Aging Successfully: Preparing beforehand, a family affair

Have you had the experience, and headache of trying to deal with the belongings of a loved one who has passed away? Do you want your loved ones to have that same headache after you pass on?

My grandfather started giving belongings to his ten grandchildren before passing on. He did not ask what we would or would not like, but divided as he believed to be the wisest. While I am not sure, I doubt he had a will.

My mother passed away at the young age of 64, without a will. She was a hoarder and it took my siblings and myself several months to go through all of her belongings. Our father tried to help, but was too grief-stricken to be of great assistance. The most challenging part was to go through her papers. She had boxes of papers all thrown together — to sort through someday.

My father died, also without a will. Like my grandfather, he gave away his keepsakes before passing, yet he asked if it was something we would like. We are relived his finances were in order before his passing, and I am grateful to my brother who was able to make it happen.

There is a simple way to organize your belongings, and to do estate planning before you pass on, assuming you want to make life easier for your loved ones. Make your pre-death planning process a family affair.

Unlike my grandfather, and father there is no need to give away your belongings before you are ready to do so. However talk with family, and friends, asking which belonging each would like, then make a list of who receives what. This list should be an addendum to your final will.

If needed, enlist the help of a family member or friend to assist you in sorting through you papers, photos and other belongings. Do not become a minimalist, unless you choose to, however weed out extra items you are not using, such as clothes and extra sets of dishes.

Too many senior citizens are hesitant to make a will because of the false belief a will means their end time is nearing. I strongly urge you to make a will of your own, regardless if you are 25 and single or 70, with twenty grandchildren.

Please discuss with the family your wishes for your final services and burial. Do not tell your loved ones you do not want a service. Funerals, Wakes and Memorial Services are not for you, the deceased. These services are for the living, who are left behind. One purpose of these services is to give your loved ones a time and place for grieving, and for closure.

Pre-planning our father’s Memorial Service was most challenging as he did not want to discuss it, or even think about it. When I asked simple non-committal questions, like what his favorite hymns were, he said he liked them all.

I have a dear friend who is childless, and her one sibling is also childless which means there is no family to carry on. This friend has her will, and Memorial Service planned out to the last detail. She even wrote that she does not want Easter lilies. My friend placed all of this information on a USB drive which is kept in her attorney’s office.

If you wish more information about this concept, research Swedish Death Cleaning. Apparently this family pre-death planning is normal in Sweden, and there have been several books written on the subject. Email us and share you own experiences. I personally reply to each email … information@

Crystal Linn is a multi-published author and an award-winning poet. When not writing, or teaching workshops, Crystal enjoys reading a good mystery, hiking, and sailing with friends and family. See