10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use an Online Will Kit

Preparing for your death can be an expensive proposition. You could leave it up to chance, but without an adequate will, everything you’ve worked for in life could go to the last people you want to see with it. Your loved ones could be left with no resources to help them survive after you’re gone. So, making a will is essential if you want to have any say about the final disposition of your assets. More importantly, you need to have a will to pass on your responsibilities the way you choose.

Lawyers charge big bucks for making a simple will. It’s tempting to do it yourself with one of those nifty online will kits you can easily find on the Internet by running a simple Google search. But it you think that’s a harmless way to save some cash, think again. These online will websites or software products miss the mark, especially if your situation isn’t absolutely simple and straightforward. Here are the top reasons why you should forget about making a will online and choose a legal professional instead.

1. Your love relationship has ended.

Generally speaking, your ex won’t inherit anything from you unless you specify it in your will. But, without a legal expert on your side, you won’t know whether your past relationship could be a problem or not – even if it was a spur-of-the-moment fling.

If you’re separated or divorced from your long-time spouse or life partner, the legal situation after you die can get messy. You may want them to get nothing. To accomplish that, you need a lawyer to craft the will with language that clearly states why your former partner or spouse is not a beneficiary.

If you are separated, divorced or in the process of getting a divorce, your lawyer will want to know specific details about the relationship such as when it started and ended. You’ll also need to give your lawyer a description and dates of any legal proceedings between you and your ex, as well as any court orders or other documents relating to the breakup.

2. You have a child or children from a previous relationship.

By law, you are expected to take care of your child dependents. This is no less true after you die than it is while you’re still living. If you don’t provide for their maintenance and support, your will probably won’t be carried out as you’ve written it.

Your will also needs to specify what would happen to your children if you were the only surviving parent. Even if you update your will yearly, something could happen to their other parent between the time you make a new will and the time you yourself die. To ensure your children don’t get placed with a random guardian, you need to address this possibility in your will.

Regardless of how common it is to have children from a previous relationship, online will kits aren’t designed to properly address these issues. A lawyer, though, can help you set up those provisions so they will be considered adequate by the court. Your lawyer will want to know your child’s age, who they live with, who spends time with them, whether either parent is paying child support, and what if any court orders have been made regarding the child.

3. You have a child who needs an enduring guardian.

If you have a child who needs special accommodations for a disability or long-term medical condition, you will want to make sure they have everything they need to survive and thrive throughout their life. The law also expects you to make these provisions. If you don’t choose how to set up the services your child needs, the court will decide for you in probate.

If your child needs enduring guardianship, it’s important to choose that person carefully and name a back-up guardian who would step in if your first choice is not available. You also need to include details about what medical treatments they need, what special services they will need, whether they need special housing, and how you want them to be cared for if you’re no longer there to do it yourself. Your lawyer can create a will that adequately provides for your special needs child for the rest of their life.

4. You don’t want to give expected portions of your estate to your spouse, child or other relatives.

Estates that end up in probate are divvied up in specific ways. Depending on the law where you live, that may mean your spouse and children would get the bulk of your estate. But, what if you don’t want them to? What if you want to leave your spouse less than the customary portion?

You might want your spouse to get less if you’re estranged or even just if your spouse has adequate resources of their own without a portion of your estate. More distant relatives with whom you have no relationship at all may also stand to inherit when you die without a will. If you don’t want them to, you need to have a lawyer include that in your will. Your lawyer may need to know why the relationship broke down, how it happened, whether you tried to reconcile with the person, and whether you’ve ever supported them financially.

5. You’ve chosen an heir that suffers from an addiction.

Your heart may go out to a loved one who suffers from an addiction. You want to see them have a good life, but you have no control over what they do. A will doesn’t fix that, but it can help you provide for them in a more lasting way than they could do by themselves. A lawyer can help you establish a trust and appoint trustees who can ensure your money is given out slowly rather than in one lump sum the person might use to feed their addiction.

6. You’re owner or part owner of a business.

Even the smallest business can be difficult to deal with after its owner dies. Businesses are complex by nature, and no one-stop internet will is going to address all the issues involved with passing the business or its assets on to your heirs.

When you meet with your lawyer to discuss your will, bring along evidence of how your business is structured. Your lawyer will need to know about the interests of any shareholders as well as your spouse, children, or anyone else who isn’t a partner in your business but deserves some or all of its assets.

Your lawyer will want to see three years of financial statements from your business, including balance sheets and profit and loss statements. Bring along your business plan so your lawyer can get a clear idea of your role in the company and what would happen to it without you. It’s also a good idea to create or update a succession plan for your business at the same time you make your will. If you’re using a trust to minimize taxation, you also need to bring details about that trust.

7. You have any special funds, such as a self-managed super fund, or a family trust.

Super funds can be extremely complex retirement funds to manage. Even if you’re one of the many business owners who have set up a superannuation fund to provide retirement pensions to employees, you may not fully understand how they work. Family trusts can be the same way, especially if family members don’t have a background in business or accounting.

Your lawyer will need to know the details of these kinds of funds or trusts to help you create a will that deals with them adequately. If possible, talk to the accountant or financial advisor that originally helped you set up the super fund or family trust. If that person is no longer available, consult with your current financial professional. Either way, they can give you all the details your lawyer needs to help you address these funds in your will.

8. You want some or all your assets to go to charities or other organizations.

If you’re deeply involved in working with your favorite charity, you may want to leave some of your assets to that organization in your will. Perhaps the charity helped you years ago, before you achieved your current financial success. Or, maybe you just think what the charity is doing is a good idea and a great way to enhance your community. You might want to donate to a school or club instead, especially if they have been a part of your life or the lives of your loved ones.

No matter what your reasoning for choosing them, you can ensure that your favorite organization gets something from you after you pass away. But here’s the thing about that: it takes a legal professional to make sure the wording is precisely accurate in your will so that they can receive the portion of your estate you want to give them.

Now, while you may want to leave all of your assets to this organization, you may have other obligations you have to meet first. An online will can’t look at the big picture to see how the responsibilities you have to others affects the donations you want to make. And, if you don’t meet these obligations, there’s a good chance your will is going to be contested. So, it’s important to work with a lawyer if you have your heart set on leaving anything to an organization.

9. You may have assets beyond what you list in the will.

When you have a very large estate, it can be easy to leave out assets when you draft your will. Even if you have a modest-sized estate, you may have assets you don’t realize are valuable or become valuable after you pass.
So, what happens if an asset isn’t mentioned in the will? That asset would be split up by the court in the customary way. You can decide for yourself how these assets will be distributed even if you don’t know right now what they are. Your lawyer can include information in your will about who will inherit your Residuary Estate when all other assets and liabilities have been dealt with.

10. You need help choosing a personal representative or guardian.

An online will gives you little if any guidance about how to choose the people who will carry out the terms of your will. A lawyer won’t choose a personal representative or guardian for you when you make your will, either. But, what they can do is talk it over with you and give you a better idea of what to consider when you make that choice. They can also help you determine if the person you want to choose meets the legal requirements for doing the job you’re about to assign them.

Making a will is serious business. It has to be legally correct and formally worded. It has to be signed and witnessed according to law. And, it has to take into account all the circumstances that make up your financial life and family relationships. To manage all these factors and still leave your estate to those you want to have it, your best option is to forego the cheap, easy method of using an online will kit. It may seem like an attractive option, but in many cases, it’s worse than having no will at all.

 

Preparing a Digital Asset Estate Plan and Will

Over and over again, the mainstream media have been publishing articles highlighting the ever increasing problem of what happens with our digital assets when we are gone.

Recently, the CBC in Canada told the story of Peggy Bush.

Peggy’s husband had succumbed to lung cancer and she liked to play card games on their iPad to pass the time. The card game stopped working so she wanted to update it. Unfortunately the 72 year old widow needed the Apple ID password, and her husband had never thought to tell her what it was.

The best option that Apple gave her was to create a new Apple ID, but this would mean re-purchasing all of the games that had already been purchased by her husband. Apple suggested that they would only be able to release the User ID and password of the account with a court order.

The Washington Post picked up on the story and run with the headline.

Her dying husband left her the house and the car, but he forgot the Apple password

And the Daily Mail in the UK ran with the headline

Widow who wanted her dead husband’s Apple ID so she could play games on their iPad is refused and told to get a COURT order instead

Google news is claiming the story was republished as 19,000 separate news articles.

Legal experts have been warning about the need to make out a will for centuries. By now, nearly everyone is convinced that creating an estate plan is absolutely essential, especially if you have many assets. Yet, even today, most wills say nothing about what you want your loved ones to do with your digital assets after you’re beyond taking care of them.

When we reach our 40s and 50s, most of us begin to think about what will happen after we’re gone. What will our relatives do about our house, car, savings and business? The usual thing to do at this time is make a will to outline our wishes and appoint an executor to carry them out. It’s all a part of maturing. But, think about this: you may have a last will and testament, but do you have a digital will?

Preparing a digital asset estate plan grows increasingly more important every year, as technology advances and more people embrace the digital age. For many years, it was the young people who had the most digital assets. But, as time goes by, those people age and older people become more connected.

In 2015, Limelight Networks, a digital content delivery network, did a series of surveys that were compiled and analyzed in their 2015 State of the User Experience. Limelight asked people from various demographics about their internet experiences and habits. A total of 1,302 people in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Singapore took the surveys.

What were the results? For one thing, an astonishing 51% of consumers aged 51-69 spent 15 hours per week online that anyone, including Millennials only 41% of whom of the spent that much time using a computer, laptop or phone to access the internet. The U.K. Office for National Statistics found similar statistics that revealed a whopping 70% of people aged 65-74 were online. Each of those people were leaving a digital footprint on the web. Along with their digital presence online, they were accumulating digital assets that would have to be dealt with when they were no longer able to do it themselves.

What Are Digital Assets?

To put it simply, digital assets are anything of value that can be stored or managed on a digital device. They include information you store on your personal computer, laptop, tablet or phone, as well as assets your store on the cloud. Their value may be monetary, such as bitcoin or a PayPal account. Digital photos are included, too, even if they aren’t bought or sold, if they have sentimental value for the user, their loved ones or anyone else who would be interested in them.

The value of a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter account is in its power over the user’s reputation and the good will he or she wants to express to others. Textual content has value, too, like a Word document that contains important information or content that could be bought or sold, or a Kindle library filled with books others might want to read.

Metadata, which is data about this data such as account numbers, usernames and passwords, also has value because it allows the user (and anyone who has that information) to login to the account and make changes. When you give others that metadata, they may be able to withdraw funds from your accounts, close your accounts, or steal your digital, intellectual and even physical property. It stands to reason that if these assets have value, you will not only want to safeguard them, but you may want to pass them on after you become incapacitated or die.

What If You Can’t Manage Your Digital Assets?

Once you realize the value of your digital assets, you can begin to imagine what would happen if those assets were lost or stolen after you’re no longer able to manage them. First, your loved ones would not benefit from them or the monetary or physical assets they control.

For instance, if you have a seller’s account on eBay, your loved ones won’t be able to manage that money. Most digital marketplaces have a set procedure for when an account isn’t used for a long period. PayPal will send your money to your bank account after a certain time, but what if no one knows about that money? They might close your bank account before the cash is sent, making it much harder for them to get it.

Your account numbers and passwords to utilities and other services allow you to learn your account balances and pay bills. But, if you leave a spouse and/or children in your household, they might not be able to pay the family bills. Power or water could be shut off to the house before anyone realizes a utility bill is due.

Social media accounts, just like any account with a password, might be hacked. Thieves in the digital underworld might use your social accounts to defraud others. They may make posts on your account that are disturbing to your friends and family. Your reputation can be damaged, too, if your private messages or online habits are revealed. If these are things matter to you, it’s crucial that you prepare your digital will while you still can.

What Do Popular Online Sites and Services Do with Your Accounts?

Since there are really no laws governing what happens with your digital accounts when you pass away, each company decides what happens to your account when you can no longer access it. The most popular social media sites have policies on this, but they’re different in each case.

Facebook

Facebook’s policy on user death or disability is a bit strange in that it potentially gives power over your Facebook account to strangers. If anyone contacts them, no matter who it is, and they can provide a link to an obituary, Facebook allows that person to delete your account or choose to memorialize it. Your loved ones could get in trouble by using your account directly. That could be illegal and definitely goes against Facebook’s user agreement and policies.

Twitter

Considering Twitter’s stated policy that you own your Tweets, it’s surprising that they also allow anyone showing a public notice of a death to close the deceased’s Twitter account or store a backup of it. Other than that, they give no guarantees about what will happen to your account after you die.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is another social site that allows anyone to close an account after they report someone has died LinkedIn needs a link to an obituary and the date of death. The only other things they need are some basic information, most of which is available by visiting your profile and making notes. They need to know your LinkedIn URL, your email address and the company you last worked for along with your name. They have to state their relationship to you, but if they don’t know you, they can just choose ‘other.’

YouTube

YouTube is a bit stricter with their policy. They require the person wishing to manage your YouTube account to supply a digital copy of their Power of Attorney. Otherwise, the account may be deleted by YouTube after six months of inactivity on the account.

