Planning for life after (your) death

Death by itself is a tragic event. It leaves a void that can never be filled by anything else. Time is a healer but the amount of time it takes to heal really varies for different people. However, a lot of things can make the healing process faster, provided we approach death in same vein as we do life — by planning it well. It is especially important when you are planning for life after your own death — life of your loved ones.

Full disclosure — This post is not meant to hurt anyone’s feelings nor intended to trivialise the tragic and often life-altering effects of losing a life. It is certainly not meant to disrespect the departed or their loved ones. This post is my personal opinion and account of steps that I have taken personally or recommend towards ensuring that in an unforeseen misfortune, our dependents, family members and kin do not lose their future.

I ‘ve had the fortune of meeting many people who have, through their way of life, taught me important lessons in how to plan my life, motivate myself towards achieving my dreams, dream big in the first place and amass knowledge, wealth and prosperity. But there are (or rather were) a handful of people who taught me more valuable lessons in how to plan for continuity of these important life attributes and execute simple yet powerful steps so that you can live well and after you, so can your loved ones. I am conscious of the fact that this is a delicate subject, one that is rarely discussed openly nor fully appreciated. It is in fact a very hard one to even broach with your folks as it ignites a frenzy of different emotions — mostly negative and sparks anxiety almost instantaneously. Yet, it is an important subject that deserves a place in every family. Therefore I intend to lay out some simple steps that, in my opinion, can help in open discussions and effective management of the tough consequences that a tragic moment like this brings with it.

Acknowledgement: As ironic as it may sound, death is a fact of life. Acknowledgement of this is the very first step towards appreciating the life we lead and the people we share it with. It also is the first step towards opening up a conversation with your loved ones about how you wish to lead your life, what choices you wish to make and identify the consequences these choices bring with it.

In fact, it has profound effect on your relationships with people when you are able to acknowledge that life is unpredictable and therefore you need to be mindful in every moment of your life. Such conversations manifest into open relations, more appreciation for each other and ability to think objectively about life. My recommendations, based on what I have experienced and seen is :

  1. Do not act irresponsibly or hurt those whom you love and share your life with.
  2. Be mindful of the fact that these will be the people you will leave behind — but whether you leave them with happy or sad memories is up to you.
  3. Have a honest conversation about it — ask questions like “what would you miss the most if I were to be gone tomorrow” or “what have you cherished the most in these times we have been together”. The answers to these questions will give you hints of what you ought to do more in order to make them happier while you are still here. These are the moments which will help them add days to their own life, long after you are gone.

Plan to live for a 100 years: Just to be clear — acknowledging death and doing things that make your loved ones happy does not give you a license to become careless with yourself. I have seen a lot of people take their own health for granted, living carelessly while disguising it as an effort to give all the happiness and luxuries of life to their families. The idea should be to live and enjoy the happy moments together with your loved ones. Indulging in poor and unhealthy habits is the primary contributor to shortening one’s life — yet it is one of the most common theme one can see these days.

Additionally, there is a misinterpretation of the famous saying “carpe diem” (“seize the day” in Latin) where people start living their life as if there is no tomorrow. There is nothing that annoys me more than to hear youngish folks living literally by “work hard, party harder” theme. There are proven benefits in making healthy choices and ensuring there is a balance or moderation maintained in all aspects of life. By any measure of it, this lifestyle is not sustainable in the long run.

It is also important to not be ignorant and think “this can’t happen to me” or “I am good, solid! I am not going to face such (health) issues” or “Its nothing serious. It (illness or abnormal health issue) will go away in a few days”. Such kind of ignorance only aggravates the situation when things take a bad turn and you suddenly find yourself holding the short end of the stick. Starting to wonder how you wound up in such a bad state is counter-intuitive and leads to more stress. It sucks to look yourself in the mirror, it does!

In its simplest form, it helps to have a honest mindset — a mindset that continually reminds you that “I want to live a 100 years” or “I want to have the energy to play with my great-grandkids” or “I want to be able to walk and not be bed-ridden at the age of 50”. This is the kind of mindset that will automatically make you take your health more seriously and help you make the healthy choices. Do not get me wrong — I do enjoy a drink or two once in a while, I do enjoy late night parties with my buddies, I do enjoy desserts on occasions. But, I also enjoy a 1 hour workout just as much or a bowl of veggie salad which gives me the necessary nutrition or that 12 hours sleep marathon on the weekends which helps me recover from the gruelling week gone by. Bottom line — don’t kill yourself while pretending to live the fun life.

Save and Invest — more the better: Let us not kid ourselves — money is super important. Whoever said that money is not important has either never experienced poverty or has achieved zen. For those of us who fall in neither of these two categories need to make money — more of it every year to sustain the growing inflation and expenses. Even more important is to make enough for the future as your dependents . Older family members and children will be the ones who cannot contribute to the income but do consume a lot of that income. So, if you wish to ensure that they continue to have a secure future, it is critical that you save money as much as possible and some more.

