Easier For Your Friends
This is a list of things that will be helpful for whoever you leave behind. This may seem morbid, but I think of it like planning for a VERY long vacation, far in the future (to be sure there is someone who will feed and pet and love my pets while I am gone. And there’s some other stuff to deal with, too.) Whether you have a large estate and need a lawyer to help you with all this, or if you just have a few special things to give to friends, you start in the same place. With lists – sometimes lots of lists. (pdf link here)
Start with a short list of super valuable things that you want to go to specific people or organizations.
This is really just for big things – like houses, cars, money, high dollar stuff.
I know all your stuff is valuable and important, but to be included in your will, the stuff that has high dollar value is all that is necessary. This will be part of the will – all the templates have a place to add this stuff (list)
BILLS AND DEBTS
This is the least interesting thing to think about, but important to list as well.
Big debts like mortgage/rent etc
Smaller debts like monthly bills/cc payments
If you have a pre-arranged grave site, great, if not, this is a good place to list how or who will be paying for the funeral/burial/cremation
IMPORTANT SPECIAL STUFF
Now make a list of important things that you want to go to specific people – NON- Valuable (the General Stuff for Specific People List)
The purpose of this list is also so that you can see all the other stuff that your friends/family will have to deal with once you’re gone.
For the stuff NOT on the General Stuff for Specific People list, decide what needs to be done with it
Do you want a free-for-all party where your friends come over and take whatever they want
Do you want an overseer for this melee?
Art you made
Is it ok for it to be thrown away? Recycled? Made into something new?
Art you have that your friends made
Your clothes (including stuff like panties and clothes you paint/workout in)
Your journals (paper and digital)
To be burned? Shredded? To be read aloud each year on your birthday/yahrzeit?
Things you’ve written (digital and/or on paper)
The random dishes and tchotchkes you’ve accumulated that are meaningful to you – but probably not to anyone else
Do you want them to go back to the person that gave it to you?
Add it to the General Stuff for Specific People List
Do you have a charity of choice? Is it ok to just drop all that at Goodwill?
Even if you do the simple, template-fill-it-out-yourself will, you’ll need to appoint an executor/executrix. This is the person who is legally responsible to carry out your wishes – it should be someone that you can talk to about all this stuff easily.
Do you want your executor to decide what to do with all the “everything else” stuff?
If so, have a conversation with that person about what is important to you and why – and most importantly – write it down for them. You’ll be gone, but everyone else will be sad. Make it easy for them.
If you have a pet(s), talk to the people around you to see who might be willing and able to take on your furry friend. If you want to leave some cash for them to care for your pet, put it in your will.
Gather important documents, contact info and passwords in easily accessible place. Digital is ok. Be sure that your executor/partner/best friend knows where this is and has easy access to it.
A shared dropbox (or similar) file is helpful for easy updates.
Apple and google users can add a Legacy Contact for their Apple ID/email which will give your executor access to anything tied to that id. Email, subscriptions, itunes, etc.
Various password organizers (lastpass.com/1password.com, etc) have easily shareable “family plans” or just a way to let someone get access to all your stuff.
Once you have an idea of what you want done with the things:
Execute (make and have notarized/witnessed) your Will. (Word template here)
Be sure to have it witnessed
in Texas you need 2 witnesses
Be sure to have it notarized
You can do this at most banks, and UPS type stores
Be sure your executor has a copy of it or easy access to it - ie: they know where you keep your stuff
Complete a Living Will or Advance Directive (template here)
This is a legal document that spells out medical treatments you would and would not want to be used to keep you alive, as well as your preferences for other medical decisions, such as pain management or organ donation.
Be sure to talk through everything with anyone that you want to put in charge of things (it could be the same person for all these things, it can also be different people)
Set up a durable power of attorney (to make financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated (template here)
Be sure to talk through everything with anyone that you want to put in charge of things
Be sure this person has access to your financial information if necessary
Update your beneficiaries
Life insurance, retirement accounts, etc. The Will does not control these things.
Make sure that your phone passcode and computer password are written down somewhere easy to find and/or you tell someone what they are and tell them to keep it in a safe place.
Digital accounts to think about:
Email – all the accounts and how you access them
Facebook, Insta, etc - You can assign someone control of your account after you die in FB, or you can leave the passwords on your master password list so that someone can close them/delete them
Or leave instructions about what to do with them - like leave them active for 1 year from death, or leave them active until social media implodes
As someone who was able to find old photos on MySpace of a friend who died recently, there is something nice about leaving stuff out there – that said – maybe there’s stuff you don’t want out there for that long …
Make a list of all the things that are on auto-pay, (and how they get paid) so that whoever is in charge of cancelling it all, can have an easy list.
All the weird digital things we sign up for to make our lives easier…
Write out what you want done with your body and be sure your executor/partner/best friend knows. This is NOT a part of your will.
If you are in the Houston area, there is a place called A Sacred Choice https://www.asacredchoice.com that (even though in a weird kind of strip center) was a really lovely place, everyone who worked there was thoughtful and helpful if you don’t want a religious place and they take care of cremation.
Generally, once you die, all responsibility goes to your closest relative – so- if you aren’t married, your parent/sibling/child will have to make the immediate decisions about your body. Be sure THAT person knows what you want, and also knows who the executor is, etc.
This is a lot to think about and manage, but, if you do it a little bit at a time, it won't seem so overwhelming. The main thing is to be sure that you talk to someone about some of this.
Make it easier on your friends after you’ve gone