aging-gracefully_peace-of-mind

Aging Gracefully: Peace of Mind

Roslyn Aging Gracefully estate planning, peace of mind

Over the past year, our “Aging Gracefully” blogs have focused on the “us” of the aging process: attitude, appearance, health, lifelong learning. Now, I’d like us to change the focus for a moment from “us” to “them.” What about the people in our lives who’ll be responsible for dealing with all our stuff when we’re gone?  I think there are some organizational things we should do right now giving us and our loved ones some peace of mind.

Planning Ahead Is Empowering

Yeah, I know…  Who wants to think about this? Well, maybe some of you are less fainthearted than me and have your estate planning under control! You’ve made your wills and powers of attorney and made sure that all your paperwork is in order. You’ve done that. You’ve also given the necessary people access to the information.

Well, I hadn’t and it’s something that’s overlooked by people far too often, which is why I thought we could talk about it. If you think about it, it’s actually never too early to start putting these things in order. We all lead such complex lives with many careers and/or marriages/partnerships. Leaving our loved ones to unpick this maze without any guidance strikes me as a little unfair. The kind of information we should be gathering for them could be:

  • Where’s your bank and investment account information stored; how do they gain access?
  • Are any of your bills paid automatically? by which bank? when?
  • How do you handle your sources of income (Social Security; pensions, interest payments)? Are they paid in automatically? Where? When?
  • How do you pay your normal bills? Where’s your checkbook? credit cards? passwords to these?
  • Does your partner/husband have different accounts and/or information?
  • Where is your safe deposit key? What’s in the box and whose name is on the account?
  • A list of contact information of important people in your lives.

The hardest part is just facing it and getting started. Once I made myself start I found the process of getting it all out of my head empowering and liberating.

Getting Organized

How to begin? You could use a computer spreadsheet if you have the skill. In my case, this isn’t an option. So I looked at books on Amazon, ranging in price from $13 to $565.  I ended up picking a spiral bound book called “Peace of Mind Planner”.  When the book arrived the layout immediately put me at ease. I felt like I’d be able to follow along and complete it all. Using a guide like this provides me with a buffer. It’s such an emotional process, but the book depersonalizes the process. This allows me to manage my emotions and get the task done!

Once started it all starts to flow. Sometimes just finding where the information is requires some digging around. I expect to come up with more things that someone will need access to in the future. Capture everything and follow where it takes you.

It’s taken until recently for me to face this issue. My husband and I are in our eighties and seventies. The person who’s agreed to take responsibility when we’re gone doesn’t have a clue about any of this. And why should they! So, I am taking responsibility and making sure that when the time comes he’ll have everything he needs. It may not be easy, but I have tackled my procrastination head-on and found a way to move forward.

andy-warhol-dying-is-the-most-embarrassing-thing

Mental Peace of Mind

We need to make many major decisions at this stage of life, including funeral and burial matters. We’re speaking here not so much about decision-making, but about a means of organization. In fact, it may be that as we begin to organize our stuff, we will start to think about and/or make decisions. These too must be shared!

A good way to begin the sharing is with a face-to-face conversation. My advice is to do this in a comfortable and private space. It will be an emotional conversation. It’s important to acknowledge and nurture the expressions of caring and concern that come up during this conversation. Most family members will have some difficulty with this type of conversation. Help the person who’s agreed to be your executor prepare emotionally to deal with it. I have started this conversation.

Finding Peace of Mind

Making all my vital information accessible has been my goal over the past few months. In a time of grief and an adjustment, it could be a great gift to our loved ones. Now that I know I can get the task done, hard as it is to get started, I can get back to the joys of aging gracefully with a little more peace of mind.

It’s a difficult subject to approach, but I hope you found this topic useful. Is this something you’ve taken care of already?

Fondly,
Roz

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Roslyn
I loved going to work each day for 30 years as a professional career counselor. When I retired, I explored my creativity and regard for crafts until I discovered beading. At age 68 I turned my new found passion- jewelry design, into a business. At age 72 I took on learning about social media marketing and developing my computer skills. I am sharing my journey from inception, to frustration, to elation -in the hope of inspiring others that 'it is not too late to start again'. Welcome to my re-invention!

