Saturday, June 28, 2014

Funeral Ideas

I attended a funeral this week and the talks were so great that I actually took notes so I could go read the full messages.  Here they are.  All can be watched online.

Two of the most important events in life are birth and death ...

Everyone’s situation is different, and the details of each life are unique.  Nevertheless, I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives. There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, even joyful, and even glorious.  We can be grateful.

A Latter-day Saint’s pathway to eternal life can be compared to an Olympic athlete’s four-minute performance, said Bishop Gary E. Stevenson.

My friends think that I am obsessed with death.  I am not really too excited about experiencing it, but I'll admit that I'm curious about it.  I also like attending a good funeral where the Plan of Salvation is preached.

Red Cross Advice

The Red Cross recommends the following safety steps and tips to prepare for a hurricane.    

Click Here

Prepare for Hurricanes and Flooding

A friend of mine sent this email out to her mailing list.  I'm posting it without edits because I think the information is great!  Glad to know there are so many out there who are not only prepping for themselves, but trying to help encourage their neighbors.  What a great idea for those who are new to the area. 
if you're new to Houston, there are things you might like to begin thinking about now on hurricane preparedness for your precious family history documents / photos, etc.! 
in an apartment, planning may be different than for a house - and frame house dwellers may need some different planning than folks in brick houses ... but fortunately, there's usually some "lead time" before a storm makes landfall. you may get a couple of days to prepare - but you shouldn't COUNT on that (nor should you count on being able to buy items in the store to DO preparing, once a warning has been issued - things can sell out fast).
houston is mostly sandy and water generally seeps down or runs off quickly -- UNLESS it comes in a hurricane, at which time it can arrive in such heavy/lengthy downpours or steady/horizontal rains as to cause destruction and flooding most anywhere.
so, especially during storm seasons, you probably shouldn't routinely store one-of-a-kind photographs or original/important documents near areas that could be breached by heavy winds and rain:
- near a door or window (possible problems if glass or hinges break)
- on the floor (possible flooding)
- near roof eaves, or in an attic (possible structural damage)
- in closets with sprinkler systems (possible accidental activation during emergencies)
in an apartment, it can even cause a problem if docs/pix are stored near an outer room wall -- under eaves or between the slab and flooring are high-risk areas for water damage, and in worst case scenarios, a lot of exterior wall damage can occur.  so keeping treasured items in an interior room wherever possible - and up off the floor - is often safer.
and while it's not good for them to be KEPT in plastic - if a hurricane has been predicted, stowing photos in large stearlite or rubbermaid plastic tubs, along with a few silica gel packs, could offer some extra damage protection against rain/moisture.  there have been instances when after a storm passed the power was out for a lengthy time period (for days or even weeks), and in those cases very hot, humid conditions can develop.  during such times, even photos that seem secure in plastic tubs may be damaged by condensation, unnoticed leakage, etc.  if you have large plastic bags (gallon size ziploc bags or zippered pouches for bedspreads/quilts), you can stuff those with photos and THEN put them in the tubs.
if your old photos haven't yet been committed to online photo albums, you might also think about keeping negatives SEPARATE from photos.  If you have a bank safe deposit box (or water resistant in-wall home safe), one of those might be a good choice for storing negatives.  Then if you lost photos you'd still have negatives, or vice versa!

Planning a Funeral

My sweet brother in law, George, passed away recently  He'd been in a nursing home for a few years dealing with the effects of  Parkinson's Disease, but then he took a turn for the worse.  On  Monday, Hospice was called in and by Wednesday, he was gone.  It was a blessing  for him, but a terrible loss for the ones left behind.
We made preparations to drive to Kansas City.  I packed my portable office and my suitcase, and we were on the road Thursday morning for the 13 hour drive.
On Friday, we gathered with his wife and children to plan the funeral.   I sat with pen and paper and started  asking questions.  No one knew where to start or what to do.  Fortunately for them, I've had some experience with planning funerals,  so I scribbled an agenda and then filled in the blanks.  They were happy to have  someone just tell them what to do.  When you're grieving, it's just not possible  to think clearly.
Funeral Service  Agenda
Opening Remarks - Thank you for being  here today to celebrate the life of George A. Pierce
Opening  Prayer given by family member
Music - A hymn  chosen by the family and performed by someone the funeral home  provided
Eulogy -  I asked for a copy of the obituary  and then softened it up a bit to work for the eulogy.  I also asked more  detailed questions so we could share more about his life.  (You don't say much  when the newspaper is charging you by the word!)
Invitation -  for friends or family to come forward and share how George touched  their lives.
Music - A little non-traditional, but the  family wanted to play George's favorite country song for him one last time.  We  also thought it would lighten things up and reflect George's sense of humor.   The song was, "She Thinks my Tractor's Sexy," by Kenny Chesney.
Closing Prayer given by a family  member
The End.   The person conducting thanked everyone  for coming and invited them to come to the grave site.
At that point, the  funeral director came in and gave directions on how to exit the building and get  to the grave site.
At the grave site, we wanted a  prayer and to dedicate the ground where he would be put to rest.  We did a  Google search for the "ashes to ashes" scripture and found one in Genesis.
At that point, we dismissed and invited family to join us at the church where a nice meal had been provided for us.
I hope it's a long time before you have to help plan a funeral, but thought I'd  post this anyway.  Maybe it will be helpful to someone.
Rest in Peace,  George

