Trigger warning: This episode addresses sudden death, depression, and suicidal ideation.
Preparing your last will is one of the best things you can do for the loved ones you’ll leave behind. That’s why you need to be proactive about end-of-life planning. In this episode, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen discuss how sudden death can be. If you don’t plan ahead with your documents, insurance, and Last Will, your family will experience great difficulty. They will have to try and figure out where your important documents are while mourning for you. Join in the conversation to get practical advice on planning for end-of-life. You may not know when your life will end, but you’ll always have peace of mind knowing you’re prepared. Tune in!
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How To Plan For End-Of-Life And Why You’ll Be Happy If You Did
This episode is a heavy but important subject matter that came up in my head. It was an accumulation of a number of things. One of which was a TikTok video I saw of a daughter talking about how after her mother died, she needed to go assign the bills to her name instead of her mother’s in order to proceed with things like cell phone service. When she brought the death certificate to the cell phone company, they said, “We can’t get into your account without a pin.”
The daughter said, “I don’t have the pin.” Long story short, they made it challenging for her to get into the account. I can’t imagine going through that while mourning the death of a loved one. It made me think about how important it is for us to do some planning. I started looking into how to prepare for our own death. I found this article on this website called Lantern.co, which I was unfamiliar with but seems like an amazing service. They have an article called The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die What You Need to Prepare Your Family and Protect Your Legacy.
For those that are curious, Lantern seems like they offer a variety of things. It’s about proactive planning for your end-of-life wishes and navigating what to do after experiencing a loss. I want to dive deeper into their offerings because it’s not something that I’ve done any planning around for myself or my family members. Frankly, I don’t know if it’s the result of getting older but also, the pandemic has triggered a lot of thoughts around death for me. It’s in my face, whereas I felt previous to the pandemic, it felt sudden death would be reserved for a freak accident. This has hit close to home for people all around the world.
I heard from a friend who knew someone that they were close to and I will not disclose the details of their relationship but this person got COVID and died within five days. I thought, “That could happen to me and anyone I know. What if I needed to know some important information? What would I have to go through?” I also think about this from time to time with my parents. I watched them go through their own parents’ death and it felt such a long and drawn-out process that felt incredibly painful. You’re trying to mourn someone’s death and if you’re responsible for picking up their life and handling all the things that need to be handled, it feels so heavy. Being a big planner myself, I find comfort in being prepared.
I looked up this article on Lantern.co and at the beginning of it, the writer, Rachel, said, “Let’s face it. Planning for our own mortality is uncomfortable and hard.” As soon as I saw the word, uncomfortable, I thought, “Let’s talk about this on the show.” I brought this up to Jason and I asked him frankly if he had prepared any documents for himself. As his friend and his business partner, if Jason passed away suddenly, it would have impacted me in the sense that I may need to know some things. If no one knows those things, Jason then we’ll be scrambling. The same is true with me too. In fact, I didn’t tell you this yet but on Google, you can assign certain people to your account in case of death or for some sort of reason that you yourself are not able to get into your account. You can choose people in your life. I had to do this with my 401(k) or my IRA.
It’s like a beneficiary.
You can choose who would get access to certain things should you no longer have them yourself. I put your name on one of my Google accounts and it was the one that’s tied into our business. I thought,
“Everything you would need to know is in there somehow.” As much as for security purposes, it doesn’t always feel 100% safe and because of security, I have a two-factor authorization, backup codes and I have all these things set up to protect myself from hacking. Thus, it would be incredibly hard for someone to get into my account unless they were able to work around all of those things.
Once you start setting up digital security, which is incredibly important in case of an accident, it does make it that much harder for somebody else to get into your account without knowing how. I thought in this episode, we can go through this list as an educational element for any of our readers who have not thought about this and might want to and discuss the process of it. I wanted to begin going back to you, Jason, before I dive into this article on how you felt thinking through this for at least a little bit of time before we started. Where did your brain go when I asked you about your “death document?” I didn’t have another term for it. Some people say Death Dossier. Aside from the terms, will and testament, I haven’t thought of what you would even call something like this. How did that feel to have this brought up and where did your mind go from there?