Comments 38

  1. Roz – I can’t thank you enough for addressing this topic. I am 66 and my husband is 76. I have been waking up sometimes in the middle of the night worrying about this for both of us. We have done estate planning, but other things like passwords, etc. are a problem. I started creating a spreadsheet of accounts and spreadsheets and have not completed it. It is emotional.

    Then my husband said the other day that he worries how he would know what to do with my online business. So important!

    I looked at the book on Amazon that you recommend in this post. It looks so good. I ordered two of them, one for my husband and one for me.

    It is good to talk about these things. It lightens the burden and stress.

    1. Thak you so much LeAllyson Meyer for your moving contribution to this conversation. It really warms my heart and brought tears to my eyes knowing that my words contributed to you. It is a worrisome and emotional topic we all must face. Sooner is better than later.

      A friend thought I should buy a book with removable pages but I plan to use folders with pockets to insert relevant documents.

      We both have beading inventory & supplies that add another factor to dispose of. One step at a time is my motto.

  2. This has been on my to-do list for a while, Roz. I really do need to focus on it, and thanks for the Planner idea!
    I know first hand the positives and negatives. Six years ago, we buried both our parents. Of course, all the “stuff” was left up to me. Thank God my mother was just such a planner. Nothing was left to chance, or even digging about. It made a horrible time at least easier with the business side of things.

    1. You know Susan Mary Malone, how appreciative you were that your mom was such a good planner? I want my stepson to say that about me. It is not in my DNA to be paper organized so this is a big deal for me. I have digging up to do to put things in order and having written this blog, I know I will honor my word.

  3. I agree, it’s a great gift to your children and other relatives to have all this information together and in order. Guides help remind you what needs to be done. I have a series on my organizing blog about this exact topic and it is really helpful for anyone looking to get their estate in order and it’s free.

  4. This is such an important topic, Roz, even for young people. A dear friend of mine explained the horror of trying to close accounts last year when her 18-year-old niece was killed in a car accident. The girl’s boyfriend was driving (like a maniac and has since gone to prison because of it). He had access to her Facebook page and kept posting after the accident that killed her, adding to the torture of her family. My friend searched high and low for a password and had to go through quite a process with FB in order to shut down her account. Hubby and I are in the process of creating a digital estate plan (explaining bill payments and passwords etc) to go with our wills, as well as instructions on what to do when we go – it will make things so much easier for our sons and their families.

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      Thank you Tamuria, for bringing our attention to dealing with social media accounts. I hadn’t thought of it and will make a tab in my book. Occasionally I see a FB reminder for someone’s birthday who I know is deceased- in a way it brings back a memory and it also feels awkward as I won’t be posting a greeting on their timeline. I think it’s great that you can do a digital accounting. I’m still more of a pen and paper gal.

  5. I’ve got much of this done as far as my will and my estate executors go. The online world is a very different thing. My daughter does know some of my passwords, however, she would have no idea of some of the profiles I have on places like Ted.com or other online sites I visit and sign in too. Thanks for the reminder to get my online ducks in a row and the book you suggest sounds very much like something that would appeal to me too. I am not interested in spreadsheets or online record keeping. This had me think of my dear father who walked up a flight of stairs, had a heart-attack and died when he was only 51-years-old. He left no will and only a mess for my mother to muddle through. No life insurance either. With help from her brother, my mother made it through and sorted everything out, however, my memory of this time and your post, remind me it is much cleaner and less stressful not to leave your affairs in pieces.

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      Appreciate your contribution to the conversation Beverley Golden. My sister-in-law and I have talked about this for several years and it has probably been the only serious item I have procrastinated about. No more as I am tackling the details. We did make our wills last year but the organizational details I might not have thought of without a guide.

  6. The spirit of this post is so generous, Roslyn! Thank you for tackling it with such grace. Because my husband and I are older parents with very young children, we have had some of these conversations and made some important decisions and arrangements already. However, it is by no means complete. I really like the Peace of Mind planner you recommended and may have to get that for us as well.