Update and Back Up

I read one time that when Frank Sinatra's son was kidnapped, he couldn't even call for help from a pay phone because he didn't have a dime in his pocket. It certainly wasn't that Frank was broke - he just wasn't prepared for an emergency that would require dimes! From that day forward, he always carried ten dimes, and when he died, they buried him with ten dimes in his pocket. Just in case. Usually when we think about being prepared, we think of having food, fuel, and any other necessities that would keep us alive while we are displaced, but what if there was a national emergency, or a natural disaster? What if you, your spouse, or one of your children required immediate medical attention?

In the midst of a crisis, you wouldn't have time to rummage through drawers and boxes to find what you need. Even if you have a neatly organized filing cabinet, you can't strap it to your back and haul it with you. What you need is something portable that you can grab on your way out the door without even thinking about it.

In my front hall closet I have a backpack that I bought on sale for $5 a few years ago. In it, I have a few essentials like a change of clothes, a small first aid kit, a bottle of water, a snack, a waterproof bag (Ziplocs work fine) with paper and pen, my name and address list, some cash - both bills and change, and a workbook that has all of my important personal and financial information recorded in it.

That workbook contains the following:

1. Personal information that would be helpful to someone else if I couldn't communicate for myself. Vital statistics, professional and military records, a copy of my will and location of the original, a list of people to notify and last, but not least, any funeral instructions. I even have a copy of my marriage license and social security card so I can prove I'm who I say I am! When a disaster strikes and an entire area is in chaos, this information will be important.

2. Financial information that includes account numbers, phone numbers, balances and locations of checking and savings accounts and credit cards; investments, employee savings plans, profit sharing plans, retirement programs, trust accounts, loans receivable and payable, automobiles, insurance - life, health, medical, disability, and medical. If you've just lost everything you own, or face the chore of sorting through what's left and tossing it in the dumpster, you are just not mentally capable of recalling all of the information you will need.

3. A CD, or flash drive, with pictures of my home as it stands now and the furnishings inside. I used my digital camera to take photos of these things because it's safer than using film that needs to be developed. The fewer number of people who know the contents of your house, the better. If you have a video camera, go through the house, open cabinets and drawers, and tell about the items as you're filming them. Talk about how great grandma's china came over on a ship from France when she came to America. Tell why that cookie jar means so much to you.

4. A CD, or flash drive with copies of documents and receipts that have been scanned takes much less room than a filing cabinet and is portable.

5. Photos of my family. Everyone has a cell phone these days, and who doesn't have pictures of their loved ones?  You never know when you might need a picture to identify someone who is missing from your group.

6. A flash drive containing a backup of my bank accounts that are managed in Quicken. If my computer crashes or is destroyed, I can always find the software to open my accounts. Inside this backup is valuable information for insurance. As I record purchases, I do a general itemization of the receipt, and this would be a great way to report the contents of your home if you had to prove it. Especially helpful on large purchase items, but I also use it for clothing.

7. A flash drive with a backup of My Documents from my computer. Since I run my business from home, I would basically be out of business if I lost all of my correspondence and other documents.

When I go on vacation, I make sure the backups are stored in my waterproof and fireproof safe.  

You just never know when you may have to leave your home in a hurry. Emergencies, like accidents, are never scheduled. They just happen. If you don't have a preparedness pack in your home, then what are you waiting for? Take some advice from Ol' Blue Eyes himself and be prepared!

Don't Let the Courts Decide

March 18, 2017 marks the 12th anniversary of Terri Schiavo's death.  It might have been avoided if Terri had put her wishes in writing.  Read more about Terri Schiavo here

We need new legislation that protects those who cannot act for themselves, and are not being kept alive by life support. People like Terri who never put their wishes in writing. In the meantime, there is something you can do for yourself and your loved ones. Complete and sign these documents and have them witnessed by two people who are not related to you, or who will not benefit in any way from your death. Copies can be obtained at your nearest hospital, or you can find them online by doing a search for these documents for your state.
  • Advance Directive
  • Medical Power of Attorney
All They'll Need to Know is a book that is designed to guide you through the process of recording vital information. 

