"Getting your affairs in order" is not just for those who are seriously ill. When you die, your family should grieve over who they've lost, not what they can't find.
"Death isn't age specific, and it can happen quickly and very unexpectedly," says Fran Solomon, founder of healgrief.org, a not-for-profit company that provides a website where loved ones can mourn while also celebrating the lives of those who died. She says that too often, survivors are saddled with a scavenger hunt to find important documents when they are grieving. Worse, some of those documents are not an easily followed paper trail but are online, completely out of reach to your loved ones unless they know where to look.
Solomon offers these tips to ease some of the difficulties and lessen the pain for your survivors:
BUDGET Funerals can leave family members with choices they don't want to make and with bills they are not equipped to pay. Think about having a dedicated savings account for your funeral or prepaying funeral costs. And understand that these traditions are expensive. "We have found that you can't bury someone with dignity for under $10,000," Solomon says.
ORGANIZE Let your loved ones know where to find important papers and documents such as your Social Security card, your will, insurance policies, pension, bank-account and credit-card information. Remember, it will be difficult for your heirs to retrieve information from your online accounts if they don't know your user names and passwords. Make a list of all accounts with their logon information. "We suggest there be one place, one person, one file, whether it be with an attorney, trusted friend or a safe," Solomon says. Also, do you want your Facebook or other social media accounts to live on as a tribute or do you want them taken down after you're gone? Leave detailed instructions.
NOTIFY Make a list of people you want notified when you die. Chances are your spouse or children do not know everything about your early life or even know the names of your old friends and schoolmates. "Who would they want us to contact?" Solomon says. "Who was in their life before us?"
Solomon says, as uncomfortable as it may be to think about dying, making arrangements can give you peace of mind. "You are taking that taboo out of death and controlling your own destiny."