Death is the most predictable single event in every person's life...
... and yet so many of us find even the thought of our own death or a loved one's too painful to contemplate.
It's not just the funeral that you need to think about. Each of us might have bank accounts, property, vehicles, investments or companies that need to be sorted out. If you are fortunate enough to have time to organise this yourself before your death, it will be a much easier task on your family, however for some of us, death will come suddenly and if there is nothing in place, there will be a fair bit of 'admin' to sort through.
Fortunately there is a lot we can do now, to make that event more manageable for our families and ourselves, when the time comes.
Getting your ducks in a row:
Prepare a will - Preparing a will may involve time and money, but it can make life easier for the ones left behind and isn’t just about assets and finances.
- If you die without a will, it is referred to as dying ‘intestate’. This means that the law will decide who inherits your money and possessions. The rules can differ slightly between states and territories, but the bottom line is that you, nor your family will have any say in who gets what.
- There are Will kits that you can download from the internet or buy from the post office. It is recommended to seek the advice of a lawyer depending on your finacial situation as those kits may not be suitable for your circumstances.
- When you write a will you choose an executor/s who you entrust to carry out the terms of your will. This might be your partner, a family member or friend who knows your financial situation. A Will can also be updated and changed at any time, so what you write in there now is not set in stone... unless you die or become mentally incapacitated before you can change it.
- Remember to tell the person you've nominated as your executor where you have safely stored your Will and other documents.
Power of Attorney & Power of Guardianship:
- Enduring Power of Attorney is a person that you can nominate to act on your behalf on financial and property matters. They are not authorised to make decisions on your health or lifestyle.
- Enduring Power of Guardianship is a person that you can nominate to act on your behlf on health and lifestyle matters. They are not authorised to make financial or property decisions.
You can hire a lawyer to draw up these documents or you can download them free from the internet - each state has their own forms. They must be signed and witnessed accordingly to be valid.
If you have chosen to appoint a Power of Attorney, depending on how you have worded the agreement, they may be able to access certain things either on your behalf or after you've gone, but here's a few things you might consider:
- are your bank accounts in joint names? If only in your name, who has authority to access the accounts ?
- you may have an accountant who is all over your finances, but if not, do you have a list of assets, investments & business information that is simple for your executor/s to access and understand?
- if bills are in your name, do you have somebody set up as an authority on those accounts?
- have you got a list of all your passwords? Where are they? Who knows they are there?
- do you have personal items that are not included in your Will that you'd like to distribute?
Planning the funeral: You don't need to plan your funeral in detail right now, but consider these questions so you have some control and those left behind have a starting point:
Things to think about now:
- what facilties are available in your area?
- nursing homes
- palliative care
- aged care
- funeral homes
- Speak with family and friends about how they can help with the planning and during the actual funeral ceremony ie: pallbearers, reading the eulogy & organising the wake, to name a few.
Now, down to the nitty gritty...
- burial or cremation?
- do you have a choice of cemetary?
- would you like a headstone or a plaque?
- what style of coffin would you prefer?
- would you like a graveside service or a chapel?
- would you like your ashes interred? If so, where?
- perhaps you'd like your ashes to be scattered somewhere special? If so, where?
- maybe something creative like placing some of the ashes into a piece of jewellery?
- would you rather keep the ashes in an urn at home?
Other things to consider:
- would you like a civil or religious service - or maybe a bit of both?
- do you have a choice of celebrant or religious priest/minister?
- do you have a preference for floral arrangements?
- what pieces of music would you like played?
- would you like a photo montage of your life? who has all those photos?
While it is important to impart your wishes to your family, in many ways, the funeral is not for the person who has died - It is for the living who are left behind:
- to acknowledge their loss,
- to honour the contributions the person who has died has made to their lives, and
- to offer and recieve comfort and support from one another.
Taking the time to reminise, plan, organise and participate in the ceremony are practical things your family can do to assist them in dealing with your loss and help to reestablish order in their lives.
The Celebrants Network has many experienced and compassionate celebrants who specialist in funerals and prefuneral planning. Find your local celebrant HERE