All They'll Need to Know is a 32-page booklet filled with forms that simplify the process of writing down not only personal information (funeral instructions, who to contact, distribution of personal effects), but financial information that will help the family when you can no longer act for yourself. It is a resource handbook that, once completed, will enable family members to make confident decisions according to your wishes. It will help relieve some of the stress in making decisions and will help save money because your survivors won't make irrational decisions at the time of need. 

All They'll Need to Know provides forms for vital statistics, professional and military records, funeral instructions, names of those to notify, as well as financial information regarding checking and savings accounts, location and contents of safe deposit box, certificates of deposit, stocks, bonds and mutual funds, savings plans, retirement programs, trust accounts, real estate, loans payable and receivable, insurance, and even information on your automobiles and credit cards. 

This book is available as a download through my Etsy shop for $14.95.   Only one is necessary for a couple.


One Week to Live

I guess I'm old enough now that it's not that unusual for people younger than me to be dying! In the past month I've been to a funeral for a 20 year old who died in his sleep from cardiac arrest, another man close to my age just died two weeks after learning he had Stage 4 cancer, and just this week, the son of a friend died in his sleep. Reason for death has not yet been determined. 

While we'd all like to just slip away in the middle of the night, hopefully pain-free and unaware that we've even left this world behind, the passing still leaves a huge void in the lives of those who loved the one who died. I'm the one who's always encouraging people to record the information that will help their loved ones continue after they're gone. While I do believe that being prepared helps remove a huge burden from the family, I believe there are other things that are even more important. Here are a few suggestions. I believe they're listed in the order of importance. 

 1. Get yourself straight with God. If you're carrying the burden of sin in your life, repent and ask to be forgiven. If those sins are of a more serious nature, confess them to your clergy and ask for help. There are steps to be taken. While it's better to ask forgiveness on a daily basis in your prayers, confession at any time means that you recognize your sins and are willing to do whatever it takes to leave them behind. Don't drag them with you to the Pearly Gates. 

 2. Make sure your relationships are in order. If someone has hurt you, go to them and offer them your forgiveness. If you've hurt someone else, let them know you've forgiven them. When my mother was dying, the hospice nurse encouraged us to get it all out while we still could. We spent the next month apologizing and reaffirming our love for each other, and by the time she passed away, both of our hearts were lighter. 

 3. Write letters. Put your feelings in writing. Loved ones appreciate having a piece of you to hold on to after you're gone. If your family is really lucky, you've been keeping a journal that will give them a record of your life. 

 4. Make a video. Some people just can't write. You don't need a script. Just turn on the video and start talking. Your family will love being able to see you and hear your voice when time starts to steal those memories from them. 

 5. Be positive. This isn't the time to tell people what's wrong with them. Give them something positive to hold on to. Let them remember you as someone full of courage -- someone who ENcouraged rather than DIScouraged. 

 6. Make sure you have a will written in the state where you live and that it is current. Don't leave the family fighting over what you've done, but make sure your wishes are carried out by an executor you can trust. If there are minor children, be specific about what you want for them. 

 7. Make sure your life insurance policy has the correct beneficiary. Won't make your current spouse very happy if you forgot to change it after your divorce. 

 8. Plan your funeral. Encourage your family to use this as a celebration of your life. Choose your speakers. Choose the hymns. Pick your casket. Make sure they know if you have a cemetery lot or have already made arrangements. Tell them what you want your headstone to say. One of my personal favorites is, "I told you I was sick." 

 9. Designate who gets what. Let your family know how to distribute your possessions. If Grandma's handmade quilt was promised to Abigail, make sure it's written down. If Susan is the one who's been promised your wedding ring, she'll need more than your verbal approval once you're gone. Put it in writing. 

 10. Be sure your spouse has the information they will need to handle the estate. This is the time to share any secrets you've been keeping about insurance policies, bank accounts, or money that's hidden behind the wall. You can't take it with you, anyway, so let your family know. It might be the very thing that keeps them from losing the house. 

They say that a dying man never regrets not spending more time at work. Instead, he regrets not spending more time with his family. So it makes sense that if you knew you were dying, or that your time was limited, you would forget about the daily grind and focus on your family. Getting your relationships in order should be your first priority. Not only do you not have control over your own mortality, but you don't have control over the lives of others. We always think we'll get around to saying or doing this or that, but if you talk to someone who's suffered a loss, they will all tell you there's so much more they would have done, if they had known they wouldn't be with that loved one again. Maybe it's just that final hug as they walked out the door, or the final "I love you," as they drove away. Whatever it is that you need to do to make things right with your loved ones, do it now. The clock is ticking and unlike Superman, we don't have the ability to rewind and change the course of history.  

