The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Organize Your Life and Death: Get Your Shit Together
A while ago, I came across a website called GetYourShitTogether.org that really made me think about all the things that we never think about: having everything in order personally, professionally, and legally. The website was created out of loss, suffering, pain, misery, stress, frustration, and turned into a resource that could help everyone going through the same, or at least, prepare those who would never even think about losing someone and all the stress and trauma that comes with it, specifically, locating all the personal information about a person that you need to try and gather in order to really end their business on this Earth.
The woman who started it, Chanel Reynolds, lost her husband, José Hernando, while he was riding his bike a few miles from their home. The accident decimated his upper spine and caused an immediate traumatic cardiac arrest. Although he was technically dead at the scene, they were able to transport him to the hospital, where he remained in ICU for a week, though he was not expected to make any recovery. Mrs. Reynolds removed life support and Mr. Hernando soon thereafter passed away. She was now left with all of his affairs, most of which she had to spend time tracking down and locating in order to get things in order, on top of her dealing with her and her family’s grief.
This video provides more about her story:
When you choose to face reality and get your shit together, you accept the fact that you will die. You must also accept the fact that at any moment, your loved ones may die as well, and you should encourage them to get their shit together right now. In another confession, I wrote about drug user decriminalization, which only pushes the idea that get your shit together is important. At any moment, our loved ones could die, or we could die, and they are left to clean up our “mess”, but before they can even do that, they must figure out what our mess actually is. It is a common courtesy, as a human being, with family or loved ones, to help them best cope with your death, regardless of your age or the way you died, and the best way to do that is by leaving them to only mourn your death, not figure out what business you had left in life.
When we are alive, we want to think that what happens after we die is not important. After all, we are dead, and our business is done on this Earth. Truth of the matter is that our family has to take care of what remains of us, from figuring out what to do with the shell we leave behind, to trying to access our contacts and emails, and companies we had personal business with, specifically the financial companies that we paid our bills to, and any further business regarding our personal lives, in order to inform them that we have passed away so these companies stop asking for payment.
It might be as simple as the family just forgetting that it all existed, and it would have been as if the person in their lives was just a memory, but many companies, especially those companies to which your loved one owes a debt may try to come after the family or next of kin in order to try and retrieve debts, though in most cases, a death certificate would protect the family from the debts of the loved one.
As for us, when we are alive, we do not do our family any favors by letting them try to figure out our past business, especially if it needs to be settled. In cases where money, assets, or property is involved, an entire family could be torn apart because the deceased left no specific instructions on what should be done.
We, as human beings, have the mentality that we are immortal and going to live forever, despite seeing death around us nearly every single day, and many of us end up dealing with it personally, as our older loved ones begin to die, our friends, and eventually, our parents, and siblings. As much as we want to refuse to believe it, our own death is inevitable.
As much as we should make plans for a great life, we should also be making plans for a great death as well, and leave instructions for our successors and loved ones on exactly what we want them to do with our belongings, since we cannot take them to the grave with us, and even if we do take them to the grave with us, we really have no use for them.
Many of us remain so secretive that we would never even give the passwords of our emails to our significant others or our families, out of fear that they would breach our most private conversations and data, though when dead, other than the possibility of revealing our personal information, we might not even feel the need for our loved ones to have such information.
There are apps for smartphones springing up that loved ones can access that contain personal information, such as a living will, a will, and other information that the deceased would like their loved ones to know. For those who can afford it, they usually have a lawyer hold on to this information. The information can also be stored in a secured lock box at a bank.
Fortunately, there are plenty of creative ways to store this information for free, and get this information to your family upon your death for free. Many companies offer a certain amount of data storage in the cloud, so the only thing you would have to do is inform your family and loved ones of how to access this information upon your death.
Another idea is to create an email account that is separate from all personal and private data, with a password that only a loved one could figure out, containing information to all those accounts that hold that personal and private data, personal messages from you to your family, if you wish for your loved ones to have that information. There are plenty of ways for you to leave your loved ones with a comfortable and warm feeling of knowing that they are taken care of and know all that they need to know upon your death.
The website, Get Your Shit Together, offers plenty of information on how to deal with this, as far as writing a living will, a will, assigning a power of attorney, and all other details that you need to fill out and place in a safe place where your family may have access to it upon your death. Upon your death, your family will already be suffering enough, so it would be wise for you to ensure that they can easily take care of any of your unfinished business.
You may also download any of the templates here:
- Living Will
- Power of Attorney
- All Documents Zipped
There are also other websites that offer free services, such as doyourownwill.com which provides you with the ability to write your own will, save, and print it out for free.
DISCLAIMER: These services do not guarantee that these documents are official or legal and cannot take the place of an attorney or a lawyer approval. However, it is suggested that as long as you have your wishes for your estate stated somewhere, preferably a will, this may suffice so long as their are no arguments amongst your family members. These services exist to guide you in making these decisions while you are alive and helping you to understand and appreciate your mortality.
UPDATE: Since the time of this confession, the website, gyst.com, had a major update to include a lot of new and valuable information including plans with attorneys available to you, depending on the state you live in, that are much more helpful than the documents above. While the documents above may help you, it is highly advisable that you consult with a legal attorney, even just once in your life, to ensure that your life and death paperwork documents are all in order to ensure that you and your family have a smooth transition upon the event that anything dire happens in your life.
UPDATE: Since I wrote confession quite a while ago, but had not published it, my own best friend has since passed away, which really hit close to home, and made me realize that my own mortality could happen at any moment. He never did make it into his 30s. Still a young man with dreams and hopes, eager and ready to explore the world. None of us, unfortunately, are immune to the touches of death. Rich or poor, we are all within reach, at any time. The best we can hope for is a lifetime of great memories and a life fully lived. The best we can do for our loved ones is to leave them with memories, not a trail of endless paperwork and puzzles they have to piece together in hopes to figure out our bank accounts, bank statements, email addresses, etc. Do yourself and your family a favor. Take this confession seriously. Take those documents above seriously. Take Get Your Shit Together seriously and make this the year you actually do something about your shit.