My mind goes to a lot of places because my joke text back to you prior to this was, “That’s an important question for someone who’s consistently suicidal.” Why hide it? The people in my life know that about killing myself a lot and it is what it is. My initial response was, “That makes sense to have for multiple reasons.” It also leads me down a thought pattern and a path of, “Who would I assign to what and what in my life is it is important enough to assign someone to?” Beyond the existential contemplation of dying, it’s a much more complex thing. If I think about my bank accounts, the minimal investments that I have, my physical items, musical equipment, car, five animals, who am I going to assign to what and what is the best way to frame that?
Talking about death, I’ve talked in this context with my mother and my mentor, Michael because they are both at an age where this is a conversation that’s become more consistent. It’s been an ongoing discussion with both of them about how they’re structuring their assets in their lives because what they don’t want to have happened is something that has been happening for the past few years. As an example, Prince, the musical artist, passed away. After Prince passed away, there are all interesting articles about the massive legal fight for his estate because he didn’t leave behind a will and a trust.
His family members, the people who cared for him and his close associates have been in a legal battle trying to figure out how to divvy up not only his financial assets but the physical assets in his life and this is one of the hugest artists in history. I can’t remember the number off the top of my head but it was hundreds of millions of dollars along with cars and houses, etc. For someone like that, which is an extreme example of obvious wealth, success and fame, for him not to have a will or any guidance as to where his assets will be divvied out to, what a mess. Everything I’ve read sounds like an epic mess.
Taking that as a cautionary tale. I don’t want to have my life personally be that challenging. I’m nowhere near having hundreds of millions of dollars but nonetheless, who gets what? To your long answer, I don’t have a plan in place. I don’t have anything written down. I have a document with all of my passwords to all of my pertinent accounts but someone needs the password to my laptop to get in to get to those passwords. Who do I give that password to? If my laptop were to crash, all of those passwords would be gone and people would be royally fucked after my death. To your point, Whitney, I’m thinking about how to keep a physical document written and multiple copies so it’s not all digital. What do I put there? Am I going to pay money to have a will created?
As part of that will, will I have my passwords, transaction codes and pin codes? It’s a bit fucking overwhelming, honestly. Now that I’m thinking about it in my head, I’m starting to feel pressure in my head thinking about it. We are all going to die. There’s nothing we’re going to do to avoid this. Unless maybe by the time we’re done, we’ve joked about this in previous episodes, we upload our consciousness to a hard drive somewhere. Who the hell knows? For all intents and purposes, we’re going to die. I feel woefully unprepared now that you’re bringing this up in conversation because nobody knows shit. I don’t have any beneficiaries. I have nothing written down. Overwhelm is probably the primary emotion I’m feeling at this moment.
That’s exactly why I thought it might be helpful to discuss this because I’m sure you’re not the only one. Some people might think, “I’m going to put it off. I’ll procrastinate.” The truth is, anything could happen to any of us and we’re in the middle of a serious pandemic. Wherever you stand on the spectrum, there is no getting around the statistics of people who are dying in the country and in the world and we might feel it can’t impact us but we don’t know for sure. Even if it’s not COVID, to your point, Jason, it could be many things. I thought about this a bit on my cross-country road trip especially when I did the second leg of that trip by myself.
I was looking up information about females traveling on their own. One thing I came across was a flight attendant who prepared a document that she gave a few important people in her life that covered some of these basics. Some of them were identification information in case, God forbid, she goes missing. The time it takes when somebody goes missing to collect basic information about them and put out a flyer or something on the police report, sometimes we’re scrambling and we don’t have a ton of time.
The quicker you can get that information to the authorities, the faster they can start looking for you and other people could start looking for you. I was like, “What am I afraid of when I’m driving cross country?” Certainly, there’s a chance I could be in a car accident, which is another thing. How are you identified if you were in an accident and unable to give somebody a document? Should you have something in your car that somebody can easily take to figure out what to do with you and who to contact?
The other side of it is women are kidnapped or who knows what happens to them sometimes. That’s one of the looming fears. To know that somebody could go out and look for me would feel a little reassuring. This is the state of what it means to be a human being. It’s not meant to live in fear but it’s planning for the worst-case scenarios, which gives me a ton of comfort. We can address some of these things here.
