Blog Category: Better Than Before

Tools to help you prepare for somber life events.
By Jane Wilkens Michael | Posted June 28, 2013
Couple walking outdoors.
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Normally, we don’t expect our children to take care of us when the time comes, even though they most definitely should. After all, we took care of them, didn’t we? I mean, how many times did we save their lives by not letting them stick the flatware into the electrical outlets? And I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have a decent night’s sleep until they went off to college. And even then, when they came back for vacations, I would still wait for them to return home from going out with their friends, pacing the floors until I heard the front door open, no matter what time that would have been. (That is, if they could find their way home!)

Being taken for granted, though, starts at an early age, I’m convinced. For example, I remember bringing my two sons to visit their cousin when they were about nine and five, respectively. As we entered the elevator—in the type of building with an operator and a leather seat in the corner—the boys instantly rushed in and sat down.

“Boys, boys,” the white-gloved elevator man chastised them. “You must always give the lady the seat.”

They both stared at him in cluelessly. My five-year-old finally spoke: “Who’s the lady?”

So as soon this ‘lady’ forgets where she put her keys more than four times a month, they will probably stick me in a home, starting with one for, as The Lawyer puts it, the Criminally Bewildered. (I’m only up to key misplacement every other week. Whew!!) But all kidding aside, there are times when families must be prepared for the inevitable. We’ve all heard the old adage: Nothing is certain except death and taxes. And although we will all need to deal with death eventually, for most of us, even the act of thinking about it can feel awkward, overwhelming, and downright depressing.

And it’s not always as cut and dried as it seemed for my older son when, a few years after the elevator incident, I had to have a simple knee arthroscopy. I recall my telling him the night before: “What if Mommy doesn’t make it through this surgery. What would Daddy do?”

Okay, deal me the Bad Mother card for suggesting such a horrible thought to an innocent child. Perhaps I just wanted a little sympathy such as: “Nobody could live without you, Mommy! Ever!!” I was hardly expecting his answer:

“Don’t worry about us, Mom,” he said, the usual twinkle in his eye. “Dad will just have to marry our new Swedish babysitter, I guess.”

“And where would he meet someone like that?” I stammered. (Why I decided to pursue this ridiculous line of questioning is beyond me. Second Bad Mother card!)

“At your funeral,” he shrugged, not the least bit fazed.

Not satisfied at being out-guilted by my child, I had to push it all the way: “And what would you kids call her?” I somehow had to know.

“Mommy, of course!” he smiled. “After all, you’ll be dead.” Game, Set, Match!

But contrary to my son’s precocious wit, you can’t always count on a stunning (and accommodating) Swedish blonde to be at your interment to take care of your family happily and forever after. (Not that The Lawyer would object, of course.) So my Sandwich Generation readers, please take note! Proper planning can make you the hero to your spouse, children, and even your parents. Not only does planning provide you and your loved ones with peace of mind, but a recent study from the Personality and Social Psychology Review showed that it may also actually give you a mental health boost.

Interestingly enough, a recent online poll of more than 2,200 American adults conducted by Harris Interactive revealed that 70% of women aged 35-44 said that they didn’t mind planning for end of life. But according to another study from RocketLawyer, half of Americans with children do not even have a will to protect their family.

“The reality is that many are woefully unprepared when it comes to life and end-of-life planning,” said Archelle Georgiou, MD, a national healthcare expert and the former Chief Medical Officer for United Healthcare. “And too often, people relinquish end-of-life decisions to doctors or the healthcare system because they have not proactively planned for the future. It is much easier to make these types of decisions when family members are healthy and these decisions are just logistics.”

Abby Schneiderman and Adam Seifer, co-founders of Everplans, are trying to change the way that people plan. Through their first-of-its-kind free website, Everplans.com, they are providing people with comprehensive information and tools so they can make informed decisions for themselves and their families, around life planning, end-of-life planning, even dealing with death.

Both highly successful serial entrepreneurs in the Internet start-up space, Abby and Adam use technology to do virtually everything in their lives. They relied heavily on online resources to prepare for happy life events like getting married and having a baby.  Now juggling young kids and aging parents, they noticed that, surprisingly, there weren’t equally consumer-friendly sites to assist in preparation for and during more somber life events—like death and dying—“just in case” anything happened. They realized there was a tremendous opportunity to use technology to help make this process easier.

And then tragedy struck for Abby. In the midst of creating Everplans.com, Abby’s brother died unexpectedly and she experienced firsthand what it’s like to plan a funeral, cope with a death, and manage the landslide of logistics.

“My brother’s passing was a complete shock,” said Abby. “We were forced to make a multitude of split decisions at a time of unimaginable grief—it was unbelievably overwhelming. But it also confirmed for me that while Everplans could never make death less awful, we could potentially have a tremendous impact on helping people deal with a death.”

Everplans.com provides articles, checklists and other practical tools that break down the life planning process into manageable steps. It’s also recently launched a new online funeral planning invitation service, called Funeral Update, that provides free invite and social planning tools to easily inform people about funerals and related events like wakes, shivas and memorial services.

For starters, the experts at Everplans.com recommend the following steps to prepare for the future:

1) Gather important accounts, passwords, and documents: Collecting this information after the fact requires an incredible effort and will be time-consuming for your loved ones, at a time when they have more important things to focus on. A workbook — such as the one offered by Everplans — can help you document your most important accounts, documents, and information so you can make things easier on your family.

2) Name a Power of Attorney and Healthcare Proxy: Identify the people who you can trust to make legal, financial and medical decisions on your behalf. Take the time to ensure that they understand your preferences so that they can honor these wishes when the time comes, and then be sure to fill out the paperwork.

3) Don’t wait until it is too late: Having these conversations now might seem uncomfortable or premature, but they are even harder to have in the midst of a crisis.  Be proactive and positive. A little planning now can go a long way later.

For more information or to get started on your plan, visit www.everplans.com. (Sorry, you’ll have to find info for the Swedish Tourist Office on your own.)

 

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