other important end of life documents.