When my dad passed in August 2022 I developed even more respect for him as we dealt with his estate. He had taken incredible care to be sure that everything was organized and all the information we needed was available with as little work possible falling on us. To me it’s a big reflection of his life- concern for his family was always one of his top priorities. No one was more proud or told more people about my business than my father. He watched so many grandkids’ ball games and volunteered in the community. And even still I get messages from people letting me know about acts of kindness he completed.
To me his end of life planning was just an extension of all these things. Many of the things he did for us before he passed were not expensive- just took some time and forethought on his part. I wanted to pass them along in case this would be relevant for any of you. I know I have begun some of these in my own life!
Frugal Things To Do Now For End of Life Planning
- Do a Good Purge: One of the hardest things to do after someone passes is go through their things. Sights, smells and memories can just overwhelm. You can make an already stressful situation simpler by cleaning out unnecessary things now. Books you won’t ever read again, clothes you don’t wear, board games you don’t play and other unused items donated now can make things easier for others later. Plus someone else may be able to use those items at the moment. You can be a blessing to them! And you can do this at no expense to yourself with a possible tax break depending on your financial situation.
- Add Co-Registrant to Car Title: Besides the Social Security office dealing with the DMV after my father’s death was the absolute worst experience. Going to the DMV isn’t fun anyway on your best day. I am confident if my father had known this would be an issue he would have handled it long ago. Since he was alone on the registration for his vehicle a trip to the DMV was necessary. If my mom had been on the vehicle it would have saved a trip. In Virginia it is $17 to add someone and we also added me onto hers. There are some circumstances that affect this (such as if the car has a lien holder) so do some research in your area and see if you can make arrangements now.
- Get an Original of Your Marriage Certificate & Birth Certificate: If you have a surviving spouse they will need an original of both of these things. Order them now and tuck them away so when they are needed they will not have to be ordered.
- Get Everything Together in One Place: Every time my parents left town together my dad would send me an e-mail reminding me there was a yellow envelope in the bottom left hand desk drawer with everything I needed to know. When the moment came I needed to check for a document everything was in that envelope. Be sure to include any important account numbers, numbers of people to call for things, car titles, wills, insurance information, pictures you find valuable and any messages you may want to leave to loved ones. If your desk drawer isn’t the most safe place consider grabbing a fireproof box or purchasing a safe.
- Keep Track of Passwords: My dad had left a list of passwords for all his important accounts. I was immediately able to see his bank balances, get to his e-mail to notify his employer, log in and pay his credit card and a few other things. If you are comfortable with it just keep those passwords somewhere that your executor is aware of.
- Update Your Beneficiaries: If it has been a while since you updated your beneficiaries on your bank accounts, life insurance, retirement funds etc you may want to double check them. When I came home from college I worked for an investment firm and you would not believe how many people still had an ex-spouse as their beneficiary. Double check and make sure all resources are going where you would like them to!
- Set Up Your Legacy Contact: A legacy contact is someone you choose to look after your electronic profile after you pass away. I know for certain at least iPhones and Facebook have this option that you can do digitally. Once you pass this person can gain electronic access to everything. I am sure a quick search online can walk you through how to do it.
- Check out Life Insurance: If you have been putting off getting life insurance it is likely the longer you wait the more expensive it will be. There are volumes written on types and amounts so I won’t get into that but look at what your family needs and reach out to someone trusted.
- Pre-Pay Funeral/Burial Expenses: While we were fortunate funds were available to pay for my dad’s burial expenses I know that isn’t always the case. Many funeral homes have pre-payment options if you would like to finance it yourself. Or you may donate your body to science. In Virginia that is all handled by the Virginia State Anatomical Program and it reduces costs to the family significantly. I am sure each state has some similar program. Not everyone will qualify who applies so that is something to keep in mind.
- Be Sure You Have a Will: Writing a will no longer has to involve a lawyer. You can do most of it yourself using simple forms you find online. The fees I have seen for reputable companies all seem to be under $200 and that also usually includes a living will and some other documents as well. This will save your loved ones so much heartache and help make sure your last wishes are met.