How to Replace Crucial Documents

When you start gathering documents to record in your copy of All They'll Need to Know, you may find that you're missing important documents.  

Since I always recommend that you store the document with the recorded information, this article will help you get copies of those that you may not have readily available.

How to Replace Crucial Documents 

Thanks to my friend, Pat, for passing this information along to me! 


10 Facts Funeral Directors Don't Want You to Know

10 Facts Funeral Directors Don’t Want You to Know
By:  Ellen Goodstein –
  1. Shopping around for funeral services can save you thousands of dollars.
    1. Funeral directors must provide a price list
    2. Shop around.
    3. Get price lists by phone or in person from at least 3 funeral homes before making a decision.
  2. Funeral directors are not clergy.
    1. They’re in the business to make money
    2. Be sure they are licensed and have a good reputation
    3. Speak with the funeral director before visiting
  3. Embalming is rarely required when the person will be buried within 24-48 hours.
    1. US & Canada are the only countries who embalm.
      1. Centers for Disease Control says embalming doesn’t serve any public health purpose
      2. Refrigeration is a legal alternative – just as good if not better
      3. Embalming not required for viewing – except in MN
      4. Know your rights!
  4. Seeing your loved one prior to burial without the benefit of embalming will not leave you with unresolved grief issues.
    1. This is a myth!
    2. Embalming is extremely invasive – it is a temporary cosmetic and preservative process.
  5. Sealed caskets cannot preserve a body
    1. The cost of “seals” is about $12.
    2. Sealed caskets cost hundreds of dollars more than unsealed caskets.
    3. Caskets cannot protect or preserve the body!
    4. Sealer vaults offer no advantage except to the income of the funeral director.
  6. A funeral provider may not refuse or charge a fee to handle a casket you bought elsewhere.
    1. You can buy a casket from anyone.  Even the
    2. Federal “funeral rule” says it is illegal to charge a handling fee if you bring your own casket.
  7. You don’t need to spend more than $400 to $600 for a modest casket.
    1. A $1295 casket can be purchased wholesale for $325
    2. Low-priced caskets hidden or ordered in ugly colors
  8. You do not have to buy the whole bundle of services
  9. You can plan and carry out many things on your own to honor your loved one without paying for services from a funeral home.
    1. Save money by doing it yourself
    2. It’s more personal
  10. Local funeral and memorial societies can help consumers find ethical establishments and often negotiate discounts for their members.
    1. Funeral Consumers Alliance – 115 chapters in 46 states
    2. Run by volunteers
    3. Have info on local funeral homes & price surveys
    4. In Houston, the FCA of Houston is at 5200 Fannin.
    5. Phone:   713-526-4267   or   888-282-4267

100 Things For The Survivor


Many of these details can be planned ahead of time.  By making these important decisions now, you can minimize the emotional strain that will be placed on your survivors.