It reminds me of something else. I was looking at some social media for one of the National Parks I plan to go to on my upcoming road trip. There were a bunch of flyers for a missing person on the main social media platforms for this huge National Park. On it, they had all these photos of this guy, what he was wearing and anything that they could give people so they could keep an eye out for him.
If somebody doesn’t have recent photos of you, if somebody doesn’t know approximately where you are and where you’re going especially when you’re traveling by yourself, it’s helpful to tell people as much information as possible in case something goes wrong. You might feel safe but who knows. Especially in some remote areas, it could be an animal attack, you fell and hurt yourself. You want someone to try to find you and help you immediately. These are the places where my mind goes. It doesn’t make me feel depressed. It makes me feel empowered, if that makes sense because I feel like I’m taking good care of myself.
When I was on my road trip, it gave me great comfort when I shared my location with my family members. It gave my mother peace of mind, too because she could literally go on her phone and see exactly where I was at any time. She enjoyed it. It was like, “I know where my daughter is. I know, approximately what she might be doing there. I’m okay.” Sometimes we forget how important that is to other people. This is why I brought this up to you, Jason because it would bring me peace of mind knowing, can I get into your email accounts if I need to? Do I have your permission? Thinking about your animals, do you want me to take your animals? Do you want someone else? Do you want to ask us ahead of time? It’s like being a godparent. Where do you want your kids to go in the worst-case scenario to make sure that they’re in the best hands and your wishes are fulfilled? Let’s go through this list.
This originated from the Wall Street Journal that was updated on Lantern.co. I tried to go to that article and it was blocked by a paywall or whatever. I thought, “It’s messed up. This information should be easily accessible to others.” I was grateful that Lantern.co not only shared it but updated it. Part of the reason they updated it is because of things like digital property, which I thought is especially important for people like us but most people these days have some digital footprint. When Guru Jagat passed away, I was curious about what happened and I went on her social media and I don’t think any of the social media posts had been updated. I don’t know if they were waiting to decide what to post.Keep a physical document of important files with multiple copies so it's not all digital. Click To Tweet
Part of my thought process was, “Do the right people have access to her account where she was usually posting herself?” If I pass away, it would be nice if people in my life were alerted. One other memory that this is bringing up for me is I found out that my step-grandfather because my grandmother remarried, passed away sometime in 2020. Most of the family had no idea because he wasn’t close to us anymore and his social media wasn’t updated. How are we to know? Many of us keep in touch via social media. Not to say that that’s the only way to keep in touch but social media is a place that you might go check in on someone. If you don’t see a post or you don’t get information from someone else in your life, you can go a long time without knowing that someone’s passed away.
How did you find out? How did the information get relayed to you via who?
I don’t even remember. It was one of the family members. Somehow one of us came across it. It was one of those weird things and we were all perplexed. This happened to me with an ex-boyfriend of mine who didn’t use social media much but I found out in some bizarre way that he had passed away and it was nine months since he had passed or something like that. I was like, “What?” It was so crazy and upsetting because since I wasn’t alerted, I didn’t get to go through that mourning process. I didn’t get to go to his funeral or any of the things that they did to honor him at the end of his life. To this day, I feel weird about it. You don’t get that closure. What we’re talking about does not guarantee that closure but it does help take the right steps.
Maybe you can include in these documents who do you want to be contacted and who’s important to be contacted? When emergencies have happened, I personally like to know as soon as possible. That’s part of my mourning process. There have been times where I’ve found out about a death farther behind and it has bothered me that I didn’t know sooner. It’s this weird, energetic gap of the time being, “Whoa.” I didn’t get to go through it collectively with other people who knew right away that’s part of it. It’s an interesting experience.
Before you get into the tips in this article, Whitney, I don’t know that I’ve talked about this on the show when I’ve referenced my father, our relationship and how I found out about how he’d passed away. It was a similar thing in the sense that no one had heard from my dad in years. My mom did a random Google search in 2011. I remember my mom leaving me a voicemail. I was at Expo West. This was 2011, the springtime at Expo West in Anaheim. I’m at the trade show so I can’t take the call. She said, “I need to tell you something about your dad. Can you call me back?” She had gone to try and hunt him down because, at that point, no one had seen or heard from my dad in five years that we knew of and she did a random search on the internet and found in Ventura County his death notice.