Now, conventional thought is that you save more when you earn more. But that is not the only way that one can maximise the savings. The other way — a slightly non-conventional way — is to reduce spending. Or better put, spending on the right things. I am personally a big proponent of budgeting and ensuring that the spending is controlled strictly. But during my younger days, I have been guilty of spending on things that I did not need nor did I have necessarily the money for. It is a wrong notion that availability to money on credit is financial freedom. If anything, it is a sinkhole and one should avoid using it or at least control using it as much as possible.

The other element to building a secure future is investing. There are a plethora of options available today which offer range of returns against a range of risks and financial consultants to help you out. Hire a trusted one and start investing now — PERIOD. In my early 20’s, I have been guilty of falling in the trap of “enjoying” the money that I was earning. But, very soon the glitz of the things I spent money on was gone and all it left was a big hole in the pocket to be filled with more effort. Start investing money as soon as you start earning — start small but keep increasing it over time. There is no better security than financial security and knowing that there is sum of money sitting in a bank account when and where you need it. Or, in the context of this post, when your loved ones need it.

Insurancemost underestimated financial instrument on the planet: After point 3 above, it is a logical progression to talk about insurance. COVID 19 just showed us the harsh realities we live in and how quickly the s**t can hit the fan. It is quintessential that you buy life insurance policies that will give a much needed financial cushion to your family and dependents in case of any misfortune. If you and your spouse both earn, even better to go for a higher amount of insurance sum. Lastly, ensure to take guidance from a financial consultant so that you take the best possible insurance product out there. I typically have looked for 4 key elements —

  1. Age up to which I am guaranteed an amount in case of death or permanent disability,
  2. Kind of causes of death covered in the policy (some insurance providers do not cover death due to causes such as cancer or AIDS which are typically caused by negligent behaviour on the insured person’s part)
  3. The amount of premium that I am required to pay per year and
  4. The number of years that I am required to pay the premium for.

Another carnal mistake I have seen people make is that they do not insure the debts that take from banking institutions. My recommendation — debts which contribute anything more than 3 months of your existing salary or income (such as home loans or mortgages, car loans, personal loans etc) should be covered with insurance. The insurance must cover any ‘loss of life’ risk and avoid exposure to your family in paying off that debt in case of your untimely demise.

Documentation: Imagine a situation that you pass away in a deadly car accident. You had covered this scenario by saving a lot of money, investing in right places, had a high amount insurance policy and also covered your debts with insurance. But, none of the pertinent documents related to these are accessible to your family or loved ones. Worst, you have kept these documents in a safe deposit box and never told anyone about it. This is a very true scenario and I have experienced some versions of this. Trust me — it can be a very depressing feeling for the dependents who are left clueless to the various questions and queries that need to be answered in your absence. No need to despair as most times there are ways of getting the desired information from the relevant authorities and gain access to the funds, paperwork etc. But that entails numerous procedures and protocols that the dependents have to endure, all in the midst of coming to terms with the loss. All of this agony can be avoided by following some very simple steps:

  1. Maintain thorough and detailed documentation of your personal records. For example, all relevant certificates starting from the birth certificate to academic certificates, professional awards and degrees, identity proofs such as Social Security Card, Passport, etc should be maintained on file. In case of death, most institutions will demand some or all of these to be presented to proceed further.
  2. Maintain thorough and detailed record of all your financial records. Having a simple file containing details of your investments, insurance payments, bank statements, credit cards, etc will be sufficient.
  3. Maintain a good record of your medical documentation. Past history of medical treatments, hospital coverage or insurance cards, doctors that you consult regularly etc will prove to be handy.
  4. Maintain a soft copy of these records on a Hard Drive or on secure Cloud based applications. You do not want all the physical documentation to be lost along with you — say in a fire or natural calamity — without appropriate back up of it.
  5. Lastly, all these measures are useless if you do not share this information with your most trusted people. Here — a word of caution: I am not advocating that the people you share this with has to be your spouse (although that would be ideal) or your partner. But it has to be someone who you can trust with your life and therefore trust them in your death as well. A simple thumb rule — these person(s) with whom you share this sensitive and most coveted information should be the ones on whose shoulders your coffin rests as well as the responsibility of helping your family recover from the situation.

Tip — If you have been blessed with prosperity and wealth that you know can lead to disputes after you are no more, hire a lawyer and get a ‘will’ document done.

It is understandable that a lot of people believe in destiny and more power to them. At the same time, destiny can also be devastating which is why planning ahead of it is so important. I hope that this post is meaningful and helps in putting things into perspective. As an old adage goes, life and death are two sides of same coin. Remember — there are only so many times that you can get lucky before the luck runs out. Till then, take heed and some steps so that the game of life seems worthwhile.

Stay healthy, stay safe!

About the author:

Ameya Gore is a seasoned industry veteran with diverse experience in leading business verticals from inception to scale. Ameya also loves to write with ab intent to help and spread quality information. For more information, visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/ameyagore/.

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Ameya Gore

Ameya Gore

Occasional blogger. Aviation professional. Foraying into the world of Digital Products.