Don’t leave your loved ones guessing…guide them now.    Secure Vital Statistics (required for burial permit)
  1. Name, address and phone number
  2. How long in state
  3. Name of business, address and phone
  4. Occupation and title
  5. Social Security number
  6. War Veterans Serial Number
  7. Date of birth
  8. Place of birth
  9. US Citizen
  10. Father’s name
  11. Father’s birthplace
  12. Mother’s maiden name
  13. Mother’s birthplace
  14. Religions name (if any)
Pay some or all of the following:
  1. Family burial estate
  2. Memorials
  3. Funeral director
  4. Interment Service
  5. Clergy
  6. Florist
  7. Clothing
  8. Transportation
  9. Telephone and telegraph
  10. Food
  11. Doctors
  12. Nurses
  13. Hospitals and ambulance
  14. Medicine and drugs
  15. Other current and urgent bills (mortgage or rent, taxes, installment payments)
Collect Documents (required to establish rights for insurance, pensions, social security, ownership, relationship, etc.)
  1. Will
  2. Legal proof of age or birth certificate
  3. Social Security card or number
  4. Marriage license
  5. Citizenship papers
  6. Insurance policies (life, health and accident, property)
  7. Bank books and credit cards
  8. Deeds to property
  9. Bill of sale for automobiles
  1. Name of charitable organization to which donations are suggested in memory of deceased
  2. Providing information for eulogy
  3. Select names for pallbearers
  4. Music
  5. Clothing for you and children
  6. Preparation at home, including food for family and guests
  7. Extra chairs
  8. Transportation for family and guests, including planning funeral car list
  9. Checking and signing necessary papers for burial permit
  10. Providing vital statistics about deceased to newspapers.
  11. Providing addresses and telephone numbers for all interested people
  12. Answering innumerable sympathetic phone calls, messages, wires and letters
  13. Meeting and talking with funeral director, cemetery representative clergy, about all details.
  14. Greeting all friends and relatives who call
  15. Arranging for meeting relatives who call
  16. Arranging for meeting relatives who arrive from out of state at airport or railroad/bus station
  17. Providing lodging for out-of-town relatives
  18. Arranging for special religious services
  19. Check the Will regarding special wishes
  20. Order death certificate (multiple copies)
  21. Look after minor children
Notify as soon as possible
  1. The doctor or doctors
  2. The funeral director
  3. The memorial park
  4. All relatives
  5. All friends (email?)
  6. Employer of deceased
  7. Employers of relatives not going to work
  8. Pall bearers
  9. Insurance agents (life, health and accident)
  10. Religious, fraternal, civic, veterans organizations, unions
  11. Newspapers regarding notices
  12. Attorney, accountant, or executor of estate
Additional Advice
  1. Business online – user names, passwords
  2. Banking online – user names, passwords
  3. Friends online – email, passwords
  4. Distribution of personal property
  5. Advise who they can trust to advise in their absence
  6. Tell about loans receivable/bartering
  7. Know where stock certificates are located
  8. Locate “free” insurance policies from banks, credit cards, AAA
  9. Complete an Advance Directive, Do Not Resuscitate
  10. Who has access to Safe Deposit?  Where are keys?
  11. PINs for bank and other accounts
  12. Record information in something portable
  13. Discuss directions with your family
  14. Review it regularly.


Funerals: A Consumer Guide

This information is provided by the  Federal  Trade Commission. 

“When a loved one dies, grieving family members and friends often are confronted with dozens of decisions about the funeral – all of which must be made quickly and often under great emotional duress. What kind of funeral should it be? What funeral provider should you use? Should you bury or cremate the body, or donate it to science? What are you legally required to buy? What other arrangements should you plan? And, as callous as it may sound, how much is it all going to cost?    Each year, Americans grapple with these and many other questions as they spend billions of dollars arranging more than 2 million funerals for family members and friends. The increasing trend toward pre-need planning – when people make funeral arrangements in advance – suggests that many consumers want to compare prices and services so that ultimately, the funeral reflects a wise and well-informed purchasing decision, as well as a meaningful one. “ Read full article here:  Funerals:  A Consumer Guide

End of Life Planning is Important


This is an excerpt from Gary Halbert’s weekly newsletter, Forecast & Trends:

“Death Panels” Aside; End-of-Life Planning is Important

Read full article here: Getting Your Affairs in Order Once you have gathered all of your financial materials together in one place, it’s time to review them and get them in order. By getting them in order, I don’t mean alphabetizing them or putting them in nice neat file folders. What I mean is that you should review your overall financial situation and make sure that it reflects your current and long-term plans. Specifically, I would recommend that you do the following: 

1. Update your will. If you don’t have a will, get one ASAP. It is also very important to update your will periodically. Estate laws change periodically and differ from state to state. I recommend that you consult a competent attorney who specializes in estate planning for this, even if your estate is not expected to be large enough to trigger an estate tax. I do not recommend using do-it-yourself resources to do your will because they can never tailor a document to fit all of the intricacies of most families, and this is especially true when it comes to blended families. Plus, since estate planning law changes frequently, websites and books will not always notify you when your document needs to be revised, but a good attorney will. 

2. Make sure all of your assets are titled correctly. The way assets are titled has an effect on how they transfer upon your death. For example, a bank account held by two people as “joint tenants” transfers differently than if it were jointly owned with “right of survivorship.” However, consult with your attorney regarding titling issues as there are some risks involved when naming other owners to your accounts. In addition, it is important to keep your information current and updated. For example, if you have recently married, you may want to add your spouse to the account, unless it is intended to be separate property in community property states. Or, you may have remarried and want to remove an ex-spouse from the title of an asset. If you have established trusts as part of an estate plan, it will be important to make sure that any assets that are part of these trusts are also titled correctly. Trusts are a key element of estate plans, and you will need a good attorney to help you with this. 