That’s how I found out about my dad dying, from an internet search. After the shock of it all, I found myself calling Ventura County to try and get information. How did he pass? What were the circumstances of it? What happened to his body? The person on the other line was helpful. They said, “Your father was checked into a county hospice here. He died in hospice under our care. He had multiple organ failures.” My father had been an alcoholic and addicted to drugs for many years and was also homeless. His body apparently did not want to keep going so they cremated him and spread his ashes in the ocean. I didn’t know about this for years after he died.
When you talk about the difficulty of closure and not knowing, it was not only the shock of learning about my dad dying from an internet search but then the follow up to try and get answers and try and get someone in the county on the line to explain what happened at the end of his life. About 1 or 2 years after that, we had a ceremony here in LA with my mom and a couple of old friends of my dad’s. We had a ceremony at the beach for him in an attempt at honoring him and having that closure. To your point, he left nothing. I have been making an attempt for years to get myself put on his Screen Actors Guild residuals.
I finally found out that he does have some residual money in his account but I have to go and get his death certificate from Ventura County, get it notarized and give them a copy of my birth certificate that has his name on it. It’s this whole fucking rigmarole to try and get the money that my dad has in this holding account because my father was an actor for years. It’s not a lot of money. I would have taken care of this a lot earlier if it was some large amount but I found out how much money was in there.
The point is he took zero steps to set me or anyone else up to have the information we’re discussing. Not only is it painful to have a closure with a shock like that but all the hoops you have to jump through to try and get the information and get yourself set up when a person in your life takes no steps to set up the people in their life. I’m not doing this to speak ill about my father but he made no preparations. Zero. It was challenging for all of us.
I wonder sometimes. You’re saying it’s overwhelming so a lot of people are overwhelmed, they procrastinate and they think they have a lot more time. The truth is we have no idea how much time we have left. Also, maybe other people feel it doesn’t matter and they don’t think about the impact that their death has on others and how much people care. I have reflected a lot over the years since my dad’s dad passed away and the ripple effect that that had on the family. It felt like everything was smooth.
As a granddaughter, it didn’t feel like this incredibly challenging experience but there were things like these questions and that weird sense of, “I’ll never get the answer because nobody knows the answer,” because it wasn’t shared before my grandfather and grandma passed away. I have one of my grandmother’s necklaces.
My aunt, dad and his brother don’t know anything about this necklace and I’ve often wondered, “What did this necklace mean? Where did she get it from?” I can’t ask her and maybe to your point, in a way, Jason is, I could go ask around and try to get to the bottom of it. Maybe that’d be fun but it’s not that important to me right now and it’s sad when you lose somebody and you can’t connect some of these dots but it’s a beautiful thing when they leave a trail. I feel like it’s an honoring thing, too. It means that you matter enough to them to provide this information and you care enough about your life and your legacy to have it continue beyond your lifetime. That leads me to the document and we can go through it.
Speaking of overwhelm, Jason, there are certain things on here that I know are not that easy but part of me was thinking, “I know that you could fairly quickly create a document with some of this information.” Number one on the list is the Last Will and Testament. To your point, in my head, it seems like a lot of work and potentially some money. I know nothing about putting that together. Number two is a financial power of attorney, which is allowing you to designate someone to handle your finances. What I don’t know is how official that has to be? Is it as simple as me saying, “Jason’s going to be in charge.”
Number three is an advanced healthcare directive, which is a combination of your Living Will, how you want to be treated in certain medical circumstances and the naming of a healthcare proxy/power of attorney who has the authority to make medical decisions for you. To me, that feels important. It’s similar to number four on the list, which is the do-not-resuscitate order. I’m curious how you feel about that, Jason. Would you want to be resuscitated? This is something that I have a lot of ignorance around. I don’t know the pros and cons of being resuscitated. Have you ever thought about that?Decide how you want to be memorialized and tell your loved ones about it. Click To Tweet
I thought about it in the context of some major brain injury or neurological damage where I would be rendered without my normal faculties, let’s say it that way. When we talk about do-not-resuscitate, that’s been the only context I’ve ever thought of if I were ever to get in a traumatic brain injury or perhaps a deep coma or something like that. Those are the only contexts I have ever considered that before. It’s interesting. Those are the only two circumstances I could think about authorizing something like that. What do you think about that?
