Preparing for Death:
|In addition to preparing
spiritually for death -- a lifelong endeavor covered elsewhere on this
site -- you should also prepare in more material ways. Ensuring that
your affairs are in order such that, when you die, your loved ones can
carry on with as little disruption to their lives as possible is a
great gift you can give to them. Don't wait until you are old or sick
to do this! Do it now, no matter your age or health. Talk to your loved
ones about their doing the same.
To ease your family through your eventually leaving them behind, create
a "Death File" that includes information they need to as painlessly as
possibly carry on without you, and information you want them to have to
care for you while you're ill and dying. Get a fire-proof file box to
keep this file in (consider putting the same information on a USB thumb
drive as well), and let family members know where it is. Include the
following in this "Death File":
Last Will and
To make your will:
- List your assets
on a piece of paper, whether the assets consist of real property,
personal property, or intellectual property. With regard to personal
property, walk through your house and note heirlooms and various things
you wish people to have after you die.
- Determine to
whom you want to leave each asset. For assets that are heirlooms or
that have stories behind them, consider writing those stories down and
including them in your Death File so that the assets' significance
won't be lost with your death (e.g., "the silver dish once belonged to
my great-Grandmother Caterina, who brought it from Italy when she
- Decide who will
act as your Executor or Executrix (the person who will act as your
representative in carrying out your wishes as expressed in your will).
Choose an alternate Executor or Executrix in case your first choice is
unable to perform those duties.
- Write your will,
either on your own (see https://eforms.com/wills/) or with the help of
- Get your will
witnessed by two witnesses before a notary public.
- Give a copy of
your will to your attorney, consider registering it with your county's
probate court, give copies to family members, etc. At a minimum, let
family members know that a copy of your Last Will and Testament will be
kept in your "Death File," and let them know where you'll be keeping
Note any insurance you might have, and list beneficiaries and whom to
contact to receive any renumeration.
Note all bank accounts (including online accounts such as PayPal,
Venmo, etc.) and safe deposit box locations, and include all account
Note locations of any necessary keys.
Have a list of any passwords family members might need to know -- e.g.,
for online banking, to pay utility bills, to make car payments and
mortgage payments, to deal with property taxes, to handle any websites
or blogs you own, etc.
Have a list of utility and other accounts that need monthly attention
(e.g., mortgage, rent, electricity, gas, water, sewer, phone,
insurance, streaming services, etc.), and include: amounts typically
owed each month for each, and also account numbers, phone numbers,
addresses, and online passwords relevant to the utilities or
Note what you want done with any social media accounts you may have.
Include any necessary passwords if you want those accounts to continue
without you or if you want those accounts used to make death
Note any pre-paid funeral arrangments you've made, burial plots already
paid for, etc.
Note any care needed for pets and plants left behind, and whom you
entrust with such care.
Note the location of things family tends to care about (e.g., family
photographs, home movies, heirlooms, etc.).
With regard to heirlooms, as said above, write down any information
that helps your family understand their provenance and history, where
they came from, whom they came from, memories associated with them,
reasons for their importance to you, etc.
Leave a note to remind family members to remove your name from your
State's voter registration database after your death (check your
registration here: https://www.vote.org/am-i-registered-to-vote/).
End of Life Care
Make an Advance Directive to ensure your wishes about your end of life
care are clearly outlined (see
a copy of your Advance Directive to your primary physician as well as
including one in your "Death File." Don't forget to include in this
directive the name of your parish and priest, and relevant contact
Include a note containing information that would help family members
make your death as pleasant as possible for you. What do you want your
deathbed to be like, if at all possible? What sorts of reading,
spiritual helps, foods, drinks,
music, fragrances, entertainments, visitors, services, etc., would you
want available to you? What do you not
want? Are there certain people you want to be notified of your illness?
If so, include contact information.
If you already have your funeral arranged and a burial plot purchased,
write down all necessary information so your family can proceed
according to your plans. Otherwise, answer these questions on a piece
- Where and by
whom do you want your funeral Mass said?
- How do you want
your body to be disposed?
- If you'll be
buried, what sort of casket do you want?
- If you'll be
cremated, what do you want done with your ashes? (Note that cremation
is okay if it is not being done for
non-Christian purposes. It is fine to be cremated to save your
family money after you die. If you choose cremation, it should,
ideally, follow your funeral Mass at which your intact body is present.
After cremation, you should not have your ashes scattered or kept at
someone's home; they should be buried in a grave or entombed in a
mausoleum or columbarium.)
- Is there a
funeral home you prefer or do you want a home funeral?
- What do you want
your funeral to be like?
- Do you want
flowers? If so, what kind? Do you want contributions to be made
somewhere in lieu of or in addition to flowers?
- Do you want to
have funeral cards made? If so, what sort or message or image would you
want them to have?
- What do you want
your wake to be like? Consider food, drinks, music, speakers, etc.
- What do you want
written on any tombstone or monument you have?
- What do you want
said in your obituary? Consider writing your own obituary and including
it in your Death File.
- Are there
certain people you want to be notified personally of your death? If so,
include relevant contact information.
- Also very
important: what would your family members want for you or for
themselves at this time?
Include any letters you want to leave for family members to read after
your death, including notes to be kept in envelopes and marked to be
read at specific times, such as on various holidays (e.g., "To be read
the Christmas after my death"; "To my husband on his birthday after my
death," etc.). Consider making videos and other recordings for these
purposes. One could get creative here and even leave gifts to be opened
after death on certain dates, have parties arranged to be celebrated,
Note where and when you want any memorial Masses offered.
Include in your file any genealogical information you have -- family
trees, records, stories, etc. -- or note where any such information you
have can be found.
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