As many of you know, my much-loved husband, Tony, died just a few months ago. Since there are almost 14 million widows in America today, I am well aware that whatever challenges I've had to deal with since his death are probably not all that unique. Unfortunately, I have felt blindsided by many of the issues that survivors must face after the death of a loved one, and I often wish that he and I had made better provisions for the inevitable, even though no one likes to admit it.
I recently learned about two services that are precisely designed to eliminate complications and confusion following the death of a loved one, Everplans and Final Roadmap. Everplans originally began as an end-of-life-related content website. Both originally began as tools to help attorneys and estate planners make sure monetary assets would be properly bequeathed. But it didn't take long for the professional money managers to recognize that survivors usually needed help with more issues than simply financial ones.
Everplans was started in 2012, and after the unexpected death of the 51-year-old brother of one of the website's co-founders, they decided to provide what has evolved into "a repository for all the information and guidance that one's survivors are going to need." A typical comprehensive legacy plan includes information regarding bank accounts and insurance policies, home security alarm systems, suggestions regarding sensitive ways to inform colleagues, information on friends and family of the deceased passing, access codes and passwords, etc. It's a long and complicated list.
Six categories of information are then broken down into 29 subsections. The six categories include the following:
—My life (miscellaneous information, from pet directives to vehicles to account logins to contact lists).
—House (maintenance, staff, deed, insurance, mortgage and utilities).
—Health (doctors, pharmacies, therapies and hospital data).
—Financial (banking and investment data).
—Legal (attorney, executor, guardians, living will and power of attorney).
—After I'm Gone, the most popular section (donations, funeral arrangements, legacies and disposition of small items).
Final Roadmap offers a toolkit with information on all the decisions you or your loved ones will need to make after your death, including legal and financial issues, medical care, physical death, visitation/services/remains, notifications and messages for love ones.
According to Karen B. Hirschman, a research assistant professor who specializes in aging at the University of Pennsylvania, "There is some research out there that indicates that 90 to 95 percent of people think advance directives are a great idea." Unfortunately, as of 2011, only about 30 to 35 percent of people appear to have developed any serious legacy plan, which means that confusion and costly misunderstanding frequently follow for people after their loved one's death.
Final Roadmap's toolkit allows users to "create, compile and safely store documents and directives — with the option to share the documents you select, with the individuals you choose, in the equivalent of an electronic vault." As I have learned, too many of us are faced with unwelcome surprises when we lose a spouse — or any family member. How comforting to know that there are tech tools available to take away a little of the pain following an untimely death.
Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at www.marilynwillison.com. To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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