I know it’s a terrible time to be writing this post. Or maybe, depending on how you look at it, it’s the perfect time.
I ran across an article in TIME titled, “Why You Need to Make a ‘When I Die’ File – Before It’s Too Late”. It’s a good read that you should check out. It reminded me of the article I wrote recently on “Loved Ones Must Know Your Health Care Wishes” and how important it is to plan a little for the future.
Talking about illness and death isn’t fun. None of us want to do it. I remember every time we visited my father-in-law, he would at some point have the “When I die…” conversation. On one hand, you dread it. That’s not why you came to visit. It’s to enjoy his company. But when his health did start failing, we were prepared. And it allowed us to focus on making his final days comfortable versus worrying about papers, insurance, etc.
The gist of the TIME article was to put all of those things that someone might want or need in a file. It could be a paper file or an electronic one. That’s up to you. But think about what you might want to share with someone. I kinda like calling it a FINAL file versus “When I Die” folder. You can figure out what you want to call it. Here are a few things to consider:
Family traditions. One of the things that struck me in the TIME article was that a mother included her famous family recipes in her FINAL file. I could totally see that being important to her children. How many traditions are passed along from generation to generation? And how many of those famous meals are simply in someone’s head?
Estate and household paperwork. Make sure your will, power of attorney, and health care directives are someplace where people can access them. Also make sure that whoever will be handling your affairs knows where your bills are because they have to take care of paying your final utilities bills, credit cards, etc.
Directions on how to access your digital life. In today’s very technology driven world, chances are we have cell phones and computers. They’re probably locked with passcodes and should be changed regularly. I know that I don’t want to let a bunch of people know every time I change a password. But it could make sense for me to keep all of my passwords in a password management program with instructions how to access it in my FINAL file.
Final letters to loved ones. Depending on your situation, you might want to draft final letters to relatives and have them in your FINAL file. Maybe to a spouse, child or grandchild. Possibly to someone who you haven’t spoken with in a long time. Entirely your decision, but nonetheless, a decision you should think about.
The goal here isn’t to do all of this at once. Which is exactly why you want to start this project earlier than you might think. But maybe take an hour each month to start thinking about it and putting it together. This could be a good project for us to remember all of the estate planning we need to do. And it will ultimately be helpful for our family and friends at some point in the future.