Amazon

Amazon is a marketplace where products and services can be both bought and sold. When you’re the buyer, you are adding to your digital assets. When you’re the seller or have an Amazon Associates account, you may be doing the same thing – even after you die. Yet, Amazon has no clear policy about what they’ll do when someone passes away. If anyone gives Amazon any proof the company believes to be factual that you’ve died, then they can close your account.

Ebay

Ebay also has no stated policy about accounts and ebay stores that are left when someone dies. If anyone produces a death certificate, they can close down the account. If you have funds in your ebay account or transactions going on in your ebay store, the people you’ve chosen to manage your estate might not become aware of it before a competitor (or anyone else) closes the account.

PayPal

If you use your PayPal account often, it’s likely that you have some money there. PayPal will close your account if it hasn’t been accessed for three years. Then, it will dispose of your funds as it chooses or as the law requires. If the executor of your will doesn’t know about the account, that money will be lost to your loved ones. Other than that, PayPal has no standard policies whatsoever about what will happen to this important digital asset.

Making a Digital Will

A digital will puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to your digital assets. You get to be the one who decides what happens to them if you can no longer use them. You’ll also have the opportunity to pass along the metadata that goes with each digital asset so the executor of your digital estate can follow your wishes.

Gathering Info

As you prepare your digital asset estate, you need to start by gathering all the information you have or can get about the digital assets you own, including account numbers, usernames, passwords and more. You’ll already know the details of some of your digital assets by heart. Then, you’ll have to look up and record any other digital assets you can’t remember precisely. It’s important to remember every account, but that can be hard if you use the Internet for a lot of different things.

Writing the Will

In most cases, a digital will is a part of the traditional will. The information could be contained in the will itself, but the possibility that the information will become public or used by someone else to commit fraud is significant. You would need to put all your account numbers, passwords and the specific digital assets you have in a legal document that could be viewed and used by just about anyone.

A better way to write the digital will is to have it on a separate document. You can include a very brief mention of the existence and location of your digital assets estate plan in your standard will. It may seem like a monumental task, but you need to include as much of your digital information as you can. Then, you need to name a special executor to carry out this digital will.

This separate document will likely need to be updated frequently. You may change passwords, add or delete accounts or change your mind about how you want them handled. The more up-to-date you can keep your digital asset estate plan, the more helpful it will be to your executor and the more good your family will get from your digital assets.

Choosing an Executor for Your Digital Will

Another thing you need to do is appoint a digital asset estate manager. Many people who have thought about the importance of a digital will are still giving this job to the same executor that must deal with all their physical property and funds. Then, that person is overloaded with responsibilities or doesn’t have the tech knowledge to do the job right. So, having a digital will may not be enough. Instead, you need to carefully consider who will manage your digital assets only after you die. Finding that perfect executor can be quite a task. Here are a few guidelines to help you along the way:

1) You need someone you can trust.

This person will have access to all your digital assets. They may have a lot of freedom to do as they wish rather than following your wishes. Make sure you choose someone who has you and your loved one’s best interests at heart.

2) The executor needs to be tech-savvy.

Since your digital will executor will be working with a computer and digital data to manage your digital asset estate, they need to have a good knowledge of technology. They need to be able to access all your digital assets, whether they are on your computer or stored on the cloud, and make the changes you have requested. They also need to be comfortable with asking for tech support and dealing with Internet companies.

3) They need to be hardworking and dedicated to carrying out your wishes.

Digital estate management can be an overwhelming job to someone who isn’t prepared to do whatever it takes to complete all your digital business in a timely way. So, choose someone who is responsible and hardworking.

Online Digital Assets Management Options

Since most people have such an enormous internet presence, managing digital assets can be extremely difficult. After all, who remembers every site they supplied a password for and what that username and password is? Have you really considered what you’ll do with every asset? If you’re like most people, even you aren’t aware of everything your digital asset estate holds.

A few options for managing digital assets have been devised by Internet companies. Most of them are designed for storing usernames and passwords. Although this service does have some value, it only begins to touch the breadth and depth of your digital assets. A better solution would be one that not only stores the basic information about those assets, but also lets your guardian know what to do with them.

WishesKept – A Better Solution

WishesKept is a comprehensive digital asset estate management tool. Not only does it allow you to store the details of your digital assets – but it also allows you to store everything about your life in one safe place, where is can be shared with loved one when the time is right.

The beauty of WishesKept is its detailed prompts for adding the information your digital will executor will need. So, you don’t have to remember each account or even each category on your own. The prompts guide you through the process, and will often remind you of digital services you may have forgotten about or not used in a while.

While most password applications only store your login details, WishesKept lets you store important information like your bank accounts, loans, mortgages, insurance policies, home bills, advance care plan and your funeral preferences. In fact WishesKept records hundreds of facts, covering all aspects of your life (both online and offline).

Wisheskept lets you organize your life and gives you a secure place where you can store everything important to you and your loved ones.
 
 

The Comprehensive Advance Care Planning Guide

Many of us find it difficult to talk about death, and sadly many people relate Advance Care Planning with end-of-life care, and try to avoid the subject. It is not until you are touched by a tragedy, or you become ill yourself that you realise the importance of making plans in advance.

Not only does advance care planning improve your own care, but it helps your family and loved ones manage your needs when you are unable to do it for yourself.

In this comprehensive guide, we are going to explain how to create your own Advance Care Plan and how to make sure your doctors and loved ones can help you live life on your own terms.

We will explain the legal jargon and things you need to look out for, and we will clear up a couple of myths and misunderstandings.

We have also included links to valuable templates, work books and guides at the end of the article.

ACP is shorthand for Advanced Care Plan

Because medical staff love acronyms, and because it’s a mouthful to say, it’s worth knowing that “Advance Care Planning” is often simply called an “ACP”.

But I’m not Dying

Advance Care Planning is not just for people who are nearing the end of their life. ACP covers much more, and is important at any time of your life.

Many of us think we are bulletproof and that we are going to live forever. Others don’t want to talk about their mortality. The reality is that most of us will get sick and need medical care within the next 10 years, and for most the event will come as a complete surprise.

Sadly, you never know when an emergency will occur, and you don’t need to actually die to need an ACP. In the case of an unexpected medical emergency (eg car accident, stroke, head injury, pedestrian accident, choking on food, bicycle accident, falling, complications after surgery), you may end up in intensive care without the ability to speak for yourself.

The New Zealand ACP Cooperative’s clinical lead, Dr Barry Snow, sums it up well when he says:

Dr Barry Snow

Dr Barry Snow

“We all potentially have lots of time to think, talk and plan, yet for many families this conversation does not happen, or if it does, then only when someone is very unwell and unable to make a decision. We think we have lots of time until we don’t, so it’s really important that we start those conversations today”

If you haven’t had the conversation, your medical team will be left to decide for you.

What would you want medical treatment to do for you? Keep you comfortable, control your pain and treat any other unpleasant symptoms while allowing a natural death to occur? Or prolong your life with life support, surgery, drugs, drips and feeding tubes? What if you had little hope of returning to what you would consider to be ‘a good life’. Would this be what you would want?

History

The “living will” is the oldest form of an Advanced Care Plan. It was first proposed by a lawyer in Illinois, USA in 1969. Luis Kutner co-founded Amnesty International less than 8 years earlier, and also created the concept of a living will. Because this form of “will” was to be used while an individual was still alive, it was dubbed the “living” will.

Luis Kutner

Luis Kutner – The creator of the Living Will

By the late 1980s most people were still not aware of the living will concept, and very few people actually completed one. It was discovered that the slow uptake was due to the lack of support from health care providers and medical organizations. With increasing public pressure, the “Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990” was put in place. It required health care institutions to better promote and support the use of living wills. It was at this time that the name was formally changed to an “Advance Directive”.

As living wills and advance directives became more common, several issues were identified, and the terms “Health Care Proxy” and “Medical Power of Attorney” were introduced into law around 1991. These terms resulted in the concept of allowing someone to speak on your behalf – and it also gives this person the power to make real-time decisions in actual circumstances, rather than relying on fixed decisions made in advance.

Over the next couple of years, the focus shifted from the importance of physical treatments and medical procedures, onto the values and goals of a patient. The idea was to better understand and honour a patient’s wishes. This resulted in the term “Medical Directive” being introduced by Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. The Medical Directive is a six page document that covers six different scenarios for advance medical decision making.

Five Wishes

By 1996, the “Five Wishes” directive was developed and introduced in Florida. It combined a living will, a health care power of attorney and also addressed matters of spirituality and comfort care. This became the foundation of what we now call an Advance Care Plan.

5wishes

5 Wishes has now been adopted by most US states

Wish 1The Person I Want to Make Care Decisions for Me When I Can’t
This section is an assignment of a health care agent (also called proxy, surrogate, representative, or health care power of attorney). This person makes medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to speak for yourself.
Wish 2The Kind of Medical Treatment I Want or Don’t Want
This section is a living will—a definition of what life support treatment means to you, and when you would and would not want it.
Wish 3How Comfortable I Want to Be
This section addresses matters of comfort care—what type of pain management you would like, personal grooming and bathing instructions, and whether you would like to know about options for hospice care, among others.
Wish 4How I Want People to Treat Me
This section speaks to personal matters, such as whether you would like to be at home, whether you would like someone to pray at your bedside, among others.
Wish 5What I Want My Loved Ones to Know
This section deals with matters of forgiveness, how you wish to be remembered, and final wishes regarding funeral or memorial plans.

The Five Wishes was a huge success, and in 1998 the American Bar Association and medical experts created a national version. It has now been translated into 27 languages and is also available in Braille and online. More than 18 million documents have been distributed worldwide.

Other countries

Each country tends to have its own unique version of the Advanced Care Plan or Living Will. And even though the versions often appear to be different, they cover the same guiding principles and are applicable anywhere.

Note : It is essential that you use a local version if you intend to sign and witness the Advance Directive or Health Directive page(s). These pages relate to ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ orders, and are only legally binding in the country and/or states they are designed for.

With regard to overseas adoption of Advance Care Planning, Queensland led the charge for Australia, by implementing the Powers of Attorney Act of 1998 and the Guardian and Administration Act of 2000.

In 2005, England and Wales allowed people to make an Advance Directive or to appoint a proxy under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. However, the rules are very strict and in 2010 the Wealth Management Solicitors, Moore Blatch, highlighted that the demand for living wills had trebled in the two years previous. This led to the British government stating in 2010:

govuk

Every adult with mental capacity has the right to agree to or refuse medical treatment. In order to make their advance wishes clear, people can use a living will, which can include general statements about wishes, which are not legally binding, and specific refusals of treatment called “advance decisions” or “advance directives”.

In 2008, The “Advanced Care Planning in Canada Project” was founded, and following the Inaugural International ACP Conference in April 2010 hosted in Melbourne, New Zealand started working on a collaborative approach resulting in the New Zealand “National Advance Care Planning Cooperative” being formed.

On July 28, 2009, Barack Obama became the first United States President to announce publicly that he had a living will and to encourage others to do the same. He told an AARP town meeting,

barack obama

Barack Obama has a Living Will

“So I actually think it’s a good idea to have a living will. I’d encourage everybody to get one. I have one; Michelle has one. And we hope we don’t have to use it for a long time, but I think it’s something that is sensible.”

Getting Started

You will find several links to various advance care plans at the end of this article. We suggest that you start with a document that is from your home country. Most of the documents can be prepared by following these 5 steps.

Step 1 – Thinking and Contemplation
This is where you think about the values and beliefs that are important to you. You need to think about what makes life meaningful to you and what situations might make it seem pointless.

Spirituality and religion play an important part in many people’s lives and can give great comfort in times of stress and difficulty. For some people their cultural needs are also important.

Think about what makes you happy, gives you pleasure and joy and what you like to spend time doing. Maybe you like to be close to people or pets, or maybe you like peace and quiet. Do you have any hobbies and interests, and things you like to do every day?

You should also consider things that may worry you. For example, how and where you would like to be cared for, how you feel about being stuck in bed, or being by yourself or feeling that you are a burden to others. Some people struggle with balancing their privacy and the need to help loved ones get through.

Step 2 – Managing Medical Care
You are entitled to have a good understanding of your current health status and future medical treatments, and your healthcare providers will always try to make you feel comfortable.

There are several conditions that require special consideration when preparing an Advanced Care Plan. You should discuss these with your doctor or healthcare provider – especially if you want them excluded as part of your plan.

Your choices may differ between – you have a good chance of recovering vs remaining in long term care or being terminally ill. Consider in what circumstances you would want the goal of medical care to switch from prolonging life to comfort care. Your ACP can include different wishes for each circumstance.

  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Chemical Code (drugs to restart the heart)
  • Ventilator Support
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP)
  • Dialysis for Renal (Kidney) Failure
  • Total reliance on a feeding tube
  • IV fluids
  • Blood transfusions and Blood products
  • Use of Antibiotics
  • Surgery
  • Hospitalization
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Pacemakers and defibrillators

Detailed description of these can be found at American Hospice.