I feel so ignorant and this is another reason why I’m glad I’m thinking this through. I want to go and research it and see what the pros and cons are because in my head I’m like, “Why wouldn’t I want to be resuscitated?” I thought, “What if you’re in a coma and you have that horrific experience where you can’t speak or move your body?” It’s called locked-in syndrome, where you’re fully conscious but no one can hear. That sounds so terrifying. Do you want to live? What if you can’t even communicate that you don’t want to live anymore?
There are circumstances like that that freak me out but then there’s part of me thinking, “What’s worse?” Death is so finite. Would I rather suffer and be alive than not suffer and be dead? That’s what it comes down to from my limited understanding. Number five on this list is your personal and family medical history, including a list of medications, which I don’t understand how that plays into your death. Why wouldn’t somebody be able to find that information? That seems like an unnecessary thing. Since Lantern.co specializes in this, they probably have articles on each of these bullet points, which maybe I can go look at.
It could also be two. You mentioned medications, certain interactions or things you might be allergic to like penicillin that if you are in a medical situation and can’t speak up for yourself, someone has the knowledge to say, “Don’t give that person this thing.” Maybe that’s the context for it.
That would be more if you’re still alive and unable to make decisions for yourself. That makes sense. Number six is a HIPAA authorization to release information. I feel like this is important. I bet you that there’s a form that you can fill out that says it’s okay. It’s like when you go to the doctor’s office, you have to sign on a piece of paper what the doctors are able or not able to do with your information.
Number seven is your housing, land and cemetery deeds, which is another fascinating thing. People buy cemetery plots for themselves. I know my grandfather did this, my mom’s dad. I don’t remember what happened with my dad’s dad or if he was cremated. I feel like he might have been. My grandma, her mom, was cremated. I was there during my mom’s father’s burial and I’m fairly certain my mom’s mother was cremated. That’s another question. I don’t know if this is on this list, Jason but have you thought about whether you want to be buried or cremated? Where do you stand on that?
I want to have my remains turned into a tree pod. There are these tree pods that you can get where apparently, they will put your remains into this plantable pod. It’s almost like a football shape that you can put into the ground. They mix in specific nutrients or seeds or something like that and your remains will literally grow into a tree. I personally would like that. That’s whatever form that takes or however, that manifests. I like the idea of my remains being turned into food for something else. I like that. That’s been my plan for years. I remember when I first saw an article and an Instagram post about these. I don’t know what the technical term is or whatever these pods are. I was like, “That’s my plan.”
I haven’t given deep thought to this either but I like that. I’ve seen that as well. I would be curious about the costs, what was involved and how legitimate it was because it’s certainly a more alternative thing. I’m sure it’s a bit of an inconvenience. That’s the other thing with funerals. They can be expensive. Getting caskets is expensive. There’s so much involved with that too. This is the type of stuff that I would love to know about my loved ones, yourself included, Jason. How do you want to be memorialized?
I like the idea of turning into a tree because, to me, having a place where you could go back to, like a cemetery experience where you can go and be with that person in a more physical sense. For my mom, she’s going to Ohio where my grandfather lived and is buried. She was telling me that she’s going to go to his grave and she likes to go there and clean up the gravestone. There are bushes that she trims.
She has her own little honoring ritual every time that she’s in town. Whenever I’m in the area, she asks me to go by and it’s important to her. I haven’t talked to my parents about my other grandparents because I don’t know. They must be cremated because I didn’t see them being buried. The whole thing about scattering ashes versus keeping ashes is interesting to me. All of those rituals are partially for the living but also your choice as the person is important too because part of that experience that you have feels like a unifying ritual.
You’re saying goodbye to somebody. You’re honoring their last wishes in terms of how they want to depart this earth and how they want to be memorialized. When you can go be part of this, you know that you’re doing it in the way that they would want, which makes it more of a spiritual experience. I love the idea of a tree, to your point, Jason because you get the more eco-friendly element of it. You also give somebody a place to visit you.
