For the last decade of my father-in-law’s life, every time we visited him, he would find an hour to chat with us about his final wishes. It was never on the first day or the last. It was never over dinner. But at some point, he would find a few moments to talk about what he wanted his final days to be like and how he wanted his matters handled by family when he was gone.
Keith and I came to expect these little chats every time we visited him.
Now that we’re getting older, we’re trying to figure out when we should start having those chats with people. First of all, it’s a great reminder that if you haven’t already thought about the executor of your estate…now’s a good time. And don’t let that term intimidate you. Whether you have $1 or $1M, somebody is going to have to handle your final affairs.
AARP Publishing has a book out titled, “Checklist for My Family” by Sally Balch Hurme, J.D.. This 250-page book outlines ten areas of our life that we might want to consider documenting. Some of them are very predictable like life insurance, investments, and real estate. Others are more surprising such as items to destroy, rewards programs, and pet care.
I’m sure for many, the task of handling a person’s final affairs is given to a child. Keith and I have an interesting dynamic to consider because we don’t have children. I found this book to be something that we could complete and leave it in a place for the executor of our estate to review. I love that everything is in a single book, so our executor only has to find one thing – the book. And we can keep the book in a safe place or mail it to our executor.
The book has two parts. The first part is my “to-do” list. This is where I need to review items, make decisions about how I would like things handled by family, etc. The second part is where I document those decisions. Looking back, my father-in-law was quite the planner and there were plenty of things he forgot to tell us. This book reminds me that while there are several major decisions to make, there are lots of smaller decisions to consider as well.
If I have one criticism about the book, it’s that the author doesn’t put enough emphasis on technology. The book does reference digital assets, but most of us have multiple social media accounts, emails, etc. and at some point, somebody will be given the task of deleting my digital life. In future editions, I could see technology being a separate chapter versus just a few pages.
At some point in time, we have to start making plans for our final days. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t want to rush those decisions. Having a checklist for family that I can pick up and put down at my leisure makes me feel in control. And isn’t that want we’re trying to do – be in control of how our affairs are handled.