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Why Plan Ahead?

For many people, making funeral arrangements during the time of loss can be very stressful. Often, small details get overlooked and emotions can run very high. Here are some helpful ideas that can assist in making these situations easier. 

Consider these suggestions when preplanning ahead for yourself. This information can also be used as a checklist for when you know you'll be planning arrangements soon for your loved one.

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Pictures are very important in capturing the remembrance of loved ones. Whether preplanning your own services, or if you are making arrangements for your loved one, pictures are key in capturing the legacy.

  • If planning for yourself - Choose a picture that shows you in your best remembrance. These pictures will be used in the newspaper, in online sources, and for the obituary. 

  • When selecting for a loved one - It can be tempting to select a picture of how "we remembered" our loved one. Selfies, and pictures where others need to be cropped out are generally not a good idea. Remember that once in print, these images are going to be the last remembrance of the individual. Often, long time acquaintances who may not have seen your loved one in years will get a sense of who the individual was today, based on that single photo. Choose images which show head-on the image of your loved one. It is often visually comforting to select images of your loved one smiling.

Your Story

You know your story better than anyone; it can be a tough burden on your family during an emotional time to try to get all the facts right. People won't always remember what year you graduated from high school, job titles or other details of your story. You don't have to write the full obituary, but at least leave the family the key points for which you'd like to be remembered. It's a good idea, on a nice sunny day, to sit outside on your back porch, with a glass of iced tea, and fill out our Build Your Obituary booklet on your own, or join us for a workshop.

Service Preferences

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Estate planning is always in order, but in the absence of that, there are many templates on-line that can help provide guidance for your last wishes. The following information can be used for you if you are planning for yourself for the future, or as a checklist if you are making arrangements for a loved one. 

  • Consider religious preferences. Should the services be held in a church or the funeral home.

  • Religious restrictions to embalming or cremations.

  • Consider the space for the crowd. Will there likely be more participants than expected? Be sure to select a place with ample seating as well as parking. If people are traveling in from out of town, be sure to provide directions in advance to eliminate a lot of extra phone calls leading up to the day.

  • If you have selected speakers to be on the program, notify them in advance. Choose people who are comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. If they will be reading a poem, provide them the poem in advance so they are familiar with the information. Choose people who will not be overly emotional during pivotal times. 

  • Often times today, obituaries are read silently. If you are having someone to read the obituary, provide it to them in advance so they have rehearsed. People are often distressed when names are mispronounced during services. It can give the sense the person reading has no close connection with the family and can feel very disingenuine. 

Email List

Creating an email list is one of the most helpful things that family will need during this time. An email list is useful in disseminating information to a lot of people at the same time. Everything from service arrangements to repast locations and times can be provided via email. Having a list of friends, family members and others to be contacted upon your death will save your family time and certain anguish. If you are planning for a loved one, this is still a helpful tool to use in sending information. Once this information is created, print it off and tuck it into a folder.  The folder of information you create will be a gift to those who love you most, at one of the most difficult times of their lives.

Accounts and Access

Make sure that those whom you've designated to handle your personal affairs after you are gone will have the necessary tools to do so. There are a few simple things that you can do now, to make sure they have access to all the information they will need later on. 

  • Beneficiaries - Make sure this information is up to date on all accounts that hold money. Easy ones to overlook are checking and savings accounts, as most people have opened these accounts many years ago. Many banks require beneficiary information on a basic checking account, if the account is not joint with the surviving spouse. Siblings, parents, relatives and caregivers may find it difficult to conduct business on the loved one's behalf if beneficiary information is not listed on the accounts.

When someone passes away, handling their financial affairs, including credit cards, requires careful consideration of security and legal implications. Here are end-of-life security measures concerning credit cards:

  • Notify Credit Card Companies:

    • As soon as possible, contact the credit card companies associated with the deceased's accounts to inform them of the situation. Most companies have procedures in place for handling accounts of deceased individuals.

  • Provide Required Documentation:

    • ​Credit card companies typically require documentation to process requests related to a deceased account holder. This may include a death certificate, proof of executorship, and other legal documents.

  • Cancel or Freeze Accounts:

    • ​Request the cancellation or freezing of the deceased person's credit card accounts to prevent any unauthorized use. Some companies may offer a temporary freeze until proper documentation is provided.

  • Close Joint Accounts:

    • ​If the deceased had joint credit card accounts, contact the credit card companies to close or remove the deceased's name from these accounts.

  • Monitor Statements:

    • ​Regularly monitor credit card statements for any unusual or unauthorized activity. This is especially important during the period when accounts are being settled and closed.

  • Check for Credit Card Insurance:

    • ​Some credit cards offer insurance coverage that may include benefits in the event of the cardholder's death. Check the terms and conditions of the credit card agreements for any applicable benefits.

  • Secure Personal Documents:

    • ​Safeguard personal documents such as credit cards, statements, and any related paperwork. Keep these documents in a secure place to prevent identity theft or misuse.

  • Work with the Executor:

    • ​If you are the executor of the deceased person's estate, work closely with legal professionals to ensure compliance with all legal requirements. This may include settling debts and closing financial accounts.

  • Check for Auto-Payments:

    • ​Review the deceased's financial records for any automatic payments linked to their credit cards. Update or cancel these payments to avoid ongoing charges.

  • Be Cautious with Social Security Numbers:

    • ​Avoid sharing the deceased person's Social Security number more than necessary. Provide it only to authorized parties such as credit card companies, legal representatives, or government agencies.

  • Educate Family Members:

    • ​Educate family members on the importance of not using the deceased person's credit cards after their passing. Unauthorized use can lead to legal complications and potential financial liability.


Always consult with legal professionals for advice tailored to the specific circumstances of the deceased person's estate. Following proper procedures and documentation is essential to ensure a smooth and legally compliant resolution of credit card accounts and other financial matters.

When dealing with the end-of-life services and the potential need for relatives to access accounts of a deceased person, the process involves considerations beyond typical password security practices. Here are some recommendations:

  • Digital Estate Planning:

    • ​Encourage individuals to include digital assets and account information in their estate planning documents. This can include a list of accounts, usernames, and instructions on how to access them.

  • Use a Digital Executor:

    • ​Designate a digital executor in the estate planning documents. This person is responsible for managing and closing online accounts after the individual's passing.

  • Provide Access Instructions:

    • ​Clearly outline the process for accessing digital accounts, including any necessary login credentials, in a secure document. This document can be stored with other important end-of-life documents.

  • Consider Legacy Contacts:

    • ​Some platforms, such as Facebook, allow users to designate a "legacy contact" who can manage their account after they pass away. Explore such options on different platforms.

  • Password Management for Executors:

    • ​If a password manager is used, the digital executor should be aware of how to access it. This may involve sharing the master password or using a feature like emergency access.

  • Legal Assistance:

    • ​In some cases, legal assistance may be required to access certain accounts. Consult with legal professionals to understand the legal requirements for accessing digital assets.

  • Review Terms of Service:

    • ​Be aware of the terms of service for each platform, as some may have specific policies regarding access to accounts after the account holder's death.

  • Documentation and Organization:

    • ​Keep all relevant documents, including wills, trusts, and digital access instructions, well-organized and easily accessible by those responsible for handling the deceased person's affairs.


It's crucial to approach this process with sensitivity and respect for the privacy of the deceased. Encourage individuals to communicate their digital wishes to their loved ones and legal representatives, ensuring a smoother process during a difficult time.

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