I’m Dead – Now What?

There is a book titled I’m Dead Now What and I just love the title because it’s an attention grabber and addresses the need for everyone to be prepared for the end of life. There was also a recent article in The Washington Post titled “Everything Your Family Needs to Know when you Die.”

The end of our life is inevitable for all of us. It can be summed up in a verse from Isaiah 38:1. “In those days, when Hezekiah was mortally ill, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, came and said to him: ‘Thus says the LORD: Put your house in order, for you are about to die; you shall not recover.’”

As the saying goes, two things are certain—taxes and death. We know when taxes are due, but we never know when death will occur. And it’s not even about death. What if someone becomes disabled, seriously ill, or comatose? How do the family members know where important information is located and how to use it?

We have a notebook we call The Bean Book. It’s one-stop shopping for all the important information either of us or our son would need. The documents in this book are things like: Birth Certificates, Sacramental Records (including our marriage license), Military Discharge, Trust, Will, Power of Attorney, Deeds, Vehicle Titles and copies of our Passports and Driver Licenses.

In addition to all the documents, your family needs a complete list of the professionals who are handling different concerns. The list includes Attorney, Accountant, Insurance Agent, Financial Advisor, Real Estate Advisor, Banker, Stock Broker, key contacts at your job and any friends you would recommend to your family as a wise source of godly counsel.

If you are like most people, this information is scattered about. Maybe some of it is on statements from these businesses. Part of it is probably in your contact list on your phone. And other pieces are on papers in files in your desk.  But what a blessing for your family to have all the information listed in one easy to find location.

The family or your caretakers also need to have a complete picture of your financial situation. A big part of that is a list of all the bills and how they get paid. There are so many online transactions these days and if someone is not familiar with how the bills are received and paid, they may get into financial trouble out of ignorance. We have a spreadsheet listing: the company issuing the bill, the account number, how the bill is received, the email address to which it is sent, when it comes (monthly, quarterly or yearly) how it gets paid (auto draft, credit card, the bill payer function on the bank’s website or payment that’s generated from the billing company website.)

The number of online transactions we each have means the family needs to know about online accounts, and all the URLs, security questions and passwords needed to access them. Developing a secure password is important but even more important is having your spouse or caretaker know what the password is if they need it in an emergency and where to find it. We use an app for our passwords, so investigate and find one that’s right for you.

A Financial Statement is another tool to give your family peace of mind. List your debts then list your assets and subtract debts from assets to determine if you have a positive or negative net worth. This gives your family a snapshot of their financial health.

The financial picture is made real by having a spending plan the family can access and use. They have to know how much is spent on a monthly basis NOW in order to anticipate any adjustments that will be made after someone dies.

And knowing your net worth and budget helps you calculate how much insurance you need. If the income is no longer available where do the survivors get their income?  What is available from insurance, social security, company benefits, etc. The amount will change as you move through different stages of life so it is important to visit insurance needs each year.

We may hate to think about someone else making health care decisions for us, but it’s important for you to have a Catholic Living Will, HIPPA waiver, Health Care Power of Attorney and Organ Donation card.

Much of what our secular materialistic society promotes strays from God’s teachings on how we should handle our finances and possessions. We should be equally vigilant in making sure that our health care and end-of-life directives follow Catholic teaching, and not those of a society that is looking for easy and quick fix solutions, i.e., euthanasia.

Agreeing to a euthanasia clause as part of your medical directives is contrary to our faith. Everyone who is alive has inherent dignity, deserving basic care, even if there is no hope of recovery. Nutrition and hydration must be provided, even via artificial assistance, along with other basic necessities such as the provision of warmth, cleanliness and pain management.

To apply this reasoning correctly we must recognize that all human life, not only a particular kind of life we might consider “normal” or “productive,” is precious and should be preserved. People suffering from a very severe disability, do not lose their human dignity. 

Planning your funeral may be a morbid thought, but if there are favorite readings or songs you want at your funeral or if you want someone who is very special to you to sing at your funeral Mass, then it’s a good idea to write down what you want so those left behind can fulfill your last wishes. It is a blessing for your family to have these decisions made.

Let’s remind ourselves of this reality. We will take nothing with us. “And [Job] said: “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back there” (Job 1:21).

One of the best ways to demonstrate your love for your family and friends is to set your house in order and encourage others to do the same.

Check out the Compass Catholic Bible study, Set Your House in Order. It’s a 5-week small group study which walks you through the process of getting all your important information created, updated and organized.

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