In addition to remembering your loved ones on this Memorial Day, perhaps you should consider how you want to be remembered when you are gone. I have just completed the administration of my parents’ estates after my father’s sudden death about seventeen months ago. During this emotional and time-consuming process, I often had reason to think about the many things he did right before he died.
(1) He had a recently updated will.
After my mother died, my father considered again his wishes for where his possessions and property would go, and updated his will. He died just six months after my mother, so it was a good thing he didn’t procrastinate.
I met with his lawyer with him, and he explained why he wanted the changes he did. I therefore felt able to carry out his wishes after his death. He also showed me where his important documents were, including the keys to the safety deposit box. (And I made a note of these things, and I even located the note after he died.)
(2) He involved me in his financial affairs before he died.
I was to be his executor, and I knew it. Once it became clear that my mother’s Alzheimer’s Disease made her incapable of handling financial matters, he showed me his bank and brokerage account statements and told me how to log into those accounts so I could monitor them myself. This was at least three or four years before he died. I didn’t watch the accounts regularly, but I did periodically. When he did pass away, I knew immediately how much he had in his checking account and how much in savings.
He also gave me his email password, and I could therefore use his address book to contact his friends by email after he passed away.
(3) He had me meet with several of his advisors.
In addition to the lawyer, he had also taken me to meet with his brokerage agent, with the realtor who had sold my parents the house he lived in, and with the accountant who did his taxes. These people were all familiar to me, and I with them. That made my transition to managing his affairs much easier.
(4) He kept his files well organized.
I noted in an earlier post that he already had all his tax calculations for 2014 done when he passed away on January 5, 2015. I have to admit that I am not nearly as organized as he was. But I really appreciated his attention to detail, in this as in so many other things throughout his life.
(5) He planned his funeral.
Well, actually, he planned my mother’s funeral. But as he did so, he and I talked about what he wanted and what he didn’t in his own funeral. So, six months later, as awful as it was, I was able to plan his.
(6) He had made arrangements for the next phase of his life.
The phone call announcing his death could just as easily been to announce that he had incurred a serious physical or mental disability and was incapacitated. Had that happened, I would have known where to start. He had already placed a deposit on a continuing care retirement community, where he planned to move about a year later. As usual, my father was one step ahead of the game.
While I wished he had downsized his home on his own and made this move, had he been incapacitated, I would have known where to start on finding a place providing the care he would have needed.
I suggest that we can all benefit from these six things that my father did right. Any of us could die or become disabled suddenly. It helps to be prepared.
Not everyone will be as proactive as my father—heaven knows, I’m not!
But we can all remember his last instructions to me, sent in an email on the day he died: “Plan, implement, and follow up.”
When has someone else’s preparation helped you in life?