Step 3 – Managing End of Life
For some people remaining in hospital at the end of their life would be the last thing they would want. Many people would prefer to go home and be in familiar surroundings towards the end.

There are medical procedures that keep you alive or delay death. Sometimes treatments can be both helpful and harmful. They may keep you alive, but not conscious, or make you a bit better for a short time, but cause you pain. Your ACP allows you to decide if this is what you want. Often a signed Advance Directive form is required to ensure that these wishes are carried out. Talk to your healthcare provider about this.

Your ACP also allows you to record the people you would like near you and your spiritual and cultural needs.

  • Have you considered organ and tissue donation? Donated organs and tissues can help others live and to have an improved quality of life.
  • Do you want to leave your body to science? There are often specific processes and forms that need to be completed.
  • Do you have any rituals you would like performed when you pass away?
  • Is it important where your body is kept?
  • Do you have any special funeral preferences?

All of these things can be described in your ACP.

Step 4 – Talking Things Through
It is important that you talk about, and share your Advanced Care Plan. Unless other people know about it, you take the risk that your wishes will not be carried out.

If you want to appoint someone as your enduring power of attorney, you will need to discuss your choices with them so they understand what you want and why.

It can be especially difficult to talk with family about death and dying, and we discuss this at length later in this article. If you don’t want to talk about it with your family, you should at least let them know who you have selected as your enduring power of attorney, so they know things have been taken care of.

Step 5 – Taking Action
Now it’s time to put things in place. While you can prepare an Advanced Care Plan by yourself, you might like to consider working with a healthcare professional to help you write things up properly. If you want to include an “Advanced Directive” you will need them to witness and sign the document.

When you are done, you can share copies with your family, doctors, healthcare professionals and your power of attorney.

And don’t forget that an ACP is a living document. You can change it at any time (as long as you are competent at the time), and we suggest that you revisit it regularly – especially if your life or health status changes.

How to talk to healthcare providers

healthtalk

Talking with Healthcare Professionals

Talking with your doctor or healthcare professional is something you should do before an ACP is required.

Health professionals don’t normally bring up the topic unless you initiate the conversation, or they feel you should have a plan in place. So don’t be concerned about wanting to discuss it – the chances are that they were waiting for you to start the conversation anyway.

When you discuss your ACP:

  • Ask your doctor to explain treatments and procedures that may seem confusing
  • Talk about pain management options
  • Let your doctor know about your privacy preferences and whether you want your health status and prognosis shared with your family
  • Make sure your doctor is willing to follow your directives. (The law does not force doctors to withhold treatment if they disagree with your wishes for their own ethical or moral reasons)
  • Ask if they will let you know if the treatment stops working – so you can make informed decisions
  • Give your doctor a copy of your completed plan. Makes sure your doctor knows the contact details for your enduring power of attorney or the person you have elected to speak for you
  • Let your doctor know that you have discussed your wishes with your family and your elected person

How to talk to your loved ones about your ACP

familytalkIt’s up to you to take the initiative and start the discussion. Your family or loved ones are not likely to raise the issue for you. Opening the conversation can be difficult, as most adult children will try to avoid the subject if it is bought up by mum and dad.

One way to approach the subject is to start the discussion in the context of a recent event. Maybe it was an article in a newspaper, a movie on TV, or something that happened to a family member or friend.

If it’s because of your own illness or health concern it will be more difficult. However, your family will come to appreciate the fact that you are prepared to talk about a subject that they may have been avoiding (or unaware of) until now. In this case it is often best to be honest and explain that is the reason you are bringing it up.

If you belong to a church or a support group, sharing your personal values, spiritual beliefs or views about what makes life worth living (and not worth living) can start the conversation.

Sometimes the fact you are drawing up an ACP, a living will and a power of attorney for health care is enough of a reason. If you have selected a healthcare power of attorney, informing your family of your person(s) of choice, and the reasons why, can be used to initiate the discussion.

No matter how you choose to begin, it’s important to approach the conversation with sensitivity. People cope with end-of-life issues in many different ways.

Explain that you are doing it because life is uncertain, and that it is impossible to foresee every type of circumstance or illness that might occur. It’s also important to realize that you need to cover every topic at once.

Talking with Others about Their ACP

fathertalkSometimes you may need to open up the topic with an older or seriously ill family member. It will probably be because you are concerned about their age or health, and want to make sure that things are taken care of.

While it can be difficult to open the conversation, most people will be surprised about how open the person will be to talking about it. Even if the person is actively fighting an illness, you can discuss the topic in the context of how you can help them continue the fight if they end up in hospital.

Here are a few helpful pointers to keep in mind as you plan for having this conversation:

Plan for the conversation
Find a quiet and comfortable place that is free from distraction. Respect the person’s privacy and select a place where you can have a private one-on-one discussion.

Ask Permission
People cope with these types of issues in many ways. Asking permission to discuss this topic assures your loved one that you will respect his or her wishes. Some ways of asking permission are:

  • “I would like to talk about how you would like to be cared for if you got really sick. Is that okay?”
  • “If you ever got sick, I would be afraid of not knowing the kind of care you would like. Could we talk about this now? I would feel better if we did.”

Know What To Expect
Remind yourself that you have initiated the conversation because you care about your loved one’s wellbeing. They may be going through difficult times and may not want to talk about it at first.

Allow your loved one to set the pace. Make sure you focus on being warm and caring. It may be a long time since your loved one has had a reassuring hug or comforting touch.

Turn off your phone and give them your full attention. Reassure them and make sure you spend more time listening than talking – this discussion is all about the needs of your loved one.

It is really important to verbally acknowledge the life choices of your loved ones, even if you don’t agree with their choices. This is not a debate, and is very important to them.

There will be a lot to talk about. If the conversation is difficult, the following three questions are the most important.

  • If you were diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, what types of treatment would you prefer?
  • Have you named someone to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so?
  • What can I do to best support you and your choices?

You may also like to point them to the Advance Care Planning kits. The kits have been carefully worded and are full of information. They can gently guide someone through the topic. Maybe you want to let them fill in the book and then catch up again later to talk about what they wrote. If they still don’t want to talk about it, you can suggest that they give a copy to their doctor or healthcare provider, or store it in a safe place, so it is available if it is ever needed.

Understand that it is normal to encounter resistance the first time you bring up this topic. Don’t be surprised or discouraged; instead, plan to try again at another time.

Selecting a Healthcare Power of Attorney

power of attorneyA healthcare power of attorney is someone you designate to make medical decisions for you if, at some future time, you are unable to make decision’s yourself.

There are lots of different words that can be used instead of a Power of Attorney. Examples include your Proxy, Surrogate, Elected Person or Agent. In some cases the words have specific legal meaning – but in terms of an Advanced Care Plan, they all carry out very similar functions.

Your power of attorney can be a close relative or friend, but should be someone who knows you well, and is someone you trust. In most countries, your agent can make decisions any time you lose the ability to make a medical decision, not just decisions about the end of life.

You need to select a person (and a backup) who will be able to make fast and rational decisions when you are unable to. They need to be unafraid of asking questions, and they need to have the strength to advocate on your behalf. You must also select them when you are legally competent.

This person should be someone who:

  • Knows you well
  • Is calm in a crisis
  • Understands how you would have made a decision if you were able to
  • Can make the decision that you would have wanted – even if it would not have been their personal choice
  • Is not afraid to ask questions and will advocate to doctors
  • Can reassure and communicate with your family

Once you have selected your Healthcare Power of Attorney, it is important that you have a conversation with them to make sure they understand what your wishes would be.

Make sure you explain what you are asking of them, and explain why you picked them. Talk to them about your values and quality-of-life preferences, as well as your treatment and medical options.

Because unanticipated situations could occur, they may need to make a decision based on what they know about your views, and what you think makes life worth living. These are not simple questions, and your point of view may change over time. You may need to discuss your ACP with them on multiple occasions as things evolve.

Some of the things you might like to discuss include:

  • Are there particular treatments you want to receive or refuse?
  • Do you have any concerns or requests about family or spiritual needs?
  • Would you want to receive mechanical ventilation, antibiotics, or tube feeding?
  • Under what circumstances would you want life-sustaining efforts to cease

Making sure your wishes are carried out

Of course, Advance Care Planning involves much more than simply filling out forms. To make sure your wishes are carried out, it is useful to understand your rights. For example, did you know that you, as a competent adult, have the right to refuse CPR, antibiotics or blood pressure tests? Or that you have the right to stop eating and drinking should you choose?

When it comes to end-of-life decisions, what you’ve put in writing will carry more weight than something you’ve mentioned in passing. Clear, written instructions will also make it easier for your substitute decision maker to act on your wishes. So write them down now!

dnr tattoo

Some people go to extreme lengths

Don’t worry about how you’ll feel in the future. You can always change your mind. If you can speak for yourself, you can make decisions about your care. You can also update your Advance Care Plan whenever you like. (We recommend reviewing, dating and initialing it at least once every three years.)

Make sure your substitute decision-maker can be reached in an emergency. Carry a medic alert wallet card. If you carry a cell phone, it’s also helpful to create an ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact and enter the telephone number of your substitute decision maker. In most hospitals, healthcare professionals are trained to look for contact information under this heading.

ice message

Mobile phones with ICE message

There is a comprehensive guide here – and we strongly recommend that you take the time to set this up: ICE Screen Setup

Family Issues

To ensure your wishes are followed, be certain that the person you appoint to be your healthcare power of attorney understands your wishes and WILL abide by them. They have the legal right to make decisions for you even if close family members disagree.

However, if close family members strongly disagree, they may find it extremely difficult to carry out the decisions you would want.

If you think your family may not agree, the following steps can help:

  • Discuss your wishes in advance with any family members that you think may disagree. Explain why you are making the decisions, and ask them to respect your wishes – even if it is difficult for them
  • Explain to your family who you have appointed as your healthcare power of attorney and explain why you have chosen them
  • Tell your family that you do not wish them to be involved with decisions about your medical care and give a copy of these communications to your power of attorney as well
  • Give your primary healthcare provider a copy of your written communications
  • Prepare a more specific written ACP. Make it clear in the document that you want your healthcare power of attorney to resolve any uncertainties. You can use the words “My healthcare power of attorney should make any decisions about how to interpret or when to apply my Advance Care Plan”.

An important part of communicating your end-of-life wishes is discussing with your loved ones what you may need from them if you are faced with a life-limiting illness.

The legal bits

You will often hear the terms living will, advance directive, medical directive, power of attorney, health care proxy and personal directive being used. In some cases (not all), these are legal documents with legally binding instructions and consequences.

Here are the definitions of some of the most important terms:

Advance Care Plans Definitions

Advance Care PlanThis written document is not legally binding. It sets forth your wishes on topics such as resuscitation, desired quality of life and end of life treatments including treatments you don’t want to receive. It is often combined with an Advance Directive and a Power of Attorney document (see the definitions below)
Advance DirectiveThis is a legal document that gives you a way of choosing specific treatments you would or would not want in different circumstances if you were no longer able to speak for yourself. It is the responsibility of your healthcare team to apply your advance care directive – providing they are confident that you fully understood what you were asking for, were free from influence or duress, and that you meant it to apply to the current situation. (Note : Read Myth 3 later in this article)
Living WillSame as an Advance Directive
Medical DirectiveSame as an Advance Directive
Personal DirectiveSame as an Advance Directive
POLSTPhysician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. Used mainly in America. The POLST document provides explicit guidance to health professionals, and is used when death is expected within a year. Whereas an Advance Directive is a general indication of a patient’s wishes, a POLST is a set of medical orders with fixed instructions and expected outcomes.
MOLSTMedical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. Another name for POLST.

Power of Attorney Definitions

Healthcare Power of AttorneyThis is a legal representative who can make decisions for you when you are unable to do it yourself. This needs to be legally documented in advance of it being required. This person has no powers while you are legally competent.
Durable Power of Attorney for health careSame as a Healthcare Power of Attorney
Healthcare AgentSame as a Healthcare Power of Attorney
Healthcare SurrogateSame as a Healthcare Power of Attorney
Healthcare Attorney-in-factSame as a Healthcare Power of Attorney
Healthcare ProxySame as a Healthcare Power of Attorney
Enduring Power of Attorney for Personal Care and WelfareThis term is used in New Zealand. It has the same definition as a Healthcare Power of Attorney. However, this person can’t refuse standard or life-saving medical treatment, or consent to medical experimentation.
Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and WelfareThis is a British term and has the same definition as a Healthcare Power of Attorney
Patient AdvocateThis is a person who can help and speak for a patient. They do not have the same legal rights as a Healthcare Power of Attorney

Note : In many of the ACP kits, you have the option of not naming a Power of Attorney. Instead, you can name someone who can “help” your healthcare team make the best decisions for you. It is always a good idea to name someone to take the lead. Obviously a legally appointed person would be best – but naming a person in your ACP can also be very beneficial.

