Gail Rubin, the doyenne of death, has a website www.agoodgoodbye.com that explores the rituals we use to celebrate and honor the lives of our loved ones. There are so many ways families approach the “final goodbye” with an opportunity to reflect, remember and celebrate. She promotes funeral pre-planning to alleviate much of the financial and emotional stress that accompanies the death of a loved one.
Estate planning complements this process. There is so much stress when a family crisis arises, so much emotion is brought out and often, family fighting. Children revert to their childhood roles and rivalries. It is human nature.
What can you do to prevent a difficult situation? The answer is simple. You can help alleviate family controversy by telling your family what you would want. They all want to your honor final wishes – the problem is that they often disagree about what you would have wanted. People read their own values into the situation. They also interpret what you have said in the past in different ways. Help them with a clear road map.
You can give your family peace in knowing that they carried out your final wishes. That is the best gift you can give them because they want to know you were happy. You give them a gift by identifying your wishes – a gift that is invaluable and irreplaceable. You give them peace – they don’t have to guess – they know for sure. We all want to give our best to our loved ones. So help them do that by telling them your wishes!
So many people believe their loved ones will know what they want, however, studies show that it is not so clear. Life is more complicated and situations are more complex than ever before. Should you be buried in a family plot with your parents? What if you were married twice. Which husband should you be buried with? If you are cremated, what should happen to the ashes? Should they be buried? Scattered? Kept in an urn? Who gets them? These can be difficult decisions, especially in the face of overwhelming grief. Your family wants you to be at peace in your final rest.
There are several legal documents that can help you do this – a living will, a health care proxy and an appointment of agent for disposition of remains. These documents generally are less than $500 to prepare. What is the price of family peace? If you have not prepared these documents, I encourage you to take the time. It will be a gift that lives forever.