LIVE BY DESIGN | Purple File: A check list for checking out

Klaas de Jonge has been on my mind since I attended his online farewell in early April. He plans to die on 5 May – the privilege of being Dutch and able to choose assisted dying in certain circumstances. The days progress. Of course, Klaas can change his mind – that’s a prerogative with assisted dying – you can opt to postpone – if you are not quite as ready as you’d like.

What does it mean to be ready to die? When my late husband was restless in his last days, the homeopath later commented, “Too much focus on living, not enough focus on dying”. That comment stayed with me like Velcro. I think when death is on your horison, readiness means both the psychological and the practical. What is our psycho/socio/spiritual state of well-being? Moreover, what does is mean to have affairs in order? Most people do not pay much attention to all that this entails.

It seems cruel that grieving people often have to deal with a mountain of necessary bureaucracy. We may know first-hand or have observed how grief can be all-consuming. Elizabeth Gilbert writing about love and loss noted, “Grief is a force of energy that cannot be controlled or predicted. It comes and goes on its own schedule. Grief will do whatever it wants to you.”

There are often challenges because the deceased’s affairs were not in order: There are documents missing, passwords are unknown. Having paperwork in order is a wonderful gift to those loved ones you leave behind – who will have to deal with all that ensues.

As I listened to Klaas during his online farewell to the friends he knew from Mozambique, he seemed to be in a place of calm reflection and acceptance, at peace with his decision. I wondered if Klaus’s affairs were truly in order. So many people think that all they need is a will – but so much more is required.

I emailed LoveLegacyDignity’s Purple File: Check List for Checking Out to Klaas and his friend Phil for their consideration. The document has four parts. Section 1, “Before you die” covers everything that others need to know to support you in your last days. Section Two, “Immediately after you die” covers what needs to be done after you’ve taken your last breath. Section Three, “Estate Closure” is what is needed by the person nominated to wind up your estate. Section Four covers Cash Flow planning. Just because you died does not stop the bills from coming in – it is helpful to have a plan.

Each section is preceded by a set of questions. If you can answer yes to ALL the questions – then indeed you’ve done all that you can. I invite you to jot down your responses.

Section one: Pre-death- Readiness to die (suddenly or slowly) – Yes/No

1. Have you set out your end-of-life medical preferences in a document often called an Advance Directive – including your wishes with regards to being an organ donor?

2. Have you nominated two health care decision makers to speak on your behalf if you can’t speak for yourself?

3. Do you have a Living Will in written, audio or visual format, which sets out your preferences if you die slowly over time needing care and emotional support?

4. Have you completed your contacts list, ready for who needs to know that you are on the cusp of dying, which people you want to say goodbye to (in person or telephonically) and who you want to be there to support you (friend, spiritual advisor, doula?)

5. If there are last rites that are important to you, do those who need to know actually know what’s to be done for you?

6. If your dying happens slowly over time, have you provisioned for and appointed a Financial Power of Attorney to be able to spend on your behalf to support your care.

Section two: Information needed immediately following death (post-mortem logistics) – Yes/No

7. Do you have your personal (close family & friends, acquaintances) and non-personal (professional & service) contact lists ready with an indication of their standing?

8. Can someone access your diary to cancel upcoming appointments?

9. Is it clear who will take care of your dependents – whether minors, elderly, or adults dependents who are physically or mentally challenged?

10. If you have pets – do you have an agreement in place as to what will happen to them?

11. If you have specific wishes for your funeral/memorial/celebration of life service (speakers/music/food etc.) have you set these out and advised those who need to know?

Section Three: Documents and information for estate closure (Requirements for winding up of your estate and passwords for closing accounts and your virtual life) – Yes/No

12. Do you have an up-to-date last will and testament?

13. Have you nominated your executor?

14. Your passwords – are they available to whoever needs to know them?

15. Have you left instructions for your social media pages and any other aspect of your virtual life that needs closure?

16. Does whoever needs to know have access to all the documents and passwords that will be needed?

17. Are the named beneficiaries on any policies up to date?

18. If your intention is to make some special bequests of items which may be emotionally valuable irrespective of any resale value – have you written out your wishes?

19. If your intention is to write letters to those who have held meaning for you in your life and/or to children, or grandchildren – are these letters written?

Section four: Money (Cash flow – Money) – Yes/No

20. Your payments – do you have a complete list of your monthly and annual payments?

21. Do you have arrangements in place to cover continuing monthly payments?

22. Have you set aside money for your funeral that is easily accessible?

23. If you are supporting anyone either with a stipend or study fees, or give money to a charity, have you provisioned for a transition?

24. If you have any outstanding personal loans or that you have lent someone money – is there clarity about these obligations and how they are to be settled (or not)?

25. Have you had all the conversations that you feel are appropriate?

It was good to hear back from Phil that Klaas is surrounded by capable people organising for him. He commented that Klaas making time for so many exhausted him. These days he’s spending time with those who matter most. All those goodbyes – it is hard emotionally. Thank goodness, that practical stuff is taken care of.

Klaas, Hamba Kahle. Next week, 5 May, you’ll be gone.

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