I was looking it up in terms of cost because I also remember when my grandparents passed, the discussion between my mother, her siblings and all the children of how much it was going to cost for the cemetery plot and getting the gravestone engraved. Death is a big business. Let’s call it what it is. Looking for these tree urns, you are in a tree urn. There’s a company called The Living Urn that apparently sells these. It’s a whole system for planting the tree and having your loved ones ashes. You can put in your zip code on the website. The website is TheLivingUrn.com. It’s $129 plus the cost of the tree. It’s a lot more affordable when you consider how expensive a funeral in a headstone and all that thing is.
Not to derail our list, but I’m going to type in my zip code to see what their options are for recommendations. This is cool. You can pick from Crape Myrtle trees, Magnolia trees, Gardenias, Pine trees, Cypress, Purple Crape Myrtle and it’s an additional $30 for the tree along with the whole kit for planting. It’s $160. That’s cool. The other thing too since we are in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, they have tree burial pods in Los Angeles for natural burials there, which is super interesting.
It’s the Green Burial Council. It’s the HollywoodForever.com cemetery and you can get a custom price quote for what they call an environmentally friendly, natural burial. They will plant a tree and put your ashes in there. You can either do it in Hollywood in the Ancestral Forest or you can ship it to their sister facility in Marin County in Northern California. This is cool, Whitney. You’ve got to check out this one. This is awesome. There’s a whole bunch of different trees again, Jacarandas Live Oak, Cypress trees, Canary pines. There are dozens of different trees that they can give you as options here. This is the thing now and I like this. To me, in my heart, that’s how I want to be honored.Honor your loved ones’ wishes in terms of how they want to depart this earth. Click To Tweet
This reminds me to have something that I’ve thought about a few times in my life. I wish I had done this with my grandparents. My grandfather, my dad’s dad, who I was the closest to, might have thought this was weird and towards the end of his life, I don’t know if he would have mentally understood or if you would have been not into this. I wish I had tried to ask him, “Can you give me a sign?” Some people believe they see a butterfly and they’re like, “That’s my grandparent.” What if we had agreed upon it so when I did see it, it felt more real? I made one up for him because he passed away in a hospice center in New Jersey, where he spent his entire life.
Around the time of his death, he told my dad that there were some wild turkeys out his window. My dad thought that my grandfather was hallucinating but then one time my dad was visiting and he saw wild turkeys outside my grandfather’s window. He was like, “They’re real.” He talked to the nurses and they’re like, “They live right out there.” I don’t think they’re out here on the West Coast but every time I see wild turkeys on the East Coast, I think of my grandfather. That’s my little sign.
I would love to do that with my sister and we’ve talked about it before. She always gets uncomfortable. I’m like, “Let’s have something. Let’s say that we are able energetically to communicate with the living. What if we had some signal?” It’s more of a comforting thing but if you do believe in that, I don’t see any harm. If you’re in a tree, maybe you pick a tree that attracts certain birds, butterflies or something like that. It gives somebody a whole experience when they’re there visiting you and that maybe they’ll feel like you’re there too I suppose.
The next thing on the list, going back to that, number eight is escrow mortgage accounts. Number nine is proof of loans made and debts owed. This is something I’m curious about. What happens after you die? Somebody has to pay that money. It doesn’t just evaporate. That’s a huge question mark for me, too. All of the elements of things that you’re currently responsible for, is this part of why you have to assign a family member to your Last Will and Testament? You’re basically saying, “If I die, you’re in charge of paying the rest of these bills.”
Apparently, when you die, it is the responsibility of your estate to take care of the remaining debt. If your estate is not able to do so then the creditors are out of luck. The only time someone else is responsible for your credit card debt is if they are a joint account holder with you. That’s from Bankrate.com. There’s another article from Forbes that says here’s what happens to your debts after you die, how debt is handled after death.
It says, “Debt doesn’t simply disappear when you die but that doesn’t necessarily mean someone else has to find a way to pay off your debts. Creditors can collect what is owed from your estate. Typically, creditors have a certain window of time after you die and once the process begins to submit claims for what you owe. Probate is a legal process where assets from your estate are distributed and debts are paid off. Property and physical assets that were in your name only are considered part of the estate and can be used to pay off your debt.”
