Even for a caregiving expert, with more than 30 years of experience in the field of aging, the death of an older person who has been battling illness caught Amy Goyer by surprise. Her mom died a year and a half ago; her oldest sister just a few months ago. She had her hands full with caregiving for many years, but there are so many questions she wish she had asked them.
Now Amy Goyer says that it’s harder for her to feel that she totally lived up to her responsibilities as executor of their estates.
Her recent AARP article, titled “5 Questions I Wish I Had Asked Before They Died,”explains that she is going to ask her other sisters and other loved ones about this type of information now—long before she hopes she’ll ever need it. She has in place the proper advance directives, estate and financial planning, but she says that she’ll also be more thorough with the finer details. To that end, the author recommends asking these questions:
Where is important paperwork located? The author of the original article thought she had the most recent valid copies of her sister’s legal documents; however, that wasn’t the case. She had to search through mountains of paper! Your loved ones may know where their financial and legal documents are located—but that’s no help after they’re gone.
What are the details of what you want for your memorial service? Obviously with the stress of losing a loved one, any decisions about the service that can be made in advance are most helpful when relatives are deep in shock and grief. Discuss details with them like music, the service location, speakers, flowers, and food.
Who should get your personal items? The article urges you to catalog your collectibles, jewelry, and special mementos. Most people fail to list these items in their wills.
Who is in that picture? Many folks have stacks of family photographs of people who look familiar, but they’re not sure who they really are. To avoid this, label each photo when discussing it with your loved ones and hang on to that family history.
Finally, the original article stresses that you don’t let your hesitancy to talk about death keep you from bringing up these subjects with your family. Start the conversation early and have them often; it will help reduce the awkwardness.
Remember, as much as we hate to face it, death is inevitable for all of us. The better prepared we all are—in addition to the basic legal documents—the easier it will be when the time comes.
Reference: AARP (March 19, 2015) “5 Questions I Wish I Had Asked Before They Died”