3. Make sure contractual beneficiary designations are current. Life insurance, annuities, retirement plans and IRAs can all be transferred contractually by naming a beneficiary. This means that the proceeds are transferred outside of the will and need not go through probate. However, this makes it even more important to keep these beneficiary designations updated. If you have recently married, or if one or both parents are deceased, you will need to replace parents or other family members as beneficiaries of your insurance policies. Just as important, if you have divorced, you may want to remove your ex-spouse as beneficiary, unless your divorce decree requires otherwise. It is not uncommon for insurance proceeds to be paid to an ex-spouse just because a person never got around to changing the policy beneficiary. Under most retirement plans, the current spouse is required to be the beneficiary of death benefits, but this is not always the case for IRAs. Therefore, you will also want to make sure your IRA beneficiary is current. It is also important to name contingent beneficiaries should the primary beneficiary predecease you. 

4. Make sure you have a “financial power of attorney.” A financial power of attorney simply empowers a trusted individual to manage your financial affairs should you become incapacitated. It takes effect at such time that you can no longer handle your own business affairs, and ceases upon your recovery or death. In addition to the financial power of attorney, it is important to note any automatic payments you may have set up to be withdrawn from your checking account. If deposits are no longer made into the account, these automatic withdrawals could bounce, possibly affecting utilities, insurance coverage, debt payments, etc. If you pay your bills via the Internet, then it is also important to make that known, as well as the user ID and password for your financial power of attorney designee or survivor to use to access your banking information and pay bills as they become due. 

5. Make your wishes known. This piece of advice is obviously not limited to financial issues, but it is vitally important to make your wishes known when transferring financial holdings or any other asset with significant value upon death. While I have noted above how many financial instruments can have joint ownership with right of survivorship, or carry the ability to name a beneficiary, there are other items of value that may not be able to be transferred as easily, such as family heirlooms, antiques, valuable collections, personal items, etc. In those cases, it is imperative that you state your wishes clearly in either a will or living trust. I think this is especially true today when there are so many “blended families” made up of children united by remarriage of the parents. What may be a family heirloom to one child could be a valuable commodity at the local pawnshop to another. It happens. Another very important item to consider in this process is the disposition of financial assets. Whether those financial assets are stocks, bonds, investment or security accounts, or real estate, it is important for the financial partner to leave instructions as to how they should be handled upon death. We often get calls from widows who are now trying to sort through the family investments and determine what they should do with them. Sometimes these callers are in a near-panic trying to make decisions about assets they know little or nothing about. Had the financial partner left clear written instructions, this confusion could be avoided. Thus, it is critically important for the financial partner to consider the level of sophistication of the non-financial partner, and leave written instructions for the disposition of assets accordingly. Along this line, I am sad to report that survivors are often targeted by brokers and insurance salesmen and even bankers who offer financial help, but are really out to liquidate all assets and put them into products that will generate commissions or fees for them. From my experience, it is rare that every single investment should be liquidated upon the death of one partner, yet we often hear from survivors who have been given this very advice. Therefore, an important part of getting your affairs in order should include the knowledge that your survivors will likely be targeted by the financial services industry and others, so you should leave very specific instructions as to how each asset should be handled.

6. Note all important contacts. There are some who successfully go through all of the prior steps in getting their affairs in order, only to fail to make a list of important contacts for their surviving partner. This list should contain the names, addresses and phone numbers of all important contacts. From a financial perspective, these should include your bankers, brokers, insurance agent, attorney, accountant, and financial and investment advisors. You should also include user names and passwords for websites where you have made any financial or investment transactions or have accounts. This list is important because while the surviving spouse may be able to find all of the insurance policies and account statements, he or she may be totally lost as to how to proceed from there. Having a complete list of contact information will be very comforting during this time of great emotional stress for the survivors. 

Write It All Down Once you have all of your affairs in order and organized where they can be found, it is important that you document all of this in a concise manner. This documentation will serve as a guidepost for your survivors to let them know what assets you have, where they are located and how they should be treated. It is not enough to just tell the other partner about these issues and hope they remember. As the old saying goes, “a short pencil is better than a long memory.” There are various methods of documenting everything your survivors will need to know. The simplest is a letter to the surviving partner detailing where all of the important papers are and how they should be handled. However, it is sometimes hard to think of everything to put into the letter, and a letter that does cover everything may be so long that it’s overwhelming. Others keep a summary file folder along with their other important papers that contains copies of statements for assets, special instructions, important contacts, etc. The summary file approach is usually easier to update than rewriting an entire letter to address changes. I don’t recommend either of these approaches. I have always recommended a more detailed method of keeping track of your assets and leaving detailed instructions for your loved ones when you are gone. There are various products on the market for doing so. However . . . 