Medical Definitions

Chemical CodeYou can request that your heart is not restarted with drugs. You can make your preferences known to your physician and they will record it in your medical record.
DNR OrderThis is a directive that you do not wish to be resuscitated by CPR or electric shock. You can make your preferences known to your physician without needing a living will or legal health directive. They can write the orders and put them into your medical record.
DNI OrderThis is a directive that you do not wish to be intubated (breathing through a tube down your throat). You can make your preferences known to your physician without needing a living will or legal health directive. They can write the orders and put them into your medical record.
Donating your bodyYou can donate your body to science. However, you will normally need to organize this in advance and fill in appropriate forms at your local medical university.

Other Definitions
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ExecutorAn executor has nothing to do with an ACP. They are used to administer will documents

The laws are different around the world (and often from state to state), so it is advisable to get legal advice if you want to ensure that your plan is strictly carried out.

An important distinction

Normally an ACP is not legally binding, and this is where an important distinction needs to be made.

Legislation in the US, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK supports the right of patients to refuse unwanted medical treatments.

The good news is that with the support of this legislation, most medical professionals work to ensure that a patient has a quality and level of care that reduces stress and anxiety for patients and their loved ones when they need it most.

If you are unsure, a quick discussion with your doctor or health professionals will clarify the situation. Selecting a Healthcare Power of Attorney can also help to ensure your wishes are carried out.

When am I deemed “Competent”?

You are competent if you can understand the basic medical problem and can understand what the treatment is for, and the risks and benefits it will have.

You have to be able to weigh up the information. You need to be able to understand the alternatives and understand what would happen if you did not get the treatment.

It is important that you can recall the information and that you can tell the doctor (with words or actions) that your choices are your own.

Can people with dementia create an ACP?

People in the early stages of dementia should be supported to make as many decisions as possible to ensure their future care and support best matches what they would want.

Unfortunately people with the early stages of dementia may only have the capacity to complete some parts of Advance Care Planning. No matter how well intentioned, the parts they cannot complete cannot be done by others. Advance Care Plans can only contain decisions that the person was able to make themselves. These plans, however, can include giving other people the power to make decisions on their behalf, through a Healthcare Power of Attorney.

Myths

There are a lot of myths around Advance Care Planning.
scales
Myth 1 – Advance Directives are only for older people
False. It is true older people are most likely to use advance directives, but every adult needs one. You never know when an accident or injury might leave you temporarily unable to communicate.

Myth 2 – People should use their country or states official ACP kit
False. The ACP kit can be applied anywhere in the world. The Advance Directive part may be limited by the law of the country/state where it can be applied. However, the rest of the plan can generally be followed without issue

Myth 3 – Advance Directives are legally binding so doctors have to follow them
False. The decision to treat is based on the doctors own assessment at the time. A doctor is permitted to ignore a directive if they think it is medically inappropriate or for their own moral reasons

Myth 4 – Doing everything possible for someone means keeping them alive at all costs
False. Doing everything possible depends on the patients goals. Doing everything possible may simply involve managing pain and distress to facilitate a comfortable transition into a natural end of life.

Myth 5 – If I name a healthcare agent, I give up the right to make my own decisions
False. As long as you have the ability to do so, you are in charge of your own health decisions.

Myth 6 – If I am at home and my advance directive says I do not want to be resuscitated, first responders will not resuscitate me if I go into cardiac arrest
Usually False. This one is tricky. If you are terminally ill and do not want to be resuscitated, you should talk to your lawyer and health care provider about an out-of-hospital do-not-resuscitate order. You should also talk with your local emergency services to see if they will honour it.

Where to store your ACP

Where you store your advance care plan can be just as critical as preparing one in the first place. There are many places you can keep copies (or originals) of the documents, but there are a few important factors to consider when deciding where to store them:

  • They must be portable; they should be available wherever you are in the world.
  • They must be available in a timely manner.
  • They must be in a safe place, protected from theft, fire, flood or other natural disasters.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Make several photocopies of the completed documents.
  • Keep the original documents in a safe but easily accessible place, and tell others where you put them; you can note on the photocopies the location where the originals are kept.
  • DO NOT KEEP YOUR ADVANCE DIRECTIVES IN A SAFE DEPOSIT BOX. Other people may need access to them.
  • Give photocopies to your healthcare power of attorney and his/her alternate
  • Be sure your doctors have copies of your advance directives and give copies to everyone who might be involved with your healthcare, such as your family, clergy, or friends. Your local hospital might also be willing to file your advance directives in case you are admitted in the future.

There are services available that will store copies of your documents and can make them available on your behalf. This is a particularly effective way to store your documents to protect against theft, fire, flood or other natural disasters as well as for people who travel.

logoWishesKept is an ideal solution. Not only does it store your ACP, and copies of your will and healthcare proxy documents. It can also store hundreds of other facts that will help your loved ones when they need it most.

While an ACP covers everything related to your healthcare (mainly focusing on end of life or serious illness), it doesn’t store important information like your social media account details, bank accounts, loans, mortgages, insurance policies etc.

Wisheskept lets you organize your life and gives you a secure place where you can store everything important to you and your loved ones.
 
 

Conclusion

In some countries, Advance Care Planning is funded by the government or medical insurers. For example, in America, a large number of private medical insurers cover the cost of preparing an ACP. In New Zealand, the government provides a subsidy to doctors to complete an ACP with a patient – and if you are in hospital or hospice, your health professionals can often help complete one with you for free.

Although the process of advance care planning may seem daunting, it is well worth the effort. A person can feel more in control of the future, and more confident that decisions will be made in accordance with his/her wishes. A significant burden is lifted from the decision maker and family who are trying to sort through various treatment options for the one they love. Health care professionals caring for the patient can feel confident that they are following the directions of a patient they care about.

Plan templates, workbooks and guides (resources)

The following websites have resource kits and templates to complete your own Advanced Care Plan. We also recommend signing up for a free trial of WishesKept to store everything important to you and your loved ones in one place.

USA
http://theconversationproject.org/ (Includes kit for Alzheimers)

Five Wishes
https://www.agingwithdignity.org/

Canada
http://www.dyingwithdignity.ca/download_your_advance_care_planning_kit

New Zealand
http://advancecareplanning.org.nz/resources/

Australia
http://www.advancecaredirectives.sa.gov.au/forms-and-guides

United Kingdom
http://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancerinformation/livingwithandaftercancer/advancedcancer/advancecareplanning/scotland/advancecareplanninginscotland.aspx

If you are a healthcare professional and would like to add an extra resource to this post, please contact us or include them in the comments below, and we will add them to the list.

14 ways to Simplify Your Life

What Do You Want Most?

Modern life tends to be complicated. Notice I say ‘complicated’ and not ‘complex.’ The difference is that something complex is naturally multi-faceted, but something complicated is made that way artificially or by outside forces. Hear that clearly: if your life is complicated, you’ve complicated it yourself. Or, you’ve allowed someone else to complicate it, which is really the same thing, isn’t it?

Daily life can be as simple as you make it. One thing, though. It takes a bit of planning to get into that simplicity mode. The first step is to decide what you want.

First, Break It Down

Your complicated life is made of a lot of different parts, often conflicting parts, and you’ve superimposed them on top of each other to fit them all in. But, what are the parts really made of? What parts go together and which of them are even necessary?

So, start by considering what you did yesterday. Everything you did from the time you heard your alarm go off for the first time to the time you finally drifted off to sleep at night. If you’re like most people, your day was chockfull of tiny tasks that seem to have nothing to do with each other.

Ah, but they do. Each thing you did yesterday, you did to meet some need or get something you wanted. If not, why would you do it? You wouldn’t. So, write down all those little things you did. Then, break them down into categories of things you want or need.

At first, you may have dozens of categories, but if you look at the root need or desire behind each category, you may find that you can group many objects and time-eaters together. For example, you need to feed your family. That probably means you need a job. Once you have a job, you’ll have to get there. So, you’ll need transportation. Once you have a vehicle, you’ll have to pay for insurance, repairs, maintenance and fuel.

You’ll need clothes and shoes suitable for your profession. If you have young children, you’ll need someone to look after them and provide them with meals and transportation, because you’ll be gone from home for the day. See how complicated this has become? And all you wanted to do was support your family well.

Get Back to Basics

Okay, you’ve determined you need to support your family. Start with that. Is there some way you can do that without all those complications? Think with a new attitude. Remember that you don’t necessarily need to do everything you’ve been doing. And, you don’t have to do what other people do.

Have you considered not having a vehicle of your own? That eliminates a lot of time, money and aggravation. Maybe you could ride the bus or use your bicycle to get to work. And, do you even need to go to work every day? Working from home is becoming more and more common as technology makes it easier. Maybe you don’t need to work at all. Sustainable farming can provide a family with enough food, energy, shelter and even durable goods to keep you going without hiring yourself out to others on a regular basis. Think creatively, and you just might find another solution that doesn’t involve all those complications.

Choose 5 Things You Want

Now, narrow down that list of categories to five main “I want” statements. When you look at your life as it has been, it may seem impossible to narrow them down to just five. You can do it. Your list might be something like this:

1. I want to support myself and my family.
2. I want to spend time with the ones I love.
3. I want to do something fulfilling.
4. I want to keep learning.
5. I want to have nice things.

That’s just an example, and your list might look a lot different. That’s okay. As long as you get down to five categories, you’re golden.

Eliminate the Unnecessary

With your five “I want” statements in mind, look through the things you did yesterday. How many of them had nothing at all to do with those five final categories? And, how many could be eliminated without depriving you of the five things you want most? Be ruthless about cutting unnecessary objects and tasks.

Rethink what it takes to get what you want. Do you really have to spend a fortune to have nice things? Find a new definition for “nice things” that doesn’t include saddling yourself with outrageous debt and responsibilities. Literally stop doing things that don’t serve your five “I want” statements. When you accomplish that, your life will be much simpler and almost invariably, more pleasant.

How to Find More Happiness with Less Stuff

The modern world teaches us to be rabid consumers. Toy companies market directly to children, knowing the little tikes will beg their parents for the great stuff they see on TV or online. Children’s toys give way to game systems and clothes as the children become teens. Ads aimed at adults market everything from home theatre seating to small kitchen appliances.

Before you know it, your child’s room is a litter of dolls, toy cars and building blocks. Your teenager can’t organize their room because there’s just no place to put everything. Your kitchen counters are stacked up with gadgets until you can’t make a decent meal. Your whole house is so filled with stuff you can barely get through it.

Yet, none of this makes you happy, at least not for very long. All that excess stuff becomes more of a burden than a pleasure. You may not even realize what the problem is, and if you do, you likely don’t know what to do about it. Don’t worry. You can find true happiness without all that junk.

Stop buying so much

This is a no-brainer. You can’t have more space in your house if you keep buying everything you see. But, how do you decide what to buy and what not to buy? That’s simple, too. Ignore the seduction of ads and store displays. You don’t need to know what’s out there to know what you want and need.

It’s a radical departure from business as usual, I know. But, you don’t have to know about the latest object that promises to make your life easier, more interesting or fulfilling. Do you actually need to add to the piles of stuff that litter your house? Will buying something new make you happier. Probably not.

You can find out all you need to know by looking within. Is there really anything more you need to manage your daily life? Before you buy something new, stop and ask yourself if something you already have can do for you what the new object promises. If it does, just don’t buy the new thing.

Pare down your belongings

Okay. Now that you’ve stopped bringing in more pointless stuff, look around you. What can you do without having? If you’re not sure, try this. First, get rid of anything you have that you haven’t used in the last 3 months. Unless it’s something seasonal. Then, think about whether you used it at all the last time you could have.

At this point, you might still have a lot of extra stuff in your house. Now, dig deeper. Go one room at a time. Take everything off the shelves, counters and, yes, the floor. Put it all in one huge pile. It looks more like a pile of junk now, doesn’t it? Good. That’s what most of it really is.

Pick up one object. Hold it in your hand. Do you feel better now? If not, put it in a box. If it’s something you’ve used recently, ask yourself if you were happier because you used it. If it didn’t, it goes in the box, too. When you come across something you truly need or that makes your heart happy just to hold it, find a place to put it away. But remember as you do this: you only have so much space. You’re going to have to be very selective. When your cabinets are full and you still have plenty of open space in your home, you have two options. When you pick up the next object, the only way you get to keep it is if you can part with something you already put away.

When you’re finished and everything is put away or in boxes, take the boxes out of your home. Throw it in the trash or donate it to a charity to help someone that does need it. It you’ve done a good job, you’ll know it immediately. Your house will feel roomier and more open. Ah…that’s more like it!

Travel light

As you might have heard, life is a journey. On this journey, you can be weighed down by unnecessary burdens. Or, you can travel light, leaving behind anything you don’t need for the trip. You’ll feel freer and more alive. And, you’ll probably find that your just as happy without the extra things in your life as you were with them. Probably happier.

So, where do you find happiness?

Ownership is a funny thing. It might make you feel good for a moment, that’s true. But in the long run, having isn’t nearly as fun as doing. And it isn’t as fulfilling as having a good friend or doing something you’re good at. At the end of the day, it’s full-out living that makes you the happiest, not the accumulation of stuff. Find happiness within yourself and in your circle of friends. And that’s the kind of happiness that lasts.