“However, there are situations when your loved ones can be responsible for paying some of your debts. If you have a cosigner on a loan or line of credit, that cosigner is responsible for paying the debt. Your state law might require your spouse to pay certain debts. If you live in one of the community property states, your spouse might have to use property that you owned jointly rather than property that was only in your name to pay your debts. Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin are common law states.” Apparently, depending on the circumstance, you might owe. Your family or your estate might owe.
You’re going to be an expert at death planning by the time we get through all this. It seems like you’re more interested in it than you were at the beginning and maybe that helps with the overwhelm because it’s fascinating. This feels important to talk to your mom about. I want to talk to my parents about it. I’d be curious. For anybody important in my life, I would like to know so I can honor them. Number ten on the list is vehicle titles. Number eleven is stock certificates, savings bonds and brokerage accounts. Number twelve is a partnership and corporate operating agreements.
Number thirteen is tax returns six years from the filing date. Thank goodness. That’s something I can check off. I have all my tax returns in one section. I have a great accountant but what happens when she passes away and who’s going to know who my accountant is? I should have some of this aside. Number fourteen, a letter of instruction to convey requests and important information such as where you want your ashes scattered or how you want your funeral or memorial services to be performed.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, that to me feels like an easy thing to write down. You already discussed it with me, Jason. You could write a line like, “I want a tree urn. This is a website to go to. This is where I want it to be planted.” That is better than people having no idea. Technically, this whole episode serves as your document, Jason. You can copy and paste from the transcript and you’re good to go.
In all seriousness, for the reader as well, if you feel or find this overwhelming, you could record a video, an audio message and transcribe it. You can use tools like Google Documents and Microsoft Word. They have a voice-to-text feature. Sometimes talking it through, when you have a document, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s better than nothing is my big point. Something there as a starting place is better than nothing to your point with your dad, Jason.
To me, number fifteen on the list is the most important in this day and age, which is a list of passwords and digital accounts to access accounts as well as unlock code to your phone. Thus, that video I was talking about that I saw and the password to your computer laptop and/or your external hard drive. For security reasons, you need to be mindful about where you keep this but you can use tools like LastPass, for example. It’s a great service. There’s another one called 1Password, where you literally have one password.
It’s a secure document containing all your passwords so you could set up something like that, which is great for security anyways and you could give that one password to somebody and it protects you from the rest being exposed. I would also recommend having some document somewhere secure that a few people in your life know where it is. You could have a hiding place or a lockbox and maybe give some people keys to it or you could have a little code and it can be a cheap little lockbox with those important documents inside. Maybe it’s a fireproof container and people can access this in case of emergency. That would be wise but if you’re comfortable enough, you could put a document in your desk drawer and know that people might look there first.You can impact others with your story. Click To Tweet
Number sixteen on this list is a digital estate plan which includes how you want your social media accounts to be handled after you’re gone, as well as the name of who will carry out your wishes. Also known as a Digital Executor, which is the first time I’ve heard that term. That’s super interesting. Number seventeen is a list of safe deposit boxes and where the keys are located. You could get a safe deposit box and put all these documents in there and tell somebody where the keys are located so that’s another way around all of this, privacy-wise. Number eighteen is life insurance policies, which I’m curious about, Jason. Do you have life insurance? Have you considered getting it?
I don’t know. Life insurance to me always feels like I don’t have a family or a spouse. Who’s going to get it? The animals? I never considered it to be all that important. Have you?
Not yet but it’s something I would like to get. I don’t know enough about how much it costs but I don’t think it costs that much. I feel like it’s affordable and it’s better than nothing. If it’s a romantic partner, if I got married, that would be helpful. My family members like my sister. Who knows what her future is like and if I can look out for someone else? I feel that could be wise. Number nineteen on the list is individual retirement accounts and/or 401(k) account information. Number twenty is pension documents if you have that. Number 21, annuity contracts. What’s that?
That’s Greek to me. I have no idea.
“It’s a fixed sum of money paid to someone each year typically for the rest of their life, a form of insurance or investment entitling the investor to a series of annual sums.” We’re learning a lot. Number 22 is a marriage license. Number 23, divorce papers. Number 24, a list of important contacts with phone numbers, email addresses, etc. I did something similar to this when I traveled to Mexico for the first time. I sent my parents a whole document full of my passport information, all the contacts of where I was going. I probably did something similar when I traveled in Europe when I was in college but I wanted to make sure going outside the country felt important for that information to be known.