Back in 2005 I ran across one of the most useful and thoughtful financial tools I have ever seen to help organize all of the important items necessary to pass on to loved ones in case of an untimely death. It’s a booklet entitled ALL THEY’LL NEED TO KNOW from Emerson Publications. I was so impressed with this planning tool that I negotiated the right to reprint them and offered them to my clients and E-Letter subscribers. To put it mildly, the response was HUGE! We mailed out thousands of booklets to clients and readers, many of whom had their own stories to tell about how a previous death showed them the need for such a resource. All They’ll Need To Know provides checklists that cover virtually every piece of information you would need to pass on to surviving loved ones. This format is superior to a letter, in that it allows you to simply enter information into a template. You can even provide information on who you want to receive your special personal possessions, and even details about the funeral service you would like to have. Believe it or not, these small things are sometimes some of the most stressful decisions that survivors must make. As a practical matter, the printed booklet has limitations in that personal preferences and financial information change over time, especially for younger individuals. Thus, mark-outs and erasures are common, which can also lead to confusion. Plus, in our electronic age, much of our personal information is now kept on our computers. 

Fortunately, Emerson Publications also has a Microsoft Word version available that is much easier to update.  Once you receive your booklet  via download, I encourage you to complete it soon, and then let your spouse or other loved one know where it will be kept. Since the booklet will contain some of your most sensitive information, you should select a keeping place that is safe and secure. Plus, be sure to completely erase the electronic version from old computers before you sell, trade or discard them. It is also important that you review the information in your All They’ll Need To Know booklet at least annually to make sure all information is current. Outdated records can be just as confusing as no records at all. Gary D. Halbert, ProFutures, Inc. and Halbert Wealth Management, Inc. are not affiliated with nor do they endorse, sponsor or recommend the following product or service. 

Conclusions As I stated at the beginning of this article, I wanted to keep my comments non-political and generally focused on basic end-of-life financial matters. There are many other estate planning and family considerations to be made in addition to the above items, including deciding guardianship of minor children, setting up and maintaining trusts, establishing a succession plan for sole proprietors, funeral expenses, etc. However, all of these are far beyond the scope of this short E-Letter, and most require the services of a qualified attorney and CPA. Suffice it to say that there are many financial, legal, and family issues to be considered upon a person’s death. These issues can either be dealt with prior to death through careful planning with qualified professionals, or left to bereaved survivors who will have to face these issues during a period of great stress and turmoil. If you are reading this E-Letter, it is likely that you are the financial partner in your family. If so, I suggest you carefully consider the suggestions I have given and take steps to inform and protect your loved ones upon your death. 

I also encourage you to order the All They’ll Need To Know booklet and complete it with the help of your non-financial partner. This will help him or her see the importance of becoming involved in the family finances. While the subject matter of this week’s E-Letter may be less than cheerful, it is nonetheless important, especially in terms of long-term financial and estate planning. We all know that none of us are guaranteed to see tomorrow, so pre-death planning is an important consideration for anyone who wants to make it easier for their surviving loved ones. That’s all on that subject for now. I hope this helps. 

Gary D. Halbert, President Halbert Wealth Management Austin, TX
Also by Gary Halbert:
Beyond Living Wills Getting Your Affairs In Order – Beyond Living Wills

Write It Down. Start Now.

While I was busy raising my children, I was hit with the loss of three loved ones that changed my life and enlarged my focus. I moved from just keeping a journal and updating scrapbooks to realizing how important it was to not just record my feelings or events, but getting down to the nitty gritty of understanding all of the documents that play such an important part in every family.

My father passed away suddenly at the young age of 51; he had a heart attack with absolutely no warning. He was alive when I started cooking breakfast and had died before I cleaned the dishes off the table. It took a full day to pull the family together from different states and then we only had two days to plan the funeral. He had done nothing to plan for his death, and if it hadn’t been for a kind uncle with an extra grave site, I don’t know what we would have done. Our father had no siblings, so there was really no one else in the family to help. We had to figure it out as we went along.

Within the next ten years, both of our father’s parents passed away. They had pre-planned their funerals years before and I remember even as a child when we drove by the cemetery they would say, “That’s where we’re going to be buried. We bought lots close to the road so we can hear the traffic.” Then they’d laugh. We thought they were kind of silly about it, but Grandpa had been a traveling salesman most of his life and the two of them loved to travel, so it seemed fitting that they wanted to be close to the road, even in death. Because of the healthy attitude they had toward their own deaths, we were able to use their funerals as a celebration of life, and the fact that they had pre-arranged their own funerals allowed us to grieve without the additional burden of trying to figure out what they would have wanted us to do.

