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Your family will have a hard enough time dealing with grief. Don't make them hunt for your will or try to guess the name of your lawyer.

My life partner’s father died recently, only a couple of weeks after LP had flown down to deal with impending end-of-life issues. Hospice was involved and paperwork needed to be handled.

For almost a week he spent up to 16 hours a day slogging through reams of files and bushels of belongings. Bank, insurance and health records were every which way. The power of attorney (written some years back) turned out to be problematic so LP had to get it rewritten, re-signed and re-notarized.

One agency wanted to know the names of all doctors his father had seen in the past two years, and guess what? Nobody knew. Heck, there wasn’t even a record of the defibrillator he’d had implanted.

Just as difficult was sorting through tons of accumulated possessions. The library said “no thanks” to most of his father’s old books. Boxes of odd belongings collected over the years, including “several hundred pounds of electronics that just didn’t work,” had to be either donated or dumped.

Taking care of business

My sweetheart came home exhausted, but glad that he was able to be there and to handle the many details and chores that his dad’s soon-to-be widow (who’s in her 90s) was unable to accomplish. He brought with him a suitcase of odds and ends and two ironclad decisions:

  • To sort through the basement, which houses his own collection of this and that.
  • To make sure all his own paperwork is in one place and easy to understand, so his own kids don’t have such a hard time when that time comes.

He suggested that this would make a good post topic: Clean up your crap and organize your end-of-life paperwork.

I agree. Don’t leave it to others to figure out whether you have any insurance or wonder where you might have put the will. (Don’t have a will? For God’s sake, write one. Now. This article on Nolo gives the basics.)

Keep on top of the clutter too. Do you want your heirs to have to deal with things like old crocheting supplies and back copies of Field & Stream?

Few of us want to think about getting ready to die. The alternative is leaving a huge, tangled mess for your loved ones — a mess that could delay probate and cost your estate a lot of money.

Your family will have a hard enough time dealing with their grief. Don’t make them try to guess the name of your lawyer, or whether you preferred cryonics to cremation.

Spelling it all out is one last, loving act. Don’t forget the password to the safe.

More stories on DonnaFreedman.com:

Stacy Johnson

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