I am overwhelmingly aware that I’m an involuntary member of a very diverse, vulnerable, human club. People never join this club willingly, yet its members are true heroes who soldier on in courageous love and sensitive support of those around them. This club is made up of the people who have lost their beloved and who will always carry a drop of grief in their heart. This grief emerges in surprising ways for each unique club member. But all of us know it and all of us need to deal with it, in one way or another. This time of year is festive for most, but hellish for many who have suffered the recent loss of a loved one. I apologise for bursting your bubble here, but for just a moment I would like to get honest and real about some of the practicalities of the season. There some things that must be pulled out from the shadows.
I have a folder in my filing cabinet called “If I Die.” I’ve put all of the sorts of things in there that I wish my late husband had provided for me when he passed away unexpectedly in May 2014. Over these next few weeks, most of us will enjoy a festive break from our work, and some will be lucky enough to shut up shop altogether. I urge you to invest some of this time into reflecting on just how much you care for your loved ones, and the circumstance they would be left in if you were suddenly gone. After the gifts have been unwrapped, the turkey carved, and the pavlova consumed, please pull this little article back out and set up your own folder. Include these items listed here so that your loved ones would have the support they need. If the worst actually happened, the last thing you would want them to deal with is the messiness of wading through an unprepared business end of the situation.
1. Update your Will
If you don’t have one, make an appointment with your solicitor and have a will drawn up in the new year. At the very least, jump online and download a free version so that you have something in writing to help your loved ones manage your affairs if they need to. If you have children who depend on you, regardless of their age, you should have a plan for their care if you meet unexpected tragedy. When you look at their beautiful faces this Christmas, remember they will rely on you for this plan even if you are gone.
2. Enduring Power of Guardianship
If you were suddenly not well enough to make your own decisions, who would make them for you? If you could no longer make choices about your work, living arrangements, health care … who would step in for you? Nominate the person you trust in writing.
3. Enduring Power of Attorney – Financial
If something happened that made you unable to manage your own finances, someone else would need to do that for you. Ensure your intentions are clear and legally binding by nominating in writing and having a witness sign too
4. Enduring Power of Attorney – Medical
While our mortality is an uncomfortable reality that is difficult to face, it is also horrible to think that we may find ourselves alive but unable to manage our own health. Discuss this possibility with a loved one and if they agree to stand in your place, get it in writing.
5. Use a password keeper like LastPass or 1Password
The only reason I could access most of my late husbands profiles and accounts is that I happened to know most of his passwords. Some remain locked to this day, over three years later. Store them securely online and document the Master Password safely.
6. Give your trusted loved one access to all of your online places – google drive / dropbox, emails, passwords, website logins
My daughter, my assistant and my current partner Rod all have access to all of my online accounts and profiles. They would be able to act immediately if required to manage my affairs and smooth the transition should something untoward happen to me.
7. Compile these insurances: Life Insurance, Superannuation, Funeral Insurance, Life insurance with private healthcare
For a relatively brief period of investing into these administrative tasks, you and your loved ones will enjoy the ongoing security of knowing that the insurances you need are in place to ensure they are provided for if the worst happened. Just imagine if you didn’t …
8. Update the beneficiaries of your insurances
It’s one thing to have the insurances in place but entirely another to have your details up to date and the details of your beneficiaries. You can guarantee that things would run as smoothly as possible if these insurances were claimed by keeping them updated.
9. Ensure that your Next of Kin is the person you want managing your affairs
If you write your best friend as your next of kin at your doctor or dentist, this gives them a legally enforceable voice if tragedy struck. Consider who you’ve nominated in your Will and Power of Attorney documents to ensure your preferred carers can do their job.
10. Organ donor registration with Medicare and on your Drivers Licence
If this is your preference ensure it is clearly specified and documented. I carry my organ donor card in my wallet at all times because I would hate for precious moments of delay or confusion to mean the loss of benefit to another person in need of my healthy organs.
11. Funeral plans: Songs, texts, special people, broadcast online
Making plans for a funeral you never expected is a sad, dark task filled with overwhelming sorrow. Make it just a little smoother for those you love by writing up a few of the things you would like to be included. I know this would have been comforting for us.
12. Letters to loved ones
When he was gone, he was gone forever. The last thing he ever wrote to me was an email about a project we were working on with our website developer. None of us got a goodbye or farewell. Closure was ours to find ourselves. Write your last words of love and update them annually so that your people will have something to have and to hold until they too draw their last breath.