Though I don’t plan to die anytime soon, I also acknowledge that is ultimately up to the Lord. Therefore, I recently assembled a document of information my loved ones need to know. Loosely based on a printed workbook JC gave me a couple of years ago (yes, I procrastinate), I had to type mine in Microsoft Word because I enjoy constantly reanalyzing and changing things, which a handwritten version would not really accommodate very well.
I am not sure what I expected it to be like, but it turned into a very emotional process at times for me. This type of document essentially represents your last communications, in this world anyway, to your family and friends. Many cold but necessary things are captured. Bank accounts, life insurance policies, and the like.
I sprinkled other things throughout mine, though. Little notes here and there. Some to whoever happened to be reading, others to specific people. I also added some of my favorite Bible verses. Much prayer went into my document.
Near the end of the exercise, I decided to add some concluding thoughts. I considered as I wrote, what if I really did die today? The emotions flooded me as I realized what a blessed life I have led. I found Jesus (or, rather, He found me). I experienced true love. And so many other wonderful aspects.
I also know where I am going when I die, thanks to Jesus. The fear of the unknown future after death or, as William Shakespeare so eloquently called it, “the undiscovered country” (Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1), no longer has a grip on me. I am going to the Perfect Place, Heaven, to be with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Whether I go in five minutes or fifty years, He has a place for me.
On a more practical side, I discovered a number of things while gathering the material. First, it took me far longer than I expected to pull together the information. Which, to me, completely justifies the exercise. If it took me 30 hours to find all of this stuff while knowing, in general, where to look and how to access it, I imagine it would take loved ones at least ten times that long if I did not provide them this kind of assistance. And some things they would never find or even know to seek.
I also learned that I had failed properly to fill out paperwork when updating one of my old retirement plans, so beneficiaries I thought I named earlier this year were actually not present. I also found I had failed to name beneficiaries at all on my life insurance policy through my new job. On that one, I thought for sure I did – but apparently my mind wrongly checked off this task as “done” when I named beneficiaries on my new retirement plan. I still get a headache now thinking about it. Fortunately, this exercise helped uncover these discrepancies, as it is much easier to resolve such things while living – or so I am told.
If you do not already have a document like this in place, I highly recommend you do so. Be sure to store your document in a secure location and let at least a couple of trusted people in your life know how to access it.
You can find various forms online (I enjoy creating my own documents, one of my quirks), but here are the kinds of information you might want to include (some may not apply):
- Your Personal Information (legal name, aliases, date of birth, place of birth, social security number [if applicable], home address, phone numbers, email addresses, marital status, citizenship, and organ donor status)
- Family & Friends to Contact (name, relationship, contact info, comments)
- Other Entities to Contact (e.g., employer, bank, insurance company)
- Memorial Instructions
- Bank Accounts (bank, type, account #, name on the account, automatic deposits, automatic withdrawals)
- Debt (entity, rate, type, balance, minimum monthly payment, data as of, payment method)
- Other Monthly Bills (entity, approximate payment, payment method)
- Charitable Concerns (listing of churches and other charities/ministries you support)
- Other Credit Cards (zero balances/not in use)
- Life Insurance Policies (insurer, policy #, address, phone, type, death benefit amount, primary beneficiary, contingent beneficiary)
- Instructions About Life Insurance Proceeds (e.g., tithe)
- Vehicle(s) [description, title holder, amount owed (if any)]
- Location of Important Papers
- Medical (doctors, dentist, known diseases/medical history, etc.)
- Retirement/Investment Accounts (entity, type, from, balance, data as of, beneficiary, contingent)
- Business Interests
- Real Estate Owned
- Individual Stocks
- Distribution of Personal Items (item, current location, for)
- Notes About Borrowed Items You Have
- Notes About Items or Money You Have Loaned
- User Names & Passwords (or how to find them)
- Final Comments
While a will is more appropriate for substantial items, the “Distribution of Personal Items” section is useful for articles of more sentimental than financial value. I made sure to add at least one little note per recipient in this section. Once completing this exercise, you may want to consider even writing full letters to each of your loved ones and including them in the same location.
Completing the above for the first time is surely the hardest part. Be sure to brush it off every six months or so, though, so that it doesn’t slowly become uselessly outdated.
Think of this document as a gift to your loved ones. They will be grieving you. Make the administrative aspects of your death as easy on them as possible so that they can concentrate on the emotional aspects and healing.
Thank you for reading. May Jesus bless you.
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”