Taming the Time Crunch

Why is it that just when you get a chance to do something you’ve always dreamed of, you’re so busy with everyday life that there just isn’t time? Well, it probably has something to do with how complicated your life has become. You spend every day doing a seemingly endless variety of tasks, most of which – listen closely – get you absolutely nowhere. If that sounds familiar, take this time to simplify your time commitments so you can do all those wonderful things that can really make your heart sing.

Think About It

We do so many things automatically during the course of our days that we usually don’t realize where all our time has gone. Spending some time in reflection can really shake things up. Take a walk outside in a beautiful, natural setting. While you’re walking, think about each thing you did the day before your walk. Ask yourself: Did I enjoy doing that? Did it really make my life better? What would happen if it didn’t get done? When you think about your day in this honest, reflective way, it’s pretty likely you’re going to realize that you waste a lot of time on things that don’t really matter.

Make a New Kind of Commitment

If you’re like most of the modern world, you spend your life making commitments to do things you feel need to be done. Sometimes, you’re right: you’re the only one who can do them. But a lot of the time, you’re just kidding yourself. You may find yourself doing things that are someone else’s job. Or, they might be absolutely pointless. So, make a new kind of commitment to yourself. List the things you won’t do. And, I’m not talking about necessarily bad things here – just time-eaters that can be eliminated.

Do you really need to see the latest TV drama that’s on Hulu because one of your friends has recommended it? If it isn’t interesting to you, don’t do it to please your friend. You can find other common grounds with them without wasting time with something that bores you. Is it really important to you to be the first one to try a new technology? If that excites you, then go for it. But, if you’re just doing it to look smart, don’t bother with it. What might be a waste to you might be good for someone else and vice versa. Do what’s right for you, and put the rest of those things on your not-do list.

Let the Phone Ring

We’ve all become slaves to our mobile phones at one time or another. We rush to answer it the moment it rings, regardless of whether the number on the caller ID looks familiar or not. But, what would happen if you controlled your phone instead of letting it control you?

Here’s what that might look like on an ordinary day: You put your phone on airplane mode, ignore it and go about your day. Then, at a few different points in the day, you take a few moments to listen to all the voicemail that’s come in since you last listened. You reply as needed. The rest of the time, you’re relieved from the duty you feel to answer every call. And those calls you would usually hurry to answer but turn out to be unimportant? All you have to do is listen long enough to know you’re not interested, The delete button can be so empowering! By the way, this system works great for email and Facebook, too.

Nail Down Happiness

Happiness is what we all strive for in life. Funny how we spend so much time doing things that don’t turn out to make us any happier at all. It’s partly because we haven’t nailed down exactly what happiness means to us as individuals. Some people are happiest when they are at the top of their career path. Others see travel as a means to happiness. A few noble souls get the most enjoyment out of doing things for those less fortunate than themselves. Each of those things can bring happiness to someone. But, to others, any one of those things can be draining and unsatisfying.

So, write a happiness plan or talk to a friend about happiness. Think of all the things that could make someone happy, and then narrow your focus to those things that actually make you happiest. You might be surprised to realize that you really don’t enjoy travel, or that business success is less fulfilling than you thought it would be. You might find that some of the simplest things you do make you just as happy as the complicated ones. For example, a stop by the local produce market for some fresh fruit might make your day better, while being the first one to the meeting is an empty victory.

Sure, you’ll still end up doing a few daily tasks that aren’t altogether exciting or fun. I mean, who wants to spend their time cleaning the house, for example? (Okay, some people do enjoy that, but not many.) Apart from the necessities of life, you can basically spend your time any way you want to. In the end, you’ll see the bigger picture in a new way and focus more time on what matters most to your happiness.

What happens when a business owner dies?

Life as a business owner can be stressful at the best of times. But if you think owning a business is tough, figuring out what happens when a business owner dies (or leaves suddenly) can be an absolute nightmare.

The death or permanent disability of a partner or business owner can result in chaos for other business owners, business associates and the family. It can often threaten the core survival of the business itself.

Did you know that fewer than 30% of small business owners have a succession plan in place?

That’s a shocking statistic – but it makes complete sense when you consider that most businesses are started informally between two or more people.

Often the partners are so busy growing the business that they don’t have the time or money to put anything formal in place. And when they do, they often form a company or a partnership with the prime focus around shareholding or equity.

Thinking about death at the start of a business venture is the last thing on their mind.

Short Term Fixes and Potential Issues

When a business owner dies or becomes permanently disabled, the remaining owner(s) need to figure out ways the business can continue with the least disruption possible. Some of the options include:

  • Recruit a qualified replacement
    Hiring a candidate with similar skills can quickly fill a void. Keep in mind that the person will not have the business knowledge or personal relationships that the previous owner had. The remaining owners will need to factor in time to bring the new person up to speed, and they may need to take over the management of client relationships for the key accounts.

    They cannot expect the new person to match the 100% efficiency of the previous owner. It is a good idea to consider applying the 80/20 rule where they get the new candidate to work on the 20% of the business that will provide 80% of the benefit.

  • Train an existing employee to do the job
    Existing employees will often understand how the business works, and will already have relationships with many of the existing clients. If the job is not too technical, consider training the employee to fill the void. Once again, concentrate on the things that will have the greatest positive impact on the business. Paying Bonuses can often motivate staff to step up into the new role.
  • Offer shares to existing employees
    While most employees will be unable to take up this type of offer, your most senior employees may be in a position to help. The added benefit is that the employee is more invested into the business and will want to see it succeed.
  • Contract work out to a qualified competitor
    In most cases this will not be a practical option. This should only be considered if the remaining owners are able to isolate the work into client or contract lots, without exposing big parts of the business. This option is especially helpful if there are non-performance clauses, and the competitor can guarantee completion on time.

    The remaining owners may want to consider implementing a confidentiality agreement. However, even with a confidentiality agreement in place, they need to be prepared for the competitor to gain knowledge about the business that can be used against them in the future. More often than not, this means working with competitors is untenable.

  • Borrow to fund a reduction in cashflow
    A short-term reduction in cashflow is almost inevitable. Borrowing funds can help them get over the temporary shortfall. They should only consider this option if they are sure the business can return to its previous income levels, and that it can service its loans in the meantime. If they are unable to service the loan, they may be forced into liquidation, and if they are considering closing down the business anyway, they don’t want to be adding further debts into the company accounts. The bank will require additional security, and may require new personal guarantees.

    If they are really desperate, they can consider “factoring” the debtors ledger. This will give them a short term cash boost – but will result in significantly reduced cash-flow in the months that follow.

    Remember that “trading while insolvent” is an offense that will make them personally liable for company debts. If they think this is a possibility, they should get advice from an accountant as soon as possible.

  • Sell assets to fund a reduction in cash-flow
    Have a look around the business to see if there are surplus assets that can be sold to inject cash into the business. They need to be assets that don' need replacing in the immediate future. The assets will not realize their full value, and may not be easy to sell. If it is necessary to replace an asset shortly after it has been sold, this is merely delaying the cash-flow problems (and actually making it worse in the long run)

What happens to the business?

When a business owner dies without a plan, the business structure can often dictate the outcome.

  • Sole Proprietorship :
    In a Sole Proprietorship, the business and the owner are essentially the same thing. If the owner of the business dies, it is almost certain that the business will too. The business assets will become part of the owner's estate, and will be liquidated to pay off any business debts. If there is anything left, it will be distributed according to the persons will (if they had one – but that’s another story)

    In some cases the business can be transferred or sold to another person. This needs to be handled within the owner's last will and testament. While the business itself may not be worth much without the owner, the business may contain significant good will (eg key customers) that can realize a value if it is sold to a competitor. Not only does this help the family of the deceased owner – but it can help the owner's of the old businesses to move forward.

    There may be cases where a family member can step in and continue the business. In a sole proprietorship, this presents its own set of problems.

    Because the business forms part of the owner's estate, it is normally distributed as part of the will. If there is no will in place, then the distribution follows a predetermined formula that doesn’t automatically allow the entire business to be passed to one person. Depending on the country and state/city the owner lives in, the rules may vary slightly. But as a rule of thumb, the spouse or defacto partner will receive 50% of the estate and the remaining 50% will be split evenly between any children.

    If the family can reach agreement, it may be possible to pass the business to one member of the family – but it may be challenged in a court of law. For this reason, it is a good idea to have the business accurately valued to stop any future arguments about unfair/preferential distribution under the will. It will also be necessary to get the business valued if the tax department requires an estate tax return to be completed.

  • Corporation or Limited Liability Company :
    The value of a Corporation or Company lies in its shareholding. Because a Corporation is its own legal entity, a Corporation will survive the death of one of its owners.

    When one of the owner's (shareholders) dies, the shares will normally become part of owner's estate and will be handled within the provisions of their will. If the owner holds the majority of the shares, or is a sole owner, the new owner of the business will be the estate.

  • LLC :
    LLCs have their own operating agreement which normally includes a provision that explains what happens if a member dies.

    If the agreement allows the LLC to continue after the death of a member, new members can be admitted in their place. If the agreement doesn’t have a continuity clause, the local laws will determine what happens.

    In most cases, this will involve the winding up of the LLC and the distribution of assets.

  • Partnerships :
    If a formal agreement is in place, there may be provisions for sale or purchase of a deceased partner's interest.

    Without the existence of a formal partnership agreement, the death of a partner will automatically dissolve the partnership.

    This can cause significant problems for the remaining partner. It is their responsibility to wind up the business. They will have to run the business to complete any unfinished contracts, not take on any new business, pay off debts and distribute whatever is left. If there is not enough left at the end of this process, it is the surviving partner and the deceased estate's responsibility (liability) to pay for any shortfall.

    Even if the remaining partner can continue to run the business in their own right, it cannot be continued under the existing partnership. The process of winding up a partnership can cause substantial damage to the finances and goodwill of the business. It can also take considerable time to sort out. Obtaining a probate to a deceased partner's estate can take months and can significantly slow down the process.

    If a partnership agreement is in place, provision can be made for payment to a dependent spouse/partner shortly after death. The amount is normally discretionary and determined by the surviving business partner. It can be offset against the deceased share of the partnership and means that dependent spouse or partner can receive income before the estate of the deceased person completes probate.

Delays

Winding up a business or partnership can take a long time. Two or three years is not unusual. Delays can be caused by the need to prepare financial accounts as-at the date of the partner's death, subsequent payment of creditors and winding up the actual business.

You may have options

If you are in a position where you don’t have to dissolve the business and the business can continue without the previous owner, you have several choices available to you:

  • Take the deceased representative or heir into the business :
    This option can tend to be problematic, especially if the representative or heir is not as passionate, experienced, or willing to negotiate as your partner was.

    Before heading down this path, ask yourself if they will support or oppose the decision of the remaining shareholders. Are they only in it for the cash/dividend payments? Will they be willing to put in the time and effort to support the business? Do they have the skills and technical knowledge to carry out the responsibilities and duties of the previous owner? If they are not going to put in the same effort as the previous partner, are they going to be negotiable on the current distribution of dividends and/or remuneration? What if the heir or representative is a minor and unable to enter into binding contracts? Do they have the resources to support the business if additional capital is required?

  • Sell out to the deceased Owner’s representatives or heirs :
    Unfortunately, this option can lead to a lot of arguing over the purchase price. This may also not be practical if the proposed new owner is not qualified to operate the business, or the remaining owners are not prepared to retire or remain as business employees.

    Before heading down this path, ask yourself how you will determine the price. Often the best solution is to get the business valued. However, this costs money and can take considerable time and expertise to come up with a realistic value. The other problem is that a valuer may not fully appreciate the good will included in the business and the emotional value the business has to the remaining partners. They may not be ready to retire yet, and this has some bearing on the value of the business. It also depends if the business is in financial distress and its ability to continue trading without the previous owner.

    Once a price has been determined, there is also the question of payment terms and the ability to be released from any business debts and personal guarantees.

  • Bring in outsiders to purchase the deceased owners share :
    Sometimes new partners can be a good thing. The problems with this option are very similar to selling out to the deceased owner's representatives or heirs. The advantage with this option is that you can select someone who can add real value to the business or has domain experience (eg marketing, technical etc)

    Unfortunately there may not be a pool of willing buyers, and you may have to discount the price, or offer equity in exchange for work. The instant injection of expertise to replace the missing owner will often justify this sacrifice.

    Another issue you may face is that outsiders may not be interested if the result is a minority share. You may have to give up more of the business to attract the right talent – and this may put you in a position where you lose control of the business anyway.

  • Buy out the deceased Owner’s interest :
    Often, this is the best choice. However you will still have to negotiate price and settlement terms, and you will need to come up with the money to fund the agreed price. This is where a buy-sell arrangement can help. Without a buy-sell agreement, and without any other purchasers, the parties may feel that they are paying too much or receiving less than they deserve. Strained negotiations and legal delays may make it difficult to reach a mutually acceptable position. Additional difficulties can occur if the deceased or disabled owner has given a Personal Guarantee on a lease or business loan.
  • Liquidate the business or sell to a third party :
    Unless the parties can agree on another option, this alternative may be forced on them. Unfortunately a business that is forced to liquidate or is in distress has a much lower value than when it is a going concern. Finding a way to run the business in the short term will often result in a greater return – providing there is a pool of willing purchasers. However, if the business is in a specialist niche, finding a buyer may be a real problem and you may be forced to liquidate the business.