You’d think that after seeing the difference it made to have arrangements made, I would start thinking about putting my own affairs in order. Still, I didn’t do anything until I read a story about a young mother whose husband was killed by a drunk driver while taking their children to school. Her story hit me like a ton of bricks. This woman’s story made me wake up and take action. I moved through my files like a woman on a mission and didn’t stop until I felt like I had everything.

Getting Started

I was the financial partner in my marriage, managing the checkbook, paying the bills, handling insurance, and any other paperwork that came through our house. My husband was busy with his career, and glad to stay out of my way! I knew if I were going to protect him and my children, I would need to document everything in detail.

I started working on this in 1989, so there are options available to you today that I didn’t have. I have updated the process and hope these ideas will just as helpful to you now.

1. Gather your information. For some this is as simple as pulling the files from a cabinet. For others, it might mean going through boxes and drawers to find documents that have been thoughtlessly stashed throughout your house.

2. Review the documents to make sure they are still active and say what you want. Visit with your attorney, your life insurance agent, or your financial advisor if necessary.

3. Keep your documents in a fireproof safe at home, and not in a safe deposit box. You want to be able to access the information when you need it, and the bank isn‘t open 24/7. Besides that, unless you are a signer and have access to the safe deposit box, you won’t be able to get close to it.

4. Back in the day, I would have recommended that you write the information in pencil because it needs to be reviewed and updated regularly. Today, I suggest typing the information into a document on your computer. That makes it so much easier to review and make necessary changes. has a great tool to walk you through the process.

5. Scan the documents and save the files to a flash drive. You just never know when you might need to access them. A flash drive is easy to carry in your pocket or purse. You might even consider emailing the documents to yourself.

6. Tell a trustworthy family member or friend where this information is located! I have the original documents in page protectors inside a 3-ring binder. That binder is in my home inside a fireproof safe.

7. Tell your family what you’ve done and schedule a time to sit down and review it with them. This is a great opportunity to gather your loved ones together and explain what you want and why. If you’re an organ donor, tell them why you feel strongly about it. If there are special pieces of china or artwork, now is the time to tell them how you want them distributed. Writing it down will alleviate problems when they have to divide your belongings later.

8. Put a note on your calendar to review it frequently. At the very least, look at it each year when you’re working on taxes. Did you change banks? Do you have a new credit card? Was there a divorce? A death? Did beneficiaries change? This is all very important to have correctly.

Over 90% of survivors are not fully prepared for an untimely death. If you are fortunate enough to have some direction from the deceased, there is less chance that you will be taken advantage of by those who prey upon the survivors. This extends beyond the funeral home and cemetery to those who may have ideas for how you should spend or invest your inheritance.

The majority of people haven’t gone through any process at all to record their information. They may have pre-planned their funeral, but not recorded insurance details, or even given instruction on how their spouse could obtain the funds to continue their current lifestyle if their income were to end. Let's assume they think it will be a wonderful surprise for their spouse to learn about an unknown life insurance policy. The very sad fact is that an estimated 25% of all life insurance policies go unclaimed because the beneficiary is unaware that the policy ever existed. So, don’t keep any secrets. Let your spouse, or a trustworthy child, know what you have and where to find it.

It’s Not Just Important “In Case of Death” Anymore

When I first started working on this, my primary purpose was to help my family in the event of my own death. Over the years, I’ve realized that it’s much more important than that, and even a tool that I can use frequently through the year. (Think about filling out applications for credit and having all of your information right there in one place!) This is something that should be included in every Bug Out Bag or 72-Hour Kit! It will be so important for you to have insurance information and proof of ownership in either trying to get back on your property, or filing a claim for the loss.

Why Don’t We Prepare?

Here are two main reasons we don’t prepare:

(1) We are convinced that we’re invincible. Other people may die, but we won’t. My dad was one of those who lived in denial. He was going to defy the odds and live forever. Instead, it had to be as big of a shock to him as it was to us when he died suddenly at a relatively young age.

(2) Disasters happen to other people, but not us! If you watch the news, the media will gladly provide depressing stories of deaths, murders, and disasters. Just because it hasn’t happened in your neighborhood doesn’t mean that it can’t. It’s just a matter of time.

We have just got to get out of this State of Denial. If you’re not the one who handles the paperwork in your home, then it’s time you started asking some questions, because you may be the one who needs it the most. None of us are immune to tragedy. If you wait until you hear the sirens blowing, it will be too late.

Joyce Moseley Pierce is the creator of “All They’ll Need to Know,” and former radio host on the Preparedness Radio Network. She’s a contributing author to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, and the author of “Saving Nikki.”

Submitted to Prepared Magazine on 9/6/13