Jason, when we had earthquakes in the past few years, you and I discussed a plan of action for ourselves. You and I picked a meeting plan, which was Michael’s house. We’re going to go there as a safe house or a meeting spot. I also sent my parents that address and I gave them your contact information. I was like, “In case of emergency, this is what I plan to do,” because living in Los Angeles, earthquakes are a realistic occurrence.
If something brings down the power lines or cell phone towers and nobody knows where you are and what you’re doing, I’m sure that’s incredibly frightening. This can pertain to a lot of things. Number 25, the final bullet points, the final element of this list is a Legacy Letter or Ethical Will, which may include your personal or family history, stories, beliefs, values and life lessons for future generations.
That’s cool. That also seems like a lot of work but I will say that my dad’s parents were both into documenting their life. I feel like there must be something in our genetics. My dad’s into it. His family lines have an interest in sharing personal stories. My dad’s dad wrote a book about his life and I have it. I have the main copy of it. I digitized it and shared it with everybody else in the family. My dad found some journal entries from my grandma and it was her sharing her life story and it’s amazing to have. It is a legacy and I have tons of videos.
I’ve been doing video journals since I was a teenager. I’ve always wondered will anybody ever see these besides myself. I record them as almost a therapeutic thing but they’re not that hard to find. I’ve often wondered especially if I don’t have kids, is anyone going to find these. Would they care? A part of me is like there are so many people in history that have recorded stories. The first one that comes to mind is Anne Frank.
Without her journals, we wouldn’t know a lot. What was Anne Frank even thinking? Who did she think was going to read her journal, her diary? She wasn’t even fully aware of her own mortality in the deeper sense of it. Her story impacted many people. Not to be in your ego but simply knowing that you could impact others with your story and with this information, that inspires me to do this because even if it helps one person after I pass, it’s worth it.
It reminds me of years ago when they released some of Kurt Cobain’s journals. It was fascinating to get a glimpse into his mind, innermost thoughts, sketchings, musings, pain and inspiration. We’re talking about Kurt Cobain, one of the most celebrated modern musicians in history. To close this episode out, Whitney, you’re talking about these journals and these diaries, I have dozens here at the house from over the years, dating back to 2002. I have many years’ worth of journals. It’s interesting that you bring that up here at the end because I have thought about if I were to die, would anybody take the time to even read these? All of those thoughts, feelings, fears, triumphs, dreams and failures, the totality of all those expressions over decades. Would people burn them? Would people throw them in the trash or take time to read them? It’s a fascinating thing to contemplate.
Even now, in my journal, there are days where I sit and go, “Does any of this fucking matter other than the fact that I’m releasing this thought and releasing this energy and exercising this to hopefully make myself feel freer and feel better? That’s why a journal.” I have no idea if it will even matter or if anyone will ever read years’ worth of my journaling. I have no clue. It’s a fascinating thing to ponder. All of this entire conversation you brought to the table. It’s heavy but it’s also pragmatic.
In the West, the United States where we live, we have a twisted relationship with death. We don’t like to think about it. We don’t like to contemplate it. In our episodes, we’ve recorded about our youth obsession. We’ve talked about our avoidance, even talking about death but it’s a critically important thing to ponder. Pondering our mortality, this whole thing is about setting ourselves up so our loved ones and our dear ones don’t have to suffer unnecessarily with a mess after our death is important stuff and I’m glad you brought it to the table, Whitney.
With that being said, dear reader, we’re curious how you feel about this contemplating your mortality, planning for how things are going to go after you die. If you have any of these things in place, we always love to hear from you and your perspectives. You can email us directly at [email protected]. We’re also on Instagram, Facebook and all the social media platforms. We do have a second private podcast called This Hits The Spot where we review our favorite new products, foods, services and things that would light us up. You can check that out if you’re a newsletter subscriber. If you’re not, you can subscribe at Wellevatr.com.
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- The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die What You Need to Prepare Your Family and Protect Your Legacy
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