Speakers with Spark: Documented wishes help mourning families

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By Susan Rider

This month’s article is something a lot of people don’t like to talk about but is inevitable.

No matter what religion you are, no matter what you believe in or don’t believe in, all of us are going to die. I’m OK with it because I believe there is a delicious place with only joy in the next life and our loved ones are waiting for us.

The unfortunate thing about dying is our loved ones are left on this earthly planet to grieve and because we love them we don’t want them to have sadness, just joy about our next adventure. Therefore, passing away becomes not so sad but a form of evolution that eventually we all will face.

If you were to pass away today, who would be devastated and would your family be prepared? The best way to honor your loved ones and help them is to be prepared. It is so very important for the ones you leave behind to know your wishes and to feel that they are honoring them without a doubt.

Our family had to face a very dear one passing this year, when my sister-in-law died suddenly and shockingly. She hadn’t been sick, no high blood pressure and no warnings. My younger brother and his wife had talked about getting prepared, about doing wills but thought they had plenty of time and just kept putting it off. When you are young and in your prime, you never think about leaving the ones you love permanently. This is a lesson that is hard to learn but everyone should get prepared.

My family now feels that I’ve gone a little crazy since I have prepared and am making each of them prepare a binder. In this binder, everything a surviving loved one needs to know will be included. This will allow your loved ones to grieve and not to worry about the financial or business aspects that can be overwhelming at the time of departing.

A suggestion of contents to include in your binder:

  • Your will and testament
  • Your healthcare directive
  • A emergency medical directive
  • Life insurance
  • Funeral wishes
  • Organ donation desires
  • List of financial assets with account numbers and location
  • List of personal items you want to go to specific people
  • Your obituary if you want certain things expressed

A will is very important especially if you have surviving children and you want specific people to take over the guardianship of those children. An attorney really should prepare the will so you have an executor appointed and make sure all the details are covered. If you don’t have the money for an attorney, a handwritten, witnessed will would be better than nothing.

In this age of mixed families, it can get really complicated. Did you know that if you don’t have a will and a piece of real estate is only in the departed person’s name that the spouse gets 50 percent and the surviving biological children get the other 50 percent?

Did you know in the state of Kentucky a living will can be covered by a healthcare directive? If you have someone designated as your advocate, please make sure everyone in the family knows your wishes. When you are gone, the last thing most of us want is hard feelings or a family that is in dissension because someone gave the permission to turn off the machines. It’s a big responsibility for that person and the last thing that person needs to deal with is the anger of the survivors.

Did you know that the healthcare directive for the hospital will not cover the emergency medical people? Check into this and make sure you have all your bases covered if this is your desire.

Do you want to be an organ donor? Everyone has strong feelings about this so if you do, it needs to be in your binder. I know it would bring my sister-in-law great joy to know more than 150 people were blessed with her organ donation.

Do you want to be cremated or buried? It’s a huge decision for your surviving loved ones and, again, a decision that might divide them. Make your wishes known and give the details. Some people want to be cremated but want their survivors to have a place to go, connectivity. They do make small heart-shaped memorial urns today that could be comforting to surviving children or a spouse.

Decisions made today, with as many details as possible, make it easier on the family. Don’t put it off. Do it now because today is the present and a gift we all have been blessed with; tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Susan Rider lives in LaRue County and can be reached with reader comments at susanrider@msn.com.