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      Appreciate your comment and compliment, Reba Linker. This isn’t a subject that was easy to write in a lifestyle blog. I read many written by funeral directors and insurance agents which helped me decide what I wanted to express. It really was based on my personal needs and experience.
      There were many selections on Amazon to choose from. This was so inexpensive I thought if I get started with it and want something more elaborate, I can always purchase another type of guide. I really was looking for an organized way to put detail data down and it even has tabs for areas like social media. My friend preferred a style that allowed you to add pages. So far I haven’t needed that feature..

  7. Morbid but so necessary Roz. Ironic because I just submitted my will questionnaire to be revised since my mom was my primary beneficiary and well, we aren’t talking .. plus wanted to be sure my life partner, Josh, regardless of the fact we aren’t married, will be taken care of.. and I know he will be sure my kids are taken care of.. even if they are old enough.

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      Kristen Wilson, I know this is a tough topic, kids don’t like thinking about losing their parents, but it is a reality that we all have an end to life. Glad you have handled your affairs & being a computer whizz, most likely digitally.

  8. This type of planning is not really on my radar yet; however, I do need to start. I am in the midst of a huge decluttering effort (that is progressing very slowly) because I have been telling people of late that, if I were to die soon, my son would probably just torch the house because he would not be able to determine what my assets are.

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      Rachel Lavern, it is good it is on your mind. It was on mine for a long time. Somehow decluttering seemed easier to me than digging up the info & getting it organized. I have a new system that seems to be working for both. Every day I make 1 entry and throw or give away 1 item.

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      You are welcome Lisa Swanson. I sure wish I was an Amazon affiliate. I really didn’t know 1 book from another but something in the description & reviews led me to select this one and I can honestly say it is laid out logically, clearly & is working as a guide to record details. Exactly what I wanted. I’m writing some in pencil as there isn’t a way to add pages. Good luck getting started. The easiest is the social media tab.

  9. My mother and I made our separate Wills when I turned 40, Roslyn, and all important papers are in my bank locker of which I’ve made my Mom my joint locker owner and my sister is my nominee.

    A very important post, Roslyn. Accepting that someday we won’t be there is always difficult but the sooner we address it, the better. My father died intestate because he hadn’t gotten down to creating his Will. Fortunately my Mom was his nominee for everything and he had kept all his papers and records in 1 brief case so it was easy for me to transfer ownership to my Mom with his Death Certificate and a spot of running around.

    My Mom insisted that her Will be made after she saw the extra efforts in Dad’s case and the fact that there can be an untimely demise. He was only 64. I update her and my details annually to make sure that God forbid anything happens, my sister will know what to do.

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      Thank you Vatsala Shukla, for your contribution to the conversation. It does not surprise me that you have all your ducks in order. Systems, accounting, being organized are your strengths as well as the unfortunate experience of your dad’s untimely death. I do have to dig around and discard outdated info. I’m glad I tackled this topic as it seems to be one we all can relate to.

  10. Rosylyn,
    I loved this post especially becuase I felt the chills on my arms I love being a Therapist,and it was a great article that you shared and really enjoyed the emotional piece you put in the article. I feel being a counselor for thirty years is a beautiful gift. Thank you for the post and your service and to a wonderful jelewarywebsite .

    Thanks ,

    Lori English

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      You are welcome Lori English. Yes, topics like this are relatable to all and I am comfortable with it because of my counseling background. My own needs guided me and I only wanted to address the organizational aspects of preparation. The details of burial preferences are important and will come up as people prepare the records.

  11. I am so glad to see this here, Roz, and the discussion and comments too. I think that this is an important piece to living an enpowered and meaningful older age, just as you have found. And it is a gift to our loved ones as well.
    I am in the process of taking care of all of these issues, and I have found several different kinds of checklists to guide me. Thanks for your recommendation on teh Peace of Mind Planner, I’m going to check it out.
    As I go along, I let my daughter know a bit at a time what I am doing. Once everything’s complete, I can bring her completely up to speed. But she knows that taking care of it is important to me, and that I like to talk about it with her.