    Dragging the process out is also not a good idea. If the sale or liquidation is delayed there may not be sufficient cash to pay all debts. This may result in the forced sale of personal assets to meet personal guarantees.

A buy-sell agreement

A buy-sell agreement is a legally binding contract that spells out exactly what is to happen if one of the business owners dies or becomes permanently disabled. A buy-sell agreement is also referred to as a business continuation agreement, a stock purchase agreement, or a buyout agreement. Buy-sell agreements can also be triggered by retirement, divorce, bankruptcy of an owner, conviction for a crime or loss of a professional license required to work in the business.

The document can be as simple or complex as needed and can provide for virtually any contingency. In most cases it states that the survivors will buy the deceased owners share of the business. It will also include an objective formula to work out a value or an actual purchase price.

The agreement is put together well before it is needed and when the owners are on a level playing field. It provides a fair way to arrive at a value, and allows the surviving partner(s) to keep control of the business.

Raising the money and payment terms

A buy-sell agreement normally documents a method to fund the purchase of the business when it is needed. If the buyer does not have the cash or access to cash when needed for the buyout, the agreement won’t serve any useful purpose.

Common ways of funding a buyout include Key-person Insurance, Life Insurance policies held in trust for the other business owners, Debtor factoring or Bank Loans. When an owner is retiring, the agreement may also include options to fund the buyout from future revenues with extended payment terms.

What can you do now?

No matter what, have a plan!

We can't stress this enough. Take the time to sit down with your business partners or family to discuss a succession plan, and then PUT IT IN WRITING. It is definitely important to decide who will take over a business, but it’s just as important to decide how they will take over – and what that means to the rest of your business partners and family, both financially and emotionally.

For when you are sick or disabled :
Consider getting “Key Person” insurance for each of the owners. If you are a sole trader, you need to look into “Business Expense” insurance and “Total Permanent Disability” insurance. Key Person cover will pay a business an agreed monthly benefit for a set period if a key person is disabled because of a continuing sickness or injury. A key person is anyone in the business responsible for generating business income.

For when one of the owners dies :
Consider getting life insurance held in trust for each of the other owners. Life insurance provides a lump sum payment to help minimize the financial impact on your business if you or a key team member dies or is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Prepare a Buy-Sell agreement :
Unless you plan to be lucky forever, you’d better have one. Without it, a closely held or family business faces considerable financial and tax problems on an owner’s death, incapacity, divorce, bankruptcy, sale or retirement.

The cost of a buy-sell agreement is tiny compared to its benefits. A buy-sell agreement can ward off infighting by family members, co-owners and spouses, keep the business afloat so it's goodwill and customer base remain intact, and avoid liquidity problems that often arise on these major events.

Put the business in a trust :
A trust can be a particularly good option for family-run businesses, offering tax advantages and flexibility in the way profits are distributed to beneficiaries. They also provide a legal entity that does not die.

A trading trust can survive the death a traditional business owner. But trusts can have their drawbacks as well. As with any major decision, professional advice is paramount in deciding if a trust is right for your business.

WishesKept

WishesKept has an entire section devoted to business continuity.

You can store scanned copies of your insurance and business agreements in a highly secure online vault.

Provisions have been made for recording account details and supplier/client instructions.

The information is highly encrypted and can only be shared if you become incapacitated or are no longer here.
 
 

Shutting down a Facebook Account

As at 2012, 30 million people who maintained Facebook accounts have died, according to a report from the Huffington Post.

So what happens to all those profiles that are no longer maintained by their owners?

Their account can go one of four ways:

  • The profile remains untouched, unreported and open to wall posts, photo tags, status mentions and Facebook ads.
  • A family member or close friend may choose to report a death to Facebook. Upon receipt of proof of death, Facebook will switch the dead user’s timeline to a “memorial page.”
  • A close family member may request Facebook to deactivate the account.
  • Users may gain access to the dead user’s profile through knowledge of the dead user’s password

Until early 2015, Facebook’s official policy for handling user deaths was the memorial page. More recently Facebook have updated their policy and now provide three options for dealing with a deceased persons account.

Option 1: Memorializing Your Account

If you choose to memorialize the account, Facebook will leave most of the content online.

They will make changes so that no one is allowed to login and you wont be able to change content or add and remove friends. When an account is memorialized, only confirmed friends can see the timeline or locate it in the search bar. The timeline will no longer appear in the suggestions section of the home page, and only friends and family can leave posts on the profile in remembrance.

While Facebook allows verified relatives to memorialize the account, they can only see information that the deceased had chosen to share with them before they died. Facebook has stated that it would not be appropriate to enable them to download that person’s private messages once they are deceased because no permission had been given.

You can apply to have a page memorialized by clicking here.

Option 2: Legacy Contact

At the start of 2015, Facebook announced a policy that allows you to designate a “legacy contact”, who’ll be allowed to “pin a post on your Timeline” after your death, such as a funeral announcement.

The contact won’t be able to log in or read private messages, but will be allowed to respond to new friend requests, update your cover and profile photos, archive your Facebook posts and photos.

The “legacy contact” policy was established after families of the deceased had told Facebook they wanted to download and preserve the user’s photos and also post funeral announcements or other news. “By talking to people who have experienced loss, we realized there is more we can do to support those who are grieving and those who want a say in what happens to their account after death,” Facebook said in a statement.

Unfortunately the legacy contact has to be confirmed by the owner of the account before they die – and the reality is that most people don’t know this feature exists.

If you are thinking about doing this for your own account, Go to the Security option, and click on Legacy Contact, where you will be able to select one of your Facebook friends. You will also be given the option to send them a pre-written message (which you can edit) that provides information about the policy. The contact will be notified only when your death has been reported to Facebook, and your account is memorialized.

Option 3: Deletion

Another way in which your account can be managed is to have it completely removed. Once again, Facebook requires verification that you are an immediate family member or executor. Any requests to delete the profile will not be processed if they are unable to verify your relationship to the deceased.

This option will completely delete the timeline and all associated content from Facebook for good, so no one can view it. All pictures and posts originating from the profile in question will be removed.

You can submit a request by clicking here

Option 4: WishesKept

Most people have multiple social media account and online services. The most common ones include Gmail and Hotmail/Outlook, messaging services such as WhatsApp and Skype, and shopping services such as Amazon and eBay. There are many others, including Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Pinterest, Snapchat, Dropbox, NetFlix and Spotify. PCs and smartphones may also be protected with passwords.

It would take a lot of time to deal with all of these accounts individually, especially as most of them don’t seem to have established processes like Facebook.

The last thing you want to experience when some one passes away is spend the day filling out forms, figuring out who to contact, dealing with bureaucracy, and figuring out how to comply with terms and conditions to allow access to the deceased persons accounts.

With a little bit of pre-planning, and the use of a WishesKept account, you can safely store a copy of your important login and password details in a highly secure vault. The information can only be accessed when you are gone, and the data is fully encrypted until it is needed. While WishesKept requires confirmation of your passing from multiple trusted sources (which you select in advance), the ability to provide your loved ones with login and password details for all of your accounts at once will make it significantly easier to shutdown your profiles if the need arises.

Once you have the login and password details for Facebook, the process of shutting down the account is very simple.

Before you start the process, make sure you are logged into the account you wish to delete

Download your data

Before you delete your Facebook account, you may want to download your info first.

Step 1: Go to https://www.facebook.com/settings

Step 2: At the bottom of the screen, click Download a copy of your Facebook data

Step 3: Click Start My Archive. You will be asked to enter your Facebook password

Once you’ve completed the process, Facebook will email you your archive when it is ready.

Delete your Facebook account (forever)

Important : This will delete your Facebook page forever. If you carry out these steps, it cannot be recovered.

Before you start the process, make sure you are logged into the account you wish to delete

Step 1: Go to https://www.facebook.com/help/delete_account

Step 2: Read the information provided, and then click Delete my account

Step 3: Complete the verifications required, and then click OK

And that’s it! You’ve deleted your Facebook account (forever!)

 

What Happens to Someone’s Property after They Die in New Zealand?

Nearly everyone leaves behind some sort of property when they die. At that point, it is up to the people remaining to figure out what to do with it. At a time when grief can be nearly overwhelming, someone has to deal with the estate. While this may be a difficult task, knowing what to do can bring about the first bit of relief in the situation.

Who is responsible?

The personal representative of the deceased is responsible for distributing the deceased's property. A personal representative is either someone who was named as executor in the deceased's will or a court-appointed administrator, who is usually chosen from among their close relatives.

What is included in the deceased's estate?

The estate of the deceased includes all their possessions. Physical property might include clothing, jewelry or vehicles, among other items, as well as real property such as land or a house. It also includes any money they have in a bank.

When the deceased owned property with someone else as joint tenants, this means that they both owned the property. This may happen if two people own a house together. Because the house belonged to both of them, the person still living automatically takes sole ownership of it and it is not considered a part of the estate. However, if they do not own the property jointly but each have an individual share in it, this is called tenants in common. In this case, the deceased's share of the property becomes a part of his estate.

Is there a need for an official administrator of the estate?

For most estates, the answer is yes, there does need to be an executor or court-appointed administrator to satisfy legal requirements. The only exception is that if the deceased left only a small estate, then it does not have to go through probate and thus doesn't need an official administrator. A small estate is defined as one that does not include ownership of land but does include any or all of the following:

  • $15,000 in bank accounts.
  • $15,000 in shares.
  • $15,000 in life insurance policies.
  • $15,000 in Government stock.
  • $15,000 in local authority stock.

This property can be transferred to the executor or a close family member without probate. Remember here that real property such as a house that is jointly owned is not considered a part of the estate, so joint ownership of land does not require probate, either. The executor, administrator or a beneficiary of the estate simply provides a death certificate to the person or organisation holding the property. As soon as they are satisfied that probate and letters of administration have not been granted by the court, they can release the property.

Steps in settling the estate

1. Whoever is handling the estate, whether that is an executor or a beneficiary, starts the process by applying to the courts if the property amounts to more than what would be considered a small estate. Probate must be granted before the will can be carried out. If there is no will, the court appoints an administrator.

2. After the person who will take care of the property has been chosen, either in accordance with the will or by order of the court, the property must be identified and prepared for distribution. A part of this is handling claims against the estate and paying taxes and debts.

3. The property left after satisfying debts, taxes and claims then has to be distributed to the person(s) entitled to it.

How to apply for probate if the deceased left a will

If the deceased left a will naming you as executor, the first step you need to take is to find the latest will and codicils, or changes. The best way to find out about them is to go directly to the deceased's lawyer or the Public Trust.

Once you have the final will, the next step is to apply for probate. In most cases, the estate's lawyer puts together the required documents, application and affidavit. The affidavit contains evidence that the person has died and where they were residing at the time of their death, along with a statement that the will is the final will of the deceased. The entire application, including all its required documents, must be prepared in the correct form, according to the High Court Rules. You then take over as executor and file the application. You get probate for the will when the High Court recognizes it as a valid will.

A High Court trial may be needed to determine the validity of the will if someone claims it is not an authentic will or the final will of the deceased. If that happens, a lawyer represents the estate.

After the High Court approves the will, it makes an order granting probate or letters of administration. The order and the will both become matters of public record, which can be viewed by anyone.

How to apply for letters of administration if there is no will

Your loved one may die without a will. This is called dying intestate. If they do die intestate, someone will need to file an application to get approval for administering the estate. This can be a closest relative, a trustee company or Public Trust. Even if the deceased had a will, this needs to be done if the will is invalid, named no executor or named an executor who will not or cannot follow through with handling the estate. The High Court approves an administrator, officially allowing them to deal with the estate.

What happens to the house and land?

Once the court grants probate or letters of administration, the house or land can be transferred legally to the executor or administrator. This personal representative can then transfer it to the beneficiary. However, if the property was owned jointly, it goes immediately to the joint owner.

Identifying property and obligations of the deceased

Once you approved as executor or administrator of the estate, you need to gather information about the deceased's assets and liabilities.

1. Find all the assets.
2. Take possession of the assets.
3. Have the assets valuated if necessary.
4. Identify anyone who might make a claim against the estate and seek a settlement of those claims.
5. Pay the deceased's debts and taxes.

Finding the assets

Finding all the assets of someone who is deceased is not always a simple task. You need to know about all their assets, including bank accounts, insurance policies, share accounts, overseas assets and any property that can be called an asset of the estate. In some cases, you might have to investigate this by looking through the deceased's property and papers, talking to people who know about their assets, and writing to organisations that hold their assets.

Taking Possession of the Assets

The administrator or executor shows the court order granting them administration to the organisations and individuals who are in possession of or responsible for the assets at the time of the death. As a part of this task, you need to produce the court order when dealing with the Land Titles Office to gain legal possession of the land. You will also need this document when dealing with overseas assets.

