Preparing for the unexpected

I know this subject might seem like a contradiction – how can we prepare for something we are not expecting? I have been thinking about this topic since the tragic accident that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven other individuals who were flying with them to a basketball game. None of them woke up that morning thinking it would be their last day on Earth. Most of us don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about our death, especially if we feel like we are in the prime of our life. But as this and other similar tragedies demonstrate, it behooves us to take some time to plan for the unthinkable, so that our loved ones are not left blind-sided if our lives are cut short by unexpected events.

Are your affairs in order?

No matter how young or old you are, if you are an adult, you will help your loved ones immensely if you have a few key legal documents and other critical pieces of information in place. Let’s take a quick look at some of these:

A living will (or advance directive) – This document is key if you are incapacitated before your death, as it spells out medical treatments you would and would not want to be used to keep you alive, as well as your preferences for other medical decisions, such as pain management or organ donation. By planning ahead, you can hopefully avoid unnecessary suffering and help reduce confusion or disagreement among your caregivers about the choices you want them to make on your behalf. Click here to learn more about living wills and advance directives.

A will – Your family will need the most recent version of your will along with contact information for the attorney who drew it up and any executor named in the document. Anyone who is married/partnered and/or has children should definitely have a will, but even if you are young and single, you want to be sure that whatever possessions/treasures/assets you own are distributed according to your wishes. Perhaps you have a beloved pet – who would you want caring for him/her after you are gone? Click here for some helpful information about writing a will.

Financial accounts – Your heirs will need a list of your financial accounts – everything from utility bills to tax returns – as well as any insurance policies. And if you do most of your banking and financial transactions online, they will need passwords and other security information to access your accounts. Some people choose to compile this information in an electronic file, whereas others may go old-school and just put hard copies of everything in a cardboard box. Click here for more information about what to organize and compile for those left behind who will need to settle your estate.

Funeral/memorial plans – This may be the most difficult document to pull together as it forces us to face our own mortality and to think about how we want to leave this Earth and be remembered when we are gone – whether we are 18 or 88 when it happens. Several years ago, a member of my church passed away suddenly and unexpectedly and apparently had not shared any of her wishes with family. The leaders at the fellowship shared this form, “Who Will Speak for Me?” and asked all of us to fill it out and share a copy with them. Confession: I meant to do so at the time and kept putting it off – I think part of it was not wanting to confront the reality that I won’t be around forever. I never did complete it, but Kobe’s accident and premature death have prompted me to put it at the top of my to do list. I encourage all of you to do the same and share it with those who will be responsible for your estate when you pass (note: you can use the form I shared as a guide or ask your church/religious organization, if they have something similar).

I saw the quote below on a friend’s Instagram account shortly after the news of the crash that took the lives of Kobe and eight others. It is a gentle reminder that life is short and should not be taken for granted as none of us know when we may take our last breath in this life. So, when you finish reading this, go tell your family members that you love them. Give your child(ren) a hug and a kiss for no reason. Call that friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with for ages. Don’t wait, as there is no guarantee you can do to it “tomorrow.”