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How to Properly Organize All Your Death Paperwork in Advance

By Richard R. Bruneau

Without properly organized documents prepared in advance, mistakes will be made. These mistakes not only cause chaos and confusion, but they can be mistakes that cost thousands of dollars. None of this needs to happen. For almost three decades I have been helping families put together the needed documents relatively quickly and without the need of expensive legal costs.

Since I set up prepaid funeral, burial and cremation plans, I have created one document format over the years that has proven valuable. I have named it the "Final Wishes Summary." This is the one document that summarizes all the most important information for survivors to know and understand with respect to final disposition of the body.

Final Wishes Summary Blank Worksheet

Funeral Plan Cost Itemization Worksheet

Write Your Own Obituary - Guidelines and Questions

Preparing For Your Own Death - Checklist

Obituary Worksheet - Short

Funeral Cost Checklist

Print out my worksheet "COST CHECKLIST" if you have nothing started: This will help you determine with more accuracy how much money your family would still need to come up with, and also how you can ensure enough funds are set aside for everything. You can mark what you've already taken care of, maybe with the original cost or total cost after funding. You can prepare a separate Cost Checklist for every funeral home you investigate or survey, or you can keep it to one sheet if you're fairly sure who it is you want to do business with.

There are some other important reasons for having a final wishes summary on one sheet of paper. The most important is to prevent your family from making mistakes, especially costly mistakes. What types of mistakes can happen? They can overspend. This can occur quickly and easily if they choose the wrong funeral home.

The second worksheet, Plan Worksheet, which is the worksheet I use with my clients on every appointment, can be used to put together scenarