How to preserve your family’s legacy

How to preserve your family’s legacy

We’d like to share an interesting story that asks the question: are family stories, mementos and keepsakes more important to people than a cash inheritance? Those surveyed in the story say it’s not all about the money.

In the fast-paced world we live in, many modern families express regret over not doing more to record their histories while their ancestors were still alive. Unless someone writes them down (or tapes them), stories that are passed down verbally tend to fade away with the passing of an aging relative.

What can you do to pass down your family’s legacy for future generations? Here are a few steps you can take:

1. Record Your Family Stories Take time to record your family stories. Write them down or make an audio or video recording. Make notes on the backs of photos to preserve memories. Heirs often regret not knowing more about the family photos they inherit.

2. Write An Ethical Will

Sharing your family values can be among the most treasured keepsakes. Consider writing an Ethical Will, which is a document that passes on your life story and personal values. An Ethical Will can take any form like a video or a letter that is included with your Will.

3. Talk About Your Keepsakes

Establish a method for disbursing your keepsakes; it can go a long way toward avoiding conflict. Talk with children individually and as a group. Come to an agreement then put it in writing.

4. Add A Memorandum To Your Will

Create a memorandum in your Will that details how you want to divide property with sentimental value. Attach a photo of each item in your memorandum. A common approach is each relative gets to pick one item. Some of your heirs may not be happy with your decisions, but they’re less likely to be unhappy with each other.

5. Avoid Favoritism

If you have a favorite family member, show your affection for them before you pass away in order to make your division of property more equitable. If you want to leave a legacy that fosters harmony in your family, treat them as equally as possible.

6. Choose Your Estate Executor Wisely

Remember you’re giving power to one person who is often a family member. To make things more equitable, consider hiring a corporate fiduciary as executor; you can name a professional executor in your Will or you can request your executor hire a professional after you pass away. Read the story here.

Reprinted with permission from Passage.org.

What to do with a loved one’s social media accounts after death

In today’s culture, individuals of all ages typically have some sort of social media account. When a loved one passes away, their virtual footprint remains. You may have mixed emotions about what to do regarding these accounts. The good news is there are various options you and other family members can consider when deciding how to best honor your loved one’s digital presence. 

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Memorialization

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Some major social media platforms have memorialization options for after loss. Accounts can be “memorialized” on Facebook, which prevents the account from showing up under “People You May Know” or triggering birthday announcements. However, keep in mind that Facebook will not provide log in information, even under these circumstances. Once the account is memorialized, it will not be able to be altered unless your loved one chose a Facebook user as a “legacy contact.” A legacy contact has the ability to approve new friend requests, change profile/cover photos, monitor any posts or shared content on the profile’s timeline, and write a pinned post on behalf of the user. Although the legacy contact can make specific changes to the account, they do not have complete access to it. The legacy contact cannot edit/delete any content written or shared before the individual’s passing nor can they read any personal messages. Memorializing an account can help bring comfort to grieving friends and family. They may feel as if they can stay “connected” with their loved one by being able to post thoughts, memories, or photos to their wall.

Deletion

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Though memorialization may be a healthy mourning option for some, it may not be the best fit for others. If seeing a lost loved one’s social media stirs up unhealthy emotions, then deletion is another option you can consider. Social media companies have different requirements that must be met in order to have content removed from their site. Therefore, it is crucial to read each social media platform’s policies on what information is necessary for deletion and the rights you and your family have over previously posted content. Remember, deleting an online account is permanent. Take time to contemplate and consult with family members to ensure this option is what is best for your healing heart.

Let it Be

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During your grieving season it may be hard to determine what action you would like to take towards your loved one’s social media accounts. Or perhaps the effort it takes to memorialize or delete an account seems too strenuous. In either case, choosing to leave social media accounts alone is also an acceptable option. Some considerations to keep in mind if you choose to leave the account alone is that all content will remain public, friends will still receive birthday notifications, and they will still show up in online searches or “People You May Know” sections. You may find serenity knowing the account remains untouched since your loved one last logged in.

