I think like most people, my wife, Michelle, and I really hadn’t given much, if any, thought to what would happen if one of us, or another family member passed away. On Labor Day 2013 that all changed for us when Michelle’s father suddenly passed away.
During the days following his passing, we did what we could do just to “get through it.” Things like notifying immediate and extended family and close friends, piecing together an obituary, selecting a funeral home, working with the florist, making arrangements with the church for the service, quickly trying to put together memory boards, and planning the reception following the service.
All these tasks were daunting at best. We hoped the arrangements and decisions that we were making would have been pleasing to Michelle’s father. Completing these tasks on little rest was not easy; after all we were still dealing with the shock of the loss. Little did we know; however, that the challenges were just beginning!
Like many families, one person is usually the keeper of the finances. In our case, Michelle’s father was that person. He paid all the bills, did the banking, and handled all of the household finances. In fact, Michelle’s mother had not paid a bill in nearly 60 years!
Unfortunately, Michelle’s father hadn’t shared all of the important details with anyone in the family. So, none of us knew where all the accounts were located or even what life insurance policies may be in force. We did find a safe deposit key, but had no idea at what financial institution it was held. How were we to track down his pension and retirement assets, much less be able to access the bills he paid online? And the list of questions went on and on.
Sadly, this process of “cleaning things up” took nearly 10 months of digging through desk drawers and old files, making exhaustive phone calls, and searching for documents and information. We found that others we spoke with about our situation were anxious to share their stories with us, and everyone one of them was sadly similar.
Time for a Change We thought there must be a better way! Isn’t the sadness of the loss enough? Why should those who are left behind have to endure all of this additional hardship in an already stressful time? Michelle and I agreed that we had to come up with a solution to make things easier; a way for people to get organized and to share important information with those they love. So that when they pass, their loved ones will have access to important information and final wishes. In this complex and ever changing world, we can no longer simply hope our families or loved ones can figure things out. We call it “End of Life Etiquette.”