Do your family a favor. Write a Will and plan for your death.
Hope it doesn’t happen of course, but plan for it anyway.

Given my recent experience, this is a personal plea.

We tend to think there’s always more time to do our Will, or organize our stuff or update our list of passwords. Sometimes there’s not.

Last month, my father in law died suddenly, and soon after, a close friend’s brother died instantly in a terrible accident. Neither one of them had their affairs in order. The sad truth is that each one, certainly not intentionally, left an inconceivable mess for their grieving families.

So what happens when you don’t have a road map for your loved ones to follow?

It’s not pretty.

In the midst of grief and shock, you have to try to figure out where the keys are to everything, where important papers are kept, if there are important papers, is there a will, where is the will, what money is there, where are the bank accounts, who is power of attorney, is there a power of attorney. What bills have to be paid? How are they being paid? Not to speak of insurance, pensions, beneficiaries, automobile titles, mortgage information, online passwords and a myriad of other questions.

This is beyond daunting even assuming that the bereaved all get along beautifully and are all on the same page. (Does anyone know a family like that!?)


My father in law didn’t complete a Healthcare Directive or Power of Attorney. So end of life decisions were complex and distressing for the family, and no one had access to his finances for necessary expenses.

He had great qualities, but he also had a stubborn depression era mentality. He kept everything. I mean everything! Although he had some documents in order, the efforts to find all financial and legal records have been difficult. Clearing out the house is a task that will be expensive both emotionally and financially and it will take an enormous amount of time and effort. His children have to do this and grieve at the same time.

My friend’s brother left no instructions and a chaotic house filled with stuff. If he has a will, it will be a horrendous task to find it. So far, no file can be found with legal papers or financial documents. There are 3 vehicles with no keys and no titles to be found. There are business obligations and who knows what else. And that’s the point. Who knows what else? And that’s the tip of the iceberg. It’s horrible for my friend and her family.

I know that nobody would ever intentionally make things this hard for their families if they had a choice.

But the point is, we have a choice.


  1. Get your legal and financial affairs solidified with an attorney. Or if it’s a very simple estate, you can try to do it on your own. The point is, do it.
  2. Organize the stuff of your life so someone else knows where everything is and has access to it. That’s financial stuff, physical and digital stuff. It means paring down belongings on an ongoing basis, so your physical stuff isn’t bursting at the seams. It also means having ongoing conversations (not always easy ones) with family members, to discuss these important issues.

There are many sources of information available to get you organized. Here is a pretty complete explanation of what you need to do. I also came upon this helpful detailed template that you can download.

I have just a simple checklist that I use with my clients also. Contact me and I’d be happy to send it to you.

If you truly care about your family, I urge you to take these steps. Trust me, you don’t want to leave your family with such a complicated mess.
They deserve more, and so do you.