How To Legally Prepare For the Death Of A Parent
In all honesty, is anyone ever really prepared for the death of a parent? They spend our lives taking care of us and, in the end, many of us will be caring for them. Many people don't want to talk about their final days and being prepared can cause some added heart ache when the time comes.
Know where to find their documents
If your parent does have a will, ask them where it can be found. A document containing combinations to safes and locations of safety deposit box keys is also important to locate. If you and your parent are comfortable, ask for a copy.
In the event that a house fire or natural disaster causes the sudden death of a parent, at least one other person that does not live in the home should have a copy of the will. A next of kin, lawyer, or close friend are great options as long as everyone known, and trusted.
In our home, we have a binder that includes our life insurance and health care information, a copy of our will, power of attorney, and all other necessary documents. Immediate family and other important people know where to find it.
If your parent is unwilling or unable to be this organized, do the best you can. A lawyer is not necessary to create a will, as long as the person is able to sign. If possible, help the parent to create the will, even if it is a simple one.
What are their final wishes?
Most importantly, found out what they prefer to have done with their remains. Do your best to honor these requests, within reason. For example, If your mother says she will roll over in her grave if her sister is invited to her funeral, take it with a grain of salt, unless it is more upsetting to the rest of the family for her sister to attend.
In sticky situations, compromise is always the best solution. Before my grandmother died, she was adamant that she did not want anyone to go through her personal items in her house, except for her children. Turns out, she was a hoarder and respecting this wish proved to be an impossible task for my dad and aunt. To honor her request as much as possible, my dad and aunt went through her things in her bedroom and safe, and enlisted the rest of the family to help with the rest of the house. In the end, they will be gone but everyone else will have to live with their final decisions.
My best advice: listen closely and use your best judgement.
What information is needed for their death certificate?
If you are the person handling arrangements, there will be decisions you will have to make. Before that time comes, try to be prepared, especially if the death is expected. Otherwise, there will be information that will be needed for a death certificate that may require effort on your part, including requesting documents or hunting through piles of papers.
Information needed for a death certificate can be found in the attached worksheet. It is recommended that you have it filled out prior to an expected death. It will make preparations much easier.
Losing a parent is tough, no matter the circumstances. Planning ahead can help ease your stress a little and allow you to focus on other needs your family may have during this difficult time.