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How to Prepare Your Family for Your Death


There is never a way to fully prepare your family for your death, but there are steps you can take which will make what follows easier on all who survive you.

Here are six actions you can take to address many of the common issues facing families when a member dies:

1.     Get a will. Family members may balk at this conversation. After all, planning for death means acknowledging that someday you will die. But everyone should have a will. Explain to your family that if you don’t have a will, the state may end up determining who gets your assets and, if you have minor children, who will care for your kids. That determination can become a complicated process and take more time than it would if there is a will.

2.     Buy life insurance. If you are currently relied upon to provide financial support for your family, life insurance is a way to make sure your family is taken care of after your death. In addition to providing some revenue to continue paying for living expenses, life insurance can be used to pay off debts and help defray future costs, such as for college or a wedding. In short, it can supply some peace of mind for your family.

3.     Check your beneficiaries. Make sure that your IRAs, 401k and life insurance all have the correct beneficiaries, the person or persons you want to receive the money after your death. Beneficiary documents supersede divorce decrees and wills. This can become important in the case of divorce, when an ex-spouse is still listed as a beneficiary.

4.     Find and arrange all your documents. It’s not uncommon for people to have their will, life insurance policies and bank account information stashed in different places. Make sure all this documentation is in one place and can be accessed by a surviving spouse or family member. That person may need to access bank accounts to pay for funeral arrangements or other necessities. Other items to include in a file are your Social Security number, proof of purchase for major items, tax returns, legal forms for deeds, retirement accounts, rental agreements and computer and online passwords.

5.     Sort through your personal possessions. People often have things that are of real or sentimental value that others don’t know much about. Catalog these items and record why they are important. Also record who should inherit what items.

6.     Leave your last wishes. It’s important that you leave instructions on how you want your funeral handled. Do you want to be buried or cremated? What kind of service would you like? Should it be in a church or in the funeral home? Having this information removes a burden from your family members, who do not have to guess what kind of arrangements you would have wanted. You can also take another step and preplan your funeral through Funeral Matters, the online funeral planning tool.

It may not be easy to talk to your family about your death, but the conversation will be worth it. By taking the guesswork out of your arrangements and by securing your paperwork and finances you will be helping your family through a difficult process.