There’s a lot of people who are a little or maybe more than a little disturbed by my acceptance of death. It’s just not a fear of mine and I have no issue with its eventuality. I’m not even going to try and avoid it.
With such a straightforward view of death, it would make sense that I approach it in a straightforward way. Everyone keeps harping on the point that you have to have a will. Yes you should have a will if you own any significant possessions, and of course I do have one. But there’s another document you need and I imagine many people don’t think of this. It’s the “Upon Death” document.
Quite simply, this document explains what needs to be done after you die. It’s like a corporate succession plan. It can be the document that makes your departure much easier to bear for everyone left. Think about it, aside from the feeling of loss of your company, what’s the biggest worry people are going to have? They’re going to worry that they don’t know anything about you and don’t know where to begin to fill your shoes.
The Upon Death document needs to clearly spell out a few things to get people up and going.
- Your mobile phone PIN and all your passwords
- All your financial accounts/insurance policies
- Where to find more documentation
- Non-family members (business clients) that need contacted
- How to do things that you did exclusively
If you’re doing it right and you are using a password manager, this one is easy. Just give the master password to your password manager file. Otherwise, you are going to need to list out all the username and passwords for the sites you visit. At a minimum, you’ll need to provide your email account password so your successor can reset passwords on other accounts and access your email to complete the process. Also, don’t leave out your phone PIN, if you use one, and your username and password to your computers.
Again, if you’re doing it right and you use a Personal Finance Manager (PFM) like Quicken or Money, you just direct people to that file. It should have all your account numbers in it, ideally with contact information also. Most PFMs don’t have good support for insurance policies, so include any policies in the document. Don’t forget many banks have a small life insurance policy on their account holders, so check and see who has them and who to contact for them. Your employer may have a life insurance policy as well. Help your successor as much as possible here.
If you have contacts outside your family, let your successor know what needs done now that you are gone. Maybe you work for an organization and you have some of their property or equipment. You need to get that back to them. Maybe you are a consultant and you may have uncompleted work for them. You need to get the latest work to them. If there’s anything some needs to take over, your successor has to pass along that info. You need to tell them what must be done and how it is to be done.
This one is open-ended. If there’s stuff you did that no one else knows about or you know some tips or secrets that need passed on, here’s where you do it. Maybe the A/C unit freezes up and you’re the one that always fixes it. That needs explained. Maybe you manage the home network. A basic overview can be of help here. Maybe you can give suggestions as to who would be best to handle tasks in your absence. Maybe one friend is good at mechanical issues and another is good at computers.
Finally, let someone know this document exists. Keep it with your will. If you have a safe deposit box, keep it in the envelope with your will. Banks will let next of kin do a will search on a safe deposit box, where they can take the will out, but can’t get anything else until they can claim ownership of the account.
In summary, this document is filled with the things you would say from the afterlife if you saw your family and loved ones struggling to figure out everything that you did for them when you were there. Everyone says, “I don’t want to be a burden” when they are living. Few people think of how to avoid being a burden after they die.