Planning Ahead for Life's Final Event
Our business is financial planning. We believe that establishing goals and helping our clients achieve them is important. However, one event is tough for everyone to plan for—and that is death! Inevitable though it may be, we all think that if we ignore it, we can prevent it from happening, or at least postpone it!
This article is a little different, it is about giving your family guidance as to your final wishes. If you have ever been in the position of having to plan a funeral, you know how welcome instructions from the deceased would have been. In fact, it is one of the kindest things you can do for your heirs. So here we have listed some things for you to think of while you are still very much alive! And if you have parents, you might ask them to help you in this regard.
My primary source for this questionnaire is Lauren Lindsay who is a financial planner in Louisiana. She gives her clients a form to complete and asks them to send it to her to put in their files for future reference. It includes the following questions, which I have edited somewhat.
Disposition of the body
- Do you want to donate your body or organs?
- If so, to whom?
- Do you have a preferred mortuary or funeral home?
- Have you made arrangements or discussed your preferences with them?
- Have you paid for all or part of your arrangements?
- If so please provide details/contract.
- Do you want to have a visitation? If so provide details.
- If you desire visitation, do you prefer an open casket or closed casket?
- Do you have a preferred casket?
- Do you prefer cremation or embalmment?
- If cremation, do you want it before the funeral, but after the visitation?
- What do you want done with your ashes?
- Have you preplanned the cremation?
Funeral (or Celebration of your life):
- What kind of memorial service would you prefer? Religious or non-religious?
- Where would you like it to take place?
- Suggested pallbearers?
- Suggested music?
- Suggested readings?
- Suggested speaker(s) for eulogy?
- Would you like flowers?
- If so, what flowers would you prefer?
- Where should the flowers go after the service?
- If you prefer people to make a memorial donation in lieu of flowers, what charities do you want designated? (Here it is good to name more than one, and you could add “or to the charity of your choice.”)
- Where do you want to be buried?
- Have you made burial arrangements? If so, please provide details.
- Do you want to have a social event after the funeral? If so, give details.
Provide contact information for anyone you want notified of your death.
To this list, I’d add that it would be helpful to have instructions about your obituary. Do you just want a simple notice in the paper or do you want to include information about your life? How often have you read someone’s obituary and wished you had known that about someone before they died?
In my own case, my older sister was diagnosed with cancer and was given six months to live. She was 15 years older than I was and a historian, so I knew she could provide the facts of her life much better than I could. Together we wrote her obituary which was ready for press at the appropriate moment. That way it was accurate and she could include what she wanted!
Once you get this list together, I suggest you consider having a family meeting to share this information or, at the very least, give this information to the person whom you expect to handle the details when you die.
Although this is a tough concept for all of us to think about, you really would be doing your family a big favor by planning for this final event of your life!
- Alex Armstrong, CFP®