Plan Ahead

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How would you like your social media assets handled? It is beneficial to start thinking about this question now in order to help your family save time and respect your digital private property. There are also data protection companies that specialize in keeping your login information and digital assets safe. However you chose to store your personal information, it is essential to communicate with relatives on how to best honor your digital wishes. Leaving families in the dark can create a predicament amongst loved ones. Consider setting your own legacy contact on Facebook and writing down usernames and passwords to your social media accounts and placing them in a safe place where your next of kin can find it.

This can decrease the time of a potentially tedious and stressful process for family members during their time of grief. There are many different opinions on how a lost loved one’s social media profiles can be handled, but ultimately the choice is up to you. Examine the pros and cons of each option and take time to assess what decision is best for your family. Finding out how to best respect your loved one’s social media will allow your heart to begin the healing process in your grief journey.

Reprinted with permission of Passare.

 

Remembering a loved one who has died

Remembering a loved one who has died

Ceremonies, traditions, and rituals help us to express our deepest thoughts and feelings about life’s most important events. Ceremonies like graduations, weddings, and baptisms involve traditions and rituals that help us mark special occasions. When a loved one has died, rituals and traditions can also help us mark a special occasion and remember our loved one, even years after the loss. Setting aside special times for remembering a loved one who has died can bring comfort to those who mourn.

How do ceremonies and traditions help us heal after a loss?

1. Rituals Are Symbolic

First, ceremonies, rituals, and traditions are symbolic actions that point to a deeper meaning. When we lose a loved one, we can use symbolic actions such as lighting a candle for the one we love, releasing a balloon, or setting a place at the table on a birthday or anniversary. These symbolic actions allow us to take an active role in our own healing process. After the funeral, it is sometimes hard to know what to do to honor our lost loved one. Establishing traditions and habits or rituals can help us feel more connected to our loved one’s memory.

2. Rituals Help Us Express Emotion

Second, ceremonies and rituals help us express emotion. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, respected author and educator on the topic of healing in grief, is often quoted as saying, “When words are inadequate, have a ritual.” There are times when we need more than just words. Words can help, but emotions are not always experienced at a conscious level. When we are wounded by a loss, the wound is often felt by a much deeper part of our heart. For those parts or our hearts that need more than words, a ritual can bring comfort and healing.

3. Rituals Bring People Together

Lastly, a ritual unites people in a shared experience. We participate in funerals, memorial services, candlelight vigils, and remembrance ceremonies because they help us feel bonded to others who are experiencing the same grief and pain that we are. We draw comfort and support from others who are with us on our journey through grief. When a loss occurs, we can use rituals and traditions to help us remember and heal. Ceremonies help us express our emotions, feel connected to others, and find a way forward on the road to healing.

What Are Some Helpful Rituals for Healing after Loss?

  • Lighting a candle – Whether you light a candle every night or on special days like holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries, a lit candle can symbolize the presence of your lost loved one whose memory continues to live on in your heart.
  • Releasing a balloon or a lantern – Whether you are with a group of mourners or even by yourself, releasing a balloon or lantern can help symbolize the spirit of your loved one ascending to heaven. The act of releasing also helps us to know at a deeper level that as we “release” our lost loved one, we can begin to experience greater peace and healing.
  • Sharing memories – Some families gather together on special days to share memories and honor those who have died. This shared experience helps to bring comfort through mutual support.
  • Visiting the grave – Some mourners visit the place of rest regularly or on special occasions to leave flowers and experience a time of reflection. Leaving fresh flowers at the graveside helps to symbolize that our love for the person who has died lives on.
  • Attending remembrance events – Occasionally, churches, communities, or funeral homes will organize remembrance events or prayer vigils. Such events help us to engage in rituals with the support of others, which can bring a greater sense of peace.
  • Wearing remembrance jewelry – Wearing a daily reminder of the one we’ve lost can help us feel closer to our loved one. Remembrance jewelry may be anything that reminds you of your loved one.

Reprinted with permission of Passare.com. 

How to comfort a grieving child

How to comfort a grieving child

Grieving the loss of a loved one is one of the most challenging human experiences. Grief can bring confusing and conflicting emotions, especially for children. Even very young children feel the loss a loved one. They often learn how to express grief by watching adults around them.

