Once in a while I am invited to a church to talk about “planned giving.” Planned giving is a phrase that mostly has to do with how we manage our money and assets as we grow older and prepare to cross into glory. As people visit with me after our session, I am surprised how many people thank me for reminding them to make a list.
Most of us have experienced, or known someone, who has had to sort through the affairs of recently deceased loved one. Unfortunately, that can sometimes be a nightmare. We aren’t sure where the records are kept. We don’t know the account numbers. We couldn’t tell you if they still had debts to pay—or to whom. How many credit cards did they have? Were they owed money by anyone? Do they have the deed to the house? And didn’t they own 20 acres downstate? They worked for company ABC, so did they have any ABC stock? Was there life insurance? Were there any contracts they had to give or receive money or services? Where did they keep the birth certificates and adoption records? Did they have retirement accounts in more than one place? Did they have a will or trust and where is a copy of it? All those family photos they took with their digital camera, where are those?
We have a thousand questions and, even if we do know much of the above, we are stuck because we can’t find any passwords. We can’t even shut down their Facebook account without a password.
I would suggest that we be good stewards in death as we have been in life. If you want to make things easier on those left behind, make a list. It could take a few hours, but you have time over the coming month. Write it on paper and put it in a binder. Make a computer file and store it on a flash drive. You might want all your information in one place and your passwords in another (or with another person). If you have a lawyer, give it to them and instruct your family to contact him or her if needed.
Grief is difficult enough without the added confusion of navigating a person’s chaotic estate. Make a list. When they get to heaven, they will thank you.
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Director of Development
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana