I consider it a wake-up call. The sudden decline and death of my sweet little dog in a 24-hour period underscored for me that any one of us can be gone before we know what hit us. Once again, the organizer in me kicked in.
My husband and I actually began discussing our final wishes 2 1/2 years ago, when we found ourselves unexpectedly responsible for the end-of-life decisions for a friend. (This led to a frank conversation with my parents, which I was very glad to have had when my mother passed away less than a year later, as documented in Planning for the End). At that time, I created a hanging folder to capture the decisions we made and the forms needed to support those decisions. Calling this folder “Death” seemed too stark. So I decided to call it “Afterlife”. Not only was this perkier, but its alphabetical advantage enabled it to be the first folder in the first drawer in my file cabinet.
Starting that conversation was great (and surprisingly enjoyable), but we never took the next step and documented all the things that really needed to be in the folder. Over the past few days, however, I rectified that oversight. Here’s what I added.
- Where in our file cabinet important documents can be found.
- Where on my computer important files can be found, including my passwords file.
- Location of our wills and other advance directives (such as our Health Care Proxies).
- Our financial accounts and how much they are worth right now.
- My employer pension plans and how to contact them in case there are survivors’ benefits.
- Life insurance policies.
- Which bills are on autopay, and to which bank or credit card accounts they are linked.
- Location of our safe deposit box, what is in it, and where in my desk to find the key.
- The contact information for a crematorium, as we would both like to be cremated.
- Copies of the organ donation forms we submitted to New York State over the weekend.
There are still a few items to be added, such as:
- What I would need to do to continue the health insurance plan provided by my husband’s employer.
- Canceling social media accounts.
- How to shut down my business.
I know that many people get very squeamish when talking about their own deaths, and this prevents them from thinking about these matters. But I can tell you that I feel GREAT knowing that my family will have an easy time handling this minutiae after I’m gone. Taking control of your end of life is empowering. You will be amazed at what a relief it is to get all this information documented.