Understanding Children’s Needs

Children need support and security after losing a loved one. They may need reassurance that they will be taken care of and are safe. You can help children to experience and process their grief by demonstrating that it’s okay for them to feel emotions and ask questions about their loss.

Open communication helps a child express distressing feelings. Some children may act out confusing or painful feelings at school or at home. Children may express themselves through stories, games and artwork. Encourage this self-expression and look for clues about how they are coping.

Often, it may make sense to ask for help. Inform a child’s teacher or guidance counselor about their loss. Ask medical professionals, social workers or trusted friends who have children to help you address the sensitive issues of loss and grief. Rely on friends or a support group for your own support.

Recommended Approaches

Consider these suggestions to help a child to experience and process their grief:

Reassure them

Tell them that they are loved and that their safety, security and happiness are your top concern

Reinforce structure

Keep your child’s daily routine as normal as possible

Speak the truth

Use sensitivity and make special considerations when talking to children about end of life. Children may worry that they did something to cause their loved one to pass away. The truth helps them see that they are not at fault. Read the full article on the best ways to comfort a grieving child here.

Reprinted with permission from Passare.com. 

How couples can approach estate planning

How couples can approach estate planning

We’ve covered how couples with children are planning their estates but what about childless couples? This article from The Wall Street Journal has some useful tips.

If you are a couple with no children, the first thing you should do is determine what happens to your home and other assets after you pass away. Next, specify who will make your medical and financial decisions if you’re unable to decide for yourself.

When you have those two tasks handled, put it in writing in a Will or Trust. Without one of those documents, state law will dictate who inherits your assets.

It’s true, if you pass away without a Will or Trust, generally your spouse will inherit your assets if you have no children. But when your spouse passes away, his or her relatives will inherit all your combined assets (or the state will if your spouse has no living relatives).

“This leaves the family of the first spouse to die disinherited and out of luck,” said Sharon L. Klein, managing director of family office services and wealth strategies at Wilmington Trust. “The side that inherits depends on the random order of who dies last.” If you don’t want to risk disinheriting your relatives or if you want to leave something to your friends or to a charity, you need to have a plan.

Here are a few options to get you started:

1. “Sweetheart” Wills

The common approach for many childless couples is to create “Sweetheart Wills,” which leave everything to each other and outlines who gets what if you were both to pass away.

2. Joint Revocable Living Trusts

Another option is to transfer your assets during your lifetime or upon death into a Joint Revocable Living Trust. It spells out how your assets are to be distributed and will help you avoid probate court, which can be expensive and time-consuming. Keep in mind, the surviving spouse can still change his or her Will or the couple’s Joint Revocable Living Trust, “so your estate’s ultimate disposition is really determined by whoever lives longer,” said estate-planning lawyer Lisa Nachmias Davis.

3. Irrevocable Living Trusts

If you want even more control over where your assets end up, you can create Irrevocable Trusts either in your Will or in a separate Trust document. With an Irrevocable Trust, upon the first spouse’s death, their share can be used for the surviving spouse’s benefit – but the document can “lock in” other beneficiaries who will inherit the remaining assets upon the surviving spouse’s death.

4. Healthcare Documents

Put your healthcare wishes in writing in a Living Will or Advance Directive, and empower someone to make your End of Life decisions if you become incapacitated. Don’t forget to complete authorization forms for the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that designate a person to speak to your physician, hospital and insurance company on your behalf.

5. Have a Plan B Successor

This is where things can become complicated if you have no children. “Often times people without children struggle to find someone they trust (to handle their affairs),” said Klein. Spouses often appoint each other but it’s a good idea to have a Plan B, usually a younger person who can serve simultaneously with your spouse or in succession. “We have seen terrible results from people only naming their spouses,” Davis said. If you can’t find a relative or friend, there are professional fiduciaries that will handle your affairs and some geriatric care managers will agree to serve as your healthcare agent. “Sometimes people are honored to be asked,” said Davis who recommends you pay whomever you appoint for their time so they “don’t start feeling resentful and helping themselves to your money or possessions.” And if you feel really grateful, “leave them something additional when you die,” said Davis. Just be careful about revealing your intentions to a family or friend. “I’ve had cases where I was a little concerned the beneficiary might choose to accelerate the demise of the benefactor,” said Davis. Read the story here.

