This probably seems like an odd question from me but why do you even need an estate plan? I mean you’ll be gone and won’t have any control. But that is a primary reason for an estate plan, so that you do have control. Control over how and where you will live when you can no longer decide for yourself, control over your end of life decisions and control over what will become of your stuff when you’re gone.

Control is but one reason. Do you really want to leave a mess for your children or other loved ones to clean up? Of course that might depend on the day and if your kid remembered your birthday, but in general the answer is NO.

“She wouldn’t want anyone to make a fuss. No church or graveside service.” “She was always so outgoing she would want lots of people at her memorial.” “She was so private. She would be embarrassed to have people speak about her.” “Lots of flowers. Lots and Lots of flowers. She loved flowers.” “She wouldn’t cut the flowers in her own garden until they turned brown.” “Lay her to rest next to Dad.” “She wanted to be cremated and have her ashes scattered by that cabin they always stayed in.”

These were just a few of the remarks made about the same person when a client died recently and didn’t leave a plan for her burial. Children and grandchildren almost came to blows expressing their well-founded opinions of what Mom/Grandma would want. Many of the statements were started with “I know that Mom/Grandma would…..” A time when the family should have embraced and consoled each other was turned to arguments and snide remarks.

As with many things in life, “If only….” was the frequently repeated phrase. If only the client would have taken some time to express, preferably in writing, what she wanted to happen when she passed. So much turmoil and tears could have been avoided, “If only…”. I know that it is difficult for many people to face the inevitable but it can be substantially less expensive, in cash and hurt feelings, to plan ahead.

Take your time, think about it but be sure to state your desires. Otherwise you may end up hearing 70’s disco instead of classical devotional at your memorial or vise-versa; having thousands of dollars spent on burial plots, caskets and liners when you would have preferred cremation and a simple urn. Do you have specific religious ceremonies or traditions you would like followed? Did you belong to organizations that provide some sort of commemorations? Again, take your time and think about it. How about flowers or donations instead of flowers? The more detail you provide now the less there is to “discuss” later.

OK that wasn’t too difficult, now for the fun part. What do you want said about you? Some might say that writing your own obituary is the very height of control or the ultimate example of narcissism. A memorial that I attended recently but both of these notions aside.

The deceased actually had his obituary videoed. By doing this he was able to give assurances to loved ones of the value they added to his life. The loved ones included the obvious, parents, wife and children. But also the less obvious, a friend who displayed phenomenal strength and faith as he dealt with the death of a child, an associate at work that remained upbeat and positive through the most horrendous of calamities.

He made sure that the details of his life were accurate. Over the years family stories can put a modified twist to the facts and timelines.

He went into detail of the things that were actually important in his life. Sure he was a well-known and respected professional and had garnered various awards for his achievements. He had been an active participant in civic activities and his church. BUT what really touched his heart was that he was able to make college educations available to his three children, he made sure to spend at least one weekend a year in one on one time with each child, he turned a dilapidated shed in the backyard to a functional art studio for his wife to pursue her dreams and he took home a third place award for a regional fiction writing contest.

Setting out all of your wishes, with the exception of paying for the actual funeral/cremation expenses, is virtually free. Writing, recording, videoing your obituary can give you the chance to say the things you didn’t or couldn’t say during your lifetime. You can leave your final words in a confidential envelope with specific instructions with your Professional Fiduciary. Of course just like your trust you can make changes throughout your lifetime. You don’t want to forget that Noble prize you won later in life.