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      You are fortunate Jane Gramlich that you can have an ongoing conversation with your daughter. Now that we are discussing it with some of our adult children, they are addressing their own need to prepare, have info organized, etc. It is a task those of us over 50 are aware of needing to do, and I suspect may be done to some extent. I am using this book to organize my info & help me dig up & discard. Ultimately even my file folders will be weeded out. I admire those who can do this digitally, but that is not my skill.
      I too love reading & learning for the comments. I hope this post reaches many baby boomers.

  12. That planner sounds great, Roz. I’ll probably be like my mom. When she passed, we found this in her desk: her obit ready to print, who to call to pick up her body because she had donated her body to science, and the full plan for her memorial service: where, when, which songs to sing, who would read what scripture verses. Nothing was left to chance (or our choice). But then, that was mom, controlling everything to the very end (and beyond)!

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      Sometimes Carol Rundle, knowing the wishes of the deceased is very freeing at a stressful time. My concern was a paper trail of details. There are so many details of record keeping & the book I purchased is helping me gather the info & record. There are many others to choose from. I didn’t want to be more overwhelmed so I went simplistic. Here is to a long life.

  13. Hi Roslyn,
    Very important post, thank you for sharing these awesome tips for what we need to be doing NOW for those that are left behind to deal with all of our “important” papers and accounts. It is a must to do, because it will give you peace of mind when the time comes and you will know that all of that “stuff” is going to be taken care of 🙂 Great reminder to make sure you do it.

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      Yes, Joan Harrington. This is exactly what I needed to do and the focus of my blog. Don’t assume they will find & follow all the files & folders. Make it easier especially to your family when already stressed and probably overwhelmed. .

  14. My Dad had everything organized when he died; yes it was a gift to us. It made everything so much easier. Still the grief, but at a time when everyone is emotional and not thinking completely right, having everything organized can make it a smoother transitionKaren for those left behind. Thanks for bringing awareness to this.

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    Thank you Karen Grosz, for sharing your experience. It affirms something we all know and tend to resist. Being prepared by organizing all your information is a gift to the surviving family and gives the person peace of mind.

  16. As ironic as it was, a friend told me don’t worry she had just finished her will. Within the week she had died. Yes, there was a will but it was not signed and witnessed. Her family did not want to come to settle the estate and everything fell to me. Take the time to document everything so that things will be handled the way you want it to be.

    1. Sad tale of woe and one I had heard also from a friend, Joyce Hansen. Usually the task does fall to someone good at details and organization. Sorry that family dumped it in your lap. A friend had this happen to them and it was my impetus. We took care of our will last year, but the organizing the info kept moving to the bottom of my to do list. I realize it is not a task done over a weekend but with a guide book it can be accomplished page by page.

  17. This is sage advice. I lost my dad a few years ago to cancer, and despite his previous insistence that everything was sorted as it should be, it was a mess. We are still sorting through estate issues. Each time we go to deal with something new, it rips off the grief bandaid again.

  18. Thanks for sharing your unfortunate experience, Jennifer. It is exactly why I wrote the blog, bought & started using this book. Sometimes it is hard to see things as an outsider & what looked as it ‘should be’ because he understood it all, lands as a mess. I don’t want that to happen.

  19. Thanks so much for this wonderful post, Roz! I have spent about 10 years in the funeral industry, and it never ceases to amaze me how many families have never addressed end-of-life issues. The devastation that is wreaked by the death of a loved one, especially a sudden and unexpected death, is hard to witness. We don’t like to talk about death in America, but these conversations simply must happen in families. Thanks again for spreading the word!

    1. Welcome to our blog Stephanie Hynds and thank you for your comment. When I started my research for this topic I came across wonderful wisdom and advice from those in the funeral industry. Each month for the past year I chose a blog topic appropriate to baby boomers & categorized under “Aging Gracefully”. It was quite a variation from our jewelry and fashion blogs & I loved the opportunity to face realities of aging .

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