Why planning for death is a gift to your family

Why planning for death is a gift to your family

By Stephen Garrett, Executive Director of the Memorial Society of BC

Most of us are pretty good at planning for an upcoming birth, a wedding, a birthday party or graduation ceremony. However, when it comes to an even more certain event, our death, many of us are hopelessly underprepared.

We gladly face those happy and important times in life and prepare for them. But we are often so unwilling to even look at end of life that we do not give it the time of day.

This lack of attention to end-of-life planning is a direct reflection of our collective fear of death here in North America. Understandably, discussing death can be unsettling and even frightening for many people. But the turmoil caused by not planning can be much greater, especially for your family.

The cost of not planning

As the interim executive director of the Memorial Society of BC, a local not-for-profit organization, I’ve supported hundreds of families over the years in planning and preparing for end of life.

I was supporting a family whose father/husband was in the final stages of stage four liver cancer. He was deemed palliative and given two or three months to live.

Despite the certainty of his imminent death, he was unwilling to accept it and simply rebuffed my assertions that he get his affairs in order. Though others in the family saw the need for some preparations, he was steadfast in his view that doing so was negative energy and no end of life planning was going to happen on his watch.

He died a month and a half later with no plans made. No will. No funeral arrangements. No advanced care directives. Nothing.

The results were chaotic and dramatic for his widowed wife and children. His bank accounts were frozen, both his personal and company, as only one example of the unnecessary stress his lack of planning brought to bear on the family.

His wife had to borrow money from her family in order to survive financially until his unplanned estate was settled through probate some eighteen months down the road. There were no funeral plans for the family to rely on. At a time when they all wanted to grieve the loss of their loved-one they were mired down in end of life details that could have been handled much more effectively months earlier.

I know this story is hard to read and hard to imagine, yet it is a true story and it happens often. In order to avoid this unnecessary stress and upset, it would be wise of us all to plan well in advance for the end of our life. Are we all ready to go?

Watch Stephen share his own story.

Getting all ready to go

At the Memorial Society of BC, we advocate that individuals create what we call an All Ready to Go Binder: a place to collect all your end-of-life paperwork and make it easily accessible in one spot.

Part of this preparation is estate planning, which your financial institution can help you with. It includes things like your last will and testament, power of attorney and representation agreement.

Vancity estate planning

In addition, end-of life-planning also includes things like funeral arrangements, celebration of life plan and advanced care directives.

While end-of-life planning can be challenging to do, it’s also a most compassionate and generous offering to those you love. Give your family the gift of being all ready to go.

You can purchase the All Ready to Kit for $15 from the Memorial Society of BC through the society’s website or by calling 604-733-7705 (toll free: 1-888-816-5902).

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