Settling claims against the estate

In certain circumstances, there may be valid claims against the estate. If a close family member is left out of the will, they may be entitled to a share under the Family Protection Act. Anyone might have a claim against the estate if they helped the deceased and were promised something in return. This would fall under the Law Reform Act covering Testamentary Promises. The executor or administrator of the estate needs to resolve such matters before moving ahead with distribution of the assets.

Making payments for debts and taxes

You first have to find out what the debts of the estate are. To help ensure that all debts are found, executors or administrators typically place a Notice to Creditors in the newspaper to let creditors know to send any claims against the deceased's estate to them. Once you know what the debts are, they can be paid out of the deceased's assets.
The deceased's taxes must be paid before the beneficiaries are given any of the remaining property. You must file tax returns covering the time from the last filing to the date of death, as well as tax on estate income earned after that date.

Distributing the Remaining Property

If there is a will, the executor transfers the deceased's property to the beneficiaries as named in the will.
However, if there is no will, the property is distributed to family members as required by the rules of intestacy. These rules name the following family members in order of their priority:

1. Spouse, civil union partner or de facto partner.
2. Children, whether or not their parents were married.
3. The deceased's parents.
4. The deceased's siblings.
5. The deceased's grandparents.
6. The deceased's uncles and aunts.

(A de facto partner is considered the top priority under intestacy only if they and the deceased were in a relationship for 3 years or longer, if there is a child of the relationship, or if the de facto partner contributed to the relationship substantially.)

The rules of intestacy determine who inherits and in what proportions. The following are some of the most common situations.

1. There is a spouse or partner and children:

The spouse or partner gets all of the deceased's personal physical property such as cars, furniture, jewelry, etc. They also receive a set amount, currently $155,000 plus one-third of the remaining property. The children split the remaining two-thirds equally.

2. There is no spouse or partner but there are children:

The children split the property equally.

3. If there is no spouse, partner or children:

The deceased's parents get all the deceased's assets.

4. If there is no spouse, partner or children:

The deceased's siblings take equal shares of the assets.

What if the deceased and their spouse or civil partner were not living together?

The spouse or civil partner is still considered as the top priority unless there was a Family Court separation order. If such an order was in place at the time of the death, the spouse or partner has no right to the property if the deceased died without a will.

What if the deceased leaves behind none of these family members?

If the deceased had no spouse, partner, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts or uncles who survived them, their estate may go to the government.

Can the distribution of the property be challenged?

Anyone who disagrees with the way the property is distributed may challenge the distribution if they would have right to property under the Family Protection Act, the Law Reform Act of 1949, or the Property Act of 1976. These acts cover family rights, testamentary promises and relationship property rights.

How long does it take to distribute the estate?

In most cases, it only takes about six months to make all the distributions after the grant of administration. Factors that can affect the amount of time this takes include: types of assets, terms of the will, any challenges to the will, and legal complexities.

If the terms of the will are complex, no one may be able to receive their share of the property until the estate is finalised. However, interim payments can be made in situations like the following:

1. All property is in the form of cash or can quickly be turned into cash.
2. There are few beneficiaries.
3. All liabilities can be found and paid first.

Maori Land

When an owner of Maori land dies, the Maori Land Court must order the deceased's land interests to be transferred to their successors.

If the deceased made a will, they were required to only pass on Maori land to a member of the whanau or hapu associated with the land. If they are not, they do not take possession of the land,
but may have a life interest in it or a right to income from the land.

If the deceased did not make a will, rules established in Te Ture Whenua Maori Act determine which whanau members receive the land.

Whanau at tangihanga

Whanau at tangihanga can make certain decisions about Maori land. Once they arrive at a decision, it must be confirmed by the Maori Land Court. This decision may involve setting up a whanau trust, a Maori incorporation or replacing a whanau trust trustee.

Ways to prevent problems for your heirs after your death

There are certain things you can do to make it easier for your heirs to settle your estate. Most importantly, you need to make a will as soon as possible and make sure you name an executor who is willing and able to do the job. If you name someone and they become unavailable later on, you need to change the will to name a new executor.

If you have a relatively small estate, you may be able to keep it in the category of small estates that do not require probate. You may be able to accomplish this by spreading your bank assets between more than one bank so that each has less than $15,000.

Your spouse or partner may be left with no income during the time between your death and the High Court's approval for distributing your property. You can prevent this by opening at least one joint account with your spouse or partner. They will then have access to your joint funds with no interruption.

Preparing for your own death can be a difficult thing to face. Yet, doing so can save your loved ones pain and heartache while making the estate easier to settle. If you are the one who is now dealing with a deceased person's property, knowing what to do certainly makes your life easier. Why not use the situation as a reminder to make this process easier for the person who administrates your estate?

 

Top 5 Essential Health Tips for Seniors

If we expect a good quality of life in our senior years, it is essential that we try to stay fit and keep our health for as long as possible. This can be a real challenge as we age and our bodies are not as willing as they were 10 or 20 years ago.

The worlds population is growing older. Each day, more and more of our baby boomers are turning 65. The balance of people over the age of 65 is expected to grow rapidly over the next 20 years.

With developments in science and medicine, people are living longer than they ever have in the past. To make the most of our senior years, the following 5 tips will serve you well towards a fit and healthy lifestyle.

1. Quit smoking

If you haven’t given up smoking, you should do it as soon as possible. This is critical to improving your health and combating aging. Smoking kills by causing strokes, heart failure, and cancer. The depletion of testosterone leads to baldness and can cause erectile dysfunction in men. Smoking has been proven to cause excessive wrinkling of the skin by attacking the skin’s elasticity.

Just one cigarette robs the body of 25mg vitamin C and limits the absorption of vitamin D which is the most important nutrient for healthy skin. You’ll also take six weeks longer to heal from injuries than non-smokers.

It is never too late to give up. Even if you’re a social smoker, now is the time to extinguish your habit. Did you know that your body can almost completely heal itself within a year?

The process starts the minute you stub out your last cigarette:

6 hours after your last cigarette, levels of carbon monoxide will decline, and your heart won’t have to work as hard to pump oxygen around your body.

Within 2 to 12 weeks your lung function will improve by up to 30%, resulting in a noticeable decrease in coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath.

After 3 months, 75% of smokers with erectile dysfunction are functional again.

After 9 months, your risk of having a heart attack will be half that of a regular smoker.

2. Keep active

You should do something to keep fit every day. Keep your body moving and maintain your strength, balance and flexibility. Doing something every day also improves your cardiovascular health, maintains your ideal weight, helps you sleep better, reduces stress and makes you look better (and younger)

Find an activity you enjoy and begin slowly. Try to incorporate endurance activities, strengthening exercises, stretching and balancing exercises into your exercise program. Good choices include walking, swimming, biking, gardening, tai chi and exercise classes designed for seniors.

Did you know that falls are the leading cause of death among the elderly? Regular exercise helps you maintain your balance. We become vulnerable to falls as we age. Prevent falls and injury by removing loose carpet or throw rugs. Keep paths clear of electrical cords and clutter.

3. Eat well and maintain a healthy weight

As we age, eating well can improve mental acuteness, energy levels, and resistance to illness. A healthy diet can also be the key to a positive outlook and staying emotionally balanced. Many illnesses, such as heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis, can be prevented or controlled with a healthy diet and exercise. Calcium and vitamin D supplements can help women prevent osteoporosis.

People who eat fruit, leafy veggies, and fish and nuts packed with omega-3 fatty acids can improve focus and decrease their risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidant-rich green tea may also enhance memory and mental alertness as you age.

As you age, your digestion becomes less efficient, so it’s important to include enough fiber in your diet. Women over 50 should aim to eat at least 21 grams of fiber per day, men over 50 at least 30 grams a day. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t getting even half those amounts.

4. Stay up to date on health checks and health screening

By age 50, women should begin mammography screening for breast cancer. Men can be checked for prostate cancer. New Zealand has one of the highest bowel cancer rates in the world. Free bowel screening can save lives by finding cancers early. Men and women aged 50 to 74 who live in New Zealand, can take part in the national bowel screening program.

While some of these checks are uncomfortable (or embarrassing), it is essential that you get them done. If you leave it too late, the damage may be irreversible.

Your teeth will last a lifetime if you care for them properly. You need to brush and floss them daily and make sure you get your regular dental checkups. By age 50, most people notice changes to their vision, including a gradual decline in the ability to see small print or focus on close objects. Common eye problems that can impair vision include cataracts and glaucoma.

5. Manage stress

Stress can have an enormous impact on your health and your quality of life at any age—and even more so as you get older. Concerns like: “Will there enough money now that I’m retired?” and “What will happen if I get a serious illness or become disabled?” are common in older adults.

As you age, you’re also more likely to experience emotional loss associated with the death of people close to you (friends, family members, spouse), your own health, and the loss of your independence. For many seniors, dealing with the loneliness caused by multiple losses can make you depressed and sometimes causes anxiety.

It is important that you acknowledge your feelings and express them. Talk to your friends, family and health care workers. Consider joining a support group or keeping a journal. While it can sometimes be difficult, keeping your sense of humor and having a daily laugh with friends or family can be uplifting and spiritually healing.

Never too late

It’s never too late to start leading a healthier lifestyle. Even well into their 60s and 70s, adults can take action to reduce their risk of developing chronic disease, and live a happier and healthier life.

How to get a death certificate in New Zealand?

It is not always a simple task to get a death certificate when someone dies. Before it can be issued, the death must be confirmed by someone with legal authority to do so and registered with Births, Deaths and Marriages at the Department of Internal Affairs. The process of getting a death certificate begins immediately upon the person's death.

What typically happens when someone dies of known, natural causes is that the attending doctor confirms the death. The doctor then issues a “Medical Certificate of Cause of Death.” Once you obtain this official confirmation, you or the funeral director will need to have other documents such as a special approval for cremation. Then, after the burial or cremation, you can get a death certificate once the death is registered with Internal Affairs.

If there is any question that the death was accidental or violent, or if the cause is not yet known, the process is more complex. It must be reported to the coroner, who will decide if further investigation is necessary and may order a post-mortem, also known as an autopsy, to determine or confirm the cause of death. Once the cause is confirmed and officially registered, the body can be buried or cremated. After that, the Death Certificate can be issued.

The Doctor's Role

If a doctor was in charge of the person's care before he or she died, the doctor might have enough information to determine the cause of death. In this case, the doctor will issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. This is an essential document because it is required before the body is buried or cremated.

The doctor is only allowed to issue this certificate if he or she is confident that the death was due to natural causes related to the illness being treated. The doctor is usually not allowed to make this determination if the cause seems to be an accident. However, if the person was over 70 at the time of his or her death, the doctor can determine if the death was caused by physical limitations or other problems associated with the person's age.

If the doctor can and is allowed to determine the cause of death, the doctor can issue the certificate. At that point, the family can control what happens to the body, either by taking it home or arranging for it to go to a funeral home.

However, the doctor might report the death to the police instead in certain cases, so the police can notify the coroner. This can happen:

  • In cases of suicide, unnatural or violent deaths.
  • If the doctor cannot determine the cause of death.
  • If the death occurred when the person was under anaesthetic or having an operation or if anaesthetic or an operation might have been the cause of death.
  • If the person died during childbirth.
  • If the person was in prison, police custody or in some other official custody or care.

If the person died in an accident, the police or hospital staff arrange for the body to go to the hospital morgue. The coroner will either decide that no further investigation is needed and allow the doctor to issue the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death or determine that a post mortem is needed.

The Coroner's Role

The local coroner has a part to play if the death is suspicious, violent or unnatural. In these cases, the doctor who first examines the body reports the death to the police, who report it to the coroner.

A coroner is typically a lawyer rather than a medical professional. His or her job is to determine the cause of death if the doctor could not make that determination. Once the issue of cause of death is in the coroner's hands, he or she becomes legally in charge of the body. After that, the coroner has to make a few decisions about what to do next.

The coroner may talk to friends and relatives in search of information and rumors about what happened to cause the death and events that led up to the death. Based on all this information, the coroner might decide there needs to be a post-mortem or even an inquest. The post-mortem is an examination of the body done by a medical pathologist who specializes in diseases.

If the death was violent or suspicious, the coroner might decide to hand over the decision to the Coroner's Court for a legal hearing called an inquest. The inquest allows the court to examine the evidence surrounding the death and determine its cause.

In deciding whether to order an autopsy, the coroner has to assess whether the post mortem will bring any new information to help determine the cause of death. The coroner also has to consider whether the death was violent or in any way unnatural. The coroner may go ahead with the post mortem if any rumors, suspicions or public concerns suggest that it is necessary. He or she may decide not to move forward with the post mortem if it would offend or severely upset the family due to tikanga Maori or other cultural beliefs. Finally, the coroner may choose to call in a pathologist to conduct a post mortem or not based on whether the immediate family wants an autopsy to be done.

In certain cases, the coroner may order the autopsy to be completed immediately. This can happen if waiting could interfere with the likelihood of finding the cause of death. For infant deaths, the coroner moves forward with the autopsy in any case. The coroner may act immediately if the body needs to be made available to the family quickly due to tikanga Maori or other cultural practices.

As soon as the coroner makes a decision to order the post mortem, he or she is required to notify the immediate family as soon as possible. The coroner also has to tell the family the reason for the autopsy. After the post mortem is completed, the coroner must give the immediate family a copy of the report if they tell him they want it.
The coroner must sign an Order for Disposal of Body within 24 hours of the conclusion of the autopsy. This allows the family to take legal possession of the body and move forward with burial or cremation. In cases where the coroner chooses not to do a post mortem, he or she must release the body within the same timeframe as it would be released if a doctor had signed the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. However, if additional medical specialists besides the pathologist need to be called in, the process might take longer.

The Pathologist's Role

If the coroner calls in a pathologist to do a post mortem, the pathologist looks for external injuries and does a surgical examination of the body, looking at the internal organs, examining any deep wounds and searching for signs of disease.

As the pathologist examines the body, he or she will be careful to avoid leaving visible signs of the autopsy. In fact, the pathologist is legally required to not do anything that would disfigure the body any more than is necessary to determine the cause of death.

The Family's Role

The family of the deceased may be called upon for information about the deceased's life as well as any information they have about the person's death.

If the family does not want a post mortem to be done, they need to make their objection known to the coroner within 24 hours after the coroner notifies them of his or her intentions. If the coroner still believes the autopsy is necessary, the family must make their objection to the High Court within 48 hours. The High Court is required to address the objection immediately. To file this objection with the High Court, the family needs a lawyer, available through Legal Aid if necessary.

However, in certain instances, the family does not have a right to object to the post mortem. This happens if the coroner decides an immediate autopsy is necessary to find evidence of the cause of death or if the death might have been caused by a criminal act.

In addition, the family may want to be present during the time the coroner has the body. The immediate family or whanau and a minister can be with the body if they so choose and the coroner decides to allow it. This request may be denied if it could make finding the cause of death more difficult, if being with the body could cause health risks to the family, or if there are no rooms or facilities where the family or whanau can stay.

After the body has been released by the coroner, the burial or cremation can take place. Following this, Births, Deaths and Marriages at the Department of Internal Affairs must be notified within three working days. If a funeral director is involved, that person can notify Internal Affairs, but otherwise, it must be done by the executor of the will, or if there is no will, by the closest relative.

This notification must be submitted on the Notification of Death for Registration form (BDM 28). You can get this form from the Births, Deaths and Marriages office or by calling 0800 22 52 52. BDM offices are located in Auckland, Manukau, Wellington and Christchurch. You do not have to pay anything to register the death, but you do have to pay for a copy of the death certificate.

After Births, Deaths and Marriages officially registers the death, they issue a New Zealand Death Certificate. This is an important document for family, because it allows the family to deal with issues involving the estate, such as getting funds released from a bank account. The family can get a copy of the death certificate by applying for it, which can be done at the same time as the Notification of Death for Registration.

 

Pre-Planning a Funeral? 25 Things you need to Consider

Planning Your Funeral or Memorial Service

Pre-planning your funeral is the best way to ensure your wishes are followed after you die. When you do it, you also relieve your loved ones of the burden of dealing with all the funeral arrangements at a difficult time. After all, dealing with death is never easy, but it is easier for you now than it will be for your family members later.

Funeral planning involves making both major decisions like whether to be buried or cremated and minor decisions like what type of flowers you want for your casket. It involves facts and figures as well as feelings. You can even begin to make arrangements for your wishes to be carried out.

This three-part series is intended to help educate you on the decisions you are about to make and the actions you need to take to follow through with those decisions. Since the decisions you make about the service you want will impact the other, more business-oriented decisions, you may find it best to start by planning the service that will be your farewell to your loved ones. Consider the following points.

Where will the memorial service take place?

You can choose the venue for your service, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be held at a funeral home. It can be held in a church regardless of whether you have been a member of a church or not. If you want a religious ceremony, you can contact a clergy member and talk about the service you want. If you choose not to have the casket present or if you have chosen to be cremated, the service can take place anywhere you choose.

Who will lead the service?

A clergy member can conduct the service, and this is usually appropriate if you do have a religious service. If you are not a member of a church, you can still have a clergy member officiate. If your service will be non-religious, you can have anyone you like lead the service. It’s best to choose this person and discuss it with them ahead of time to make sure they are willing to fill this role.

How will friends and family members participate?

Usually, someone close to you delivers the eulogy. Pallbearers are typically chosen from among the friends and family as well. You can also let people know if you want a portion of the funeral or memorial service to be devoted to your loved ones’ stories and memories about you.

Who will come?

You probably want members of your family and your closest friends to attend your funeral. If you want a larger crowd, you can have your loved ones or the funeral director put an announcement in the newspaper or have your clergy announce your funeral during their weekly church services. There may also be people you do not want to be there. Write up a list of those to be invited and not invited so the person completing your arrangements can follow your wishes.

Will there be a viewing?

A viewing is a time for family and friends to gather and share their grief. They may talk about their loss as well as good memories they have of you. If you have a viewing, your body will be present. This helps loved ones deal with the reality of your death. However, it is not necessary if you prefer not to have a viewing. One other option is to have a visitation where loved ones can come together to respectfully share their grief. The body does not need to be present for a visitation.

What music and readings will be performed?

Most funerals and many memorial services include music and readings. You can choose the music to be played as well as the singers and musicians that will perform them. You may also have a favorite poem or scripture that is appropriate to the service. Let others know what it is and who you would like to read it.

What visual reminders will be displayed?

Choose a photo of yourself that can be displayed at the service. This is particularly important if your body will not be present. You can choose many photos if you like, and have them displayed on a table or set them up as a slideshow on a computer display.

What clothing and jewelry will be put on the body?

If you are being buried or if your body will be present at the service before cremation, you can choose what clothes and jewelry you want to be put on the body for your loved ones’ last sight of you. Some people choose clothing that presents their best, formal image, while others want their loved ones to see them in clothing that is more representative of the clothing they wore most often. You will also want to decide if any rings or other jewelry is used, especially if you have heirloom jewelry.

What decorations will be used?

Typically, a floral arrangement is used on the casket, and there may be other floral arrangements chosen for the venue. While friends and family members may send plants and flowers, you can choose the main floral arrangements. Parents and grandparents with little ones may select a balloon arrangement that can be divided up among the children as they leave.

When you have made all your decisions for the type of memorial service or funeral you want, it’s important to write it down so there can be no question. Let others know what you have planned and where they can find these notes about your last wishes. Then, with the service planned, you can go on to making the more concrete, business-type decisions and setting them in motion.

Cremation and Burial Options

The most important decision you make when pre-planning your funeral is whether to be buried or cremated. This one decision greatly affects your funeral costs and the types of arrangements you need to make. It also allows you to follow your own beliefs and feelings about what should happen to your body when you no longer need it.

The big decision

No one else should decide for you whether you want to be buried or cremated. Burial or cremation is a very personal decision that may perplex those closest to you if they have to choose. Pre-planning this aspect of your funeral gives your friends and family members the gift of assurance that your wishes are being carried out. It is never easy to think about what will happen to your body after you die, but it can make all the difference to your loved ones to know. You can record your decision in your will or in a letter to your family.

Prior arrangements

Before you go any further, find out if anyone has purchased a plot or a space in a mausoleum for your burial. This could save you money, but you don’t have to accept the gift. If you would rather be buried somewhere else, it’s okay to tell the person who purchased the plot so they can gift it to someone else. If you do want to accept their kind gift, tell your family members that the plot or mausoleum spot is already available when needed.

The funeral director

A funeral director can help you make both decisions and arrangements for your burial or cremation. Find someone that you respect and feel comfortable working with in these difficult tasks. The funeral director can offer you burial and cremation products and help you buy the plot if you are to be buried. However, if you are being cremated and don’t choose to have a viewing, you may be able to work with the crematory instead of a funeral home.

Location

If you decide to be buried, the next choice you need to make is where the burial will take place. It can be in a burial plot or a mausoleum at a cemetery. If you choose to be cremated, your urn can be buried in a cemetery, sent to be stored with friends or family, or taken to your favorite location for your ashes to be scattered. If the casket or urn will go to a cemetery, you will need to choose and purchase a plot or a space in a mausoleum.

When considering different locations for a burial, consider the environment of the location, religious affiliations of a cemetery, whether you want adjoining plots for other family members, and whether the cemetery has vacancies. Then, take a trip to the location to see it for yourself. Observe how well the cemetery is maintained and ask any questions you have before you sign the papers to reserve your spot.

Types of burial spots

There are several types of plots to choose for your burial. The most common are single-depth burial plots, but if space is limited, you may choose to have a double-depth burial plot for you and a loved one (typically a spouse). Some cemeteries offer family plots where a section of the cemetery is set aside for several members of your family. Another option is called a “private estate,” and it could include a private mausoleum building, a private section in the cemetery for family plots, or a custom-designed burial space for your family.

Types of spaces for cremation urns or ashes

If you choose to be cremated, you still need to decide what will happen to your ashes. They can be given an earth burial, where they are buried either in a section of a cemetery designated for urns or within a family plot where some caskets are or will be buried as well. The ashes could be placed in a columbarium, which is similar to a mausoleum but specifically designed for urns rather than caskets. Or, you can request your loved ones scatter part or all of your ashes in a specific location. Run this decision past your funeral director to be sure there is no law or custom preventing your ashes from being scattered there. One more option is having a friend or family member keep your ashes in their urn for a time. This should be considered a short-term solution, because you also need to decide where your ashes will go after the death of the person keeping them immediately following your service.

Always remember that your loved ones cannot follow your wishes if they don’t know them. Communicate all your choices to your family members and close friends, preferably in writing. Once you have made these basic decisions about your cremation or burial, you can begin making specific arrangements as described in Part Three of this series.

Products and Arrangements

After you’ve chosen the type of memorial service or funeral you want and considered where your remains will go, you can start the process of purchasing burial and cremation products and services. You can make these purchases by paying up front, or you can assign an insurance policy to pay for them when the time comes. The more of the following products and services you can arrange ahead of time, the easier it will be for your family to deal with your death.

Talking to the funeral director

After you choose a funeral home and funeral director, you need to open up the conversation with them, discussing your preferences and asking for options. Don’t be afraid to ask for a general price list, as each funeral home should have one and it is your right to see it. The funeral director should also be able to give you a planning list that you can follow to make sure you see to all the important details of planning your funeral.

Caskets

Caskets come in many different styles. Their prices tend to vary based on the material they are made from and the level of workmanship that goes into producing them. Ask your funeral director to show you your options. Although the exact casket you choose now might not be available if you die many years later, choosing it gives your family members a clear idea of what you want.

Outer burial containers

The cemetery where your casket will be buried may require you to have an outer container around your casket. Or, you might prefer it even if it isn’t required. You can arrange for a burial vault or a grave liner and pay for it now.

Urns

An enormous variety of urns are available, so it is important to let your loved ones know which type you prefer. Traditional urns are made of metals, such as bronze, brass, copper, or even gold. They can also be made of stone, wood or other materials. Some urns take the form of sculptures, while others are simple cubes. You can even choose a special container that grows a tree from your ashes.

The style and material of the urn will determine the cost. You can purchase the urn from a funeral home, although the exact urn you get might be slightly different if you die many years later. Or, you can purchase an urn directly and set it aside where your loved ones can find it at the appropriate time.

Cremation caskets

Although the body doesn’t necessarily have to be present if you are being cremated, you may want it to be there. If so, you need a suitable container for the service as well as for the cremation. You can purchase a casket that has no metal parts if you want the casket to be used for the cremation container. If you prefer to have a casket with metal or a more elaborate casket, you can arrange for a rental casket to be used for the service only. Then, the body can be cremated in an alternative container.

Burial plots

One of the easiest things you can do in pre-planning your funeral is to choose and purchase a burial plot. Before you sign the paperwork, be sure the cemetery representative answers all the questions you have about the practices, policies and conditions at the cemetery. Once you have bought the plot, store the deed to it in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box at a bank.

Transportation

After you die, your body will need to be transported to the location of the funeral home or crematory and then to the cemetery if you have chosen burial. If your burial site is far from the funeral home, the transportation costs can be substantial. Also, if you die far from home, additional transportation may be required. While you can’t plan for every possibility, you can set aside funds for transportation based on the most likely course of events. If you are purchasing a complete funeral plan from a funeral home, you can include these expected costs in the plan.

Communication

Communicating your plans is the single most important part of pre-planning your funeral. After all, if no one knows about the arrangements you have made, your time will have been wasted and you are not likely to get the burial you want. When you have purchased products and services and made specific arrangements for your burial or cremation, let others know what you have done. Talk to your lawyer about including as much information as possible in your will. Write a letter to your family that lists all the details of the purchases and arrangements you have made as well as where to find receipts and any deeds or rental agreements you have. Pre-planning your funeral is a gift to yourself and your loved ones. Communicating those plans is the presentation of that gift.