Reprinted with permission from Passare.com.

List of Legal Documents You Need To Store

List-Of-Legal-Documents-You-Need-To-Store-Passare-2A common question people have after writing a Will, creating an Estate Plan, or establishing an Advanced Healthcare Directive (ADH), is, “Where should I store these critical documents?”

You must keep official documents like these, which are full of invaluable personal information, in a safe, secure storage space. Since these documents are the key to your daily life, and your loved ones’ inheritance, it is important to understand how to establish proper access privileges to keep your most important documents protected Digital assets include online account information, social media accounts, bank information, photographs and videos and more.

Important legal documents you should store include:

  • Will, including instructions for the executor, if indicated by your Will
  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • Fiduciary Power of Attorney
  • Advanced Healthcare Directive or Living Will (A H D)
  • Health Care Proxy Directive to Physician, such as the Physician’s Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) document
  • Do Not Resuscitate (D N R), if applicable
  • Donor Registry, if applicable
  • Estate Plan
  • Life Insurance Trust
  • Cemetery Deed or Burial Plot Information
  • Supplemental Letter of Instructions

Important financial documents you should safely store include:

  • Bank Accounts, including name and location of bank(s) and account numbers
  • Retirement Accounts, including instrument name and address, and account numbers
  • Benefit Accounts, including Long Term Care (LTC), Insurance Agent(s) contact names and numbers
  • Safe Deposit Box information, including box number and location, and location of key
  • Vehicles, including title and loan information
  • Real Estate, including property description and mortgage information
  • Loans, including student, personal, and business
  • Contracts, both business and personal
  • Other Assets, including a list and the location of artwork, jewelry, silver, gold, plus any other

Other important End-of-Life life documents to keep safe include:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Driver’s License Social Security card
  • Passport
  • Military ID
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Divorce Papers
  • Adoption Papers, if applicable
  • Personal Contact List of friends, family, or business associates
  • Access instructions for your home and vehicles, if applicable
  • Care instructions for pets, including feeding and veterinarian information
  • Other personal Information, including journals or other written information

Reprinted with permission from Passare.com. 

Grief Support App Helps You Connect

Grief-Support-App-Helps-You-Connect-PassareThe new “Grief Support Network” app was launched by the online grief support non-profit My Grief Angels just in time for what can be one of the most difficult times of the year, the holidays. For many of the 10 million people in the United States and 250 million worldwide that will grieve alone this year, the memory of past celebrations with their loved ones can often trigger painful grief attacks. This new free app can help.

For anyone who doesn’t want to grieve alone, the “Grief Network Support” app lets you connect locally with other people who are grieving anytime, anywhere. Individuals, families, friends, co-workers or any group can create their own local community support networks and the app’s proximity-based live chat feature also lets users see who from their network is nearby and available to chat 24/7.

“After the service, everyone leaves, and we are left alone in our painful grief. I lost my brother unexpectedly the Friday after Thanksgiving, so this time of the year is a rough time for me,” writes Gelcy Capote of Miami, Florida on the Grief Support Network. “Through this app, just knowing people are there and seeing their lights in the app’s “Angels Near” map is comforting in itself, even without a word exchanged.”

The app’s “Angels Wall” lets users post messages seeking the support of others who have faced a similar loss. One of the first postings on the “Grief Support Network” was from a grieving daughter in Boston who reached out to others who had parents who were victims of early onset Alzheimer’s. In a national survey conducted by My Grief Angels, “Over 80% of the respondents did not feel prepared to deal with the death of their loved one” and the vast majority of responders also believe that more needs to be done to educate people on grief and the impact it can have on our health and our families.

That is why the new app includes a Grief Health feature that can help educate users by providing links to articles and information sources. The free app also provides users with access to selections of calming videos, photos and sounds. The “Grief Support Network” app is now available through Amazon Apps, Google Play Apps and soon in iTunes Apps. Read the story here.

Read more here.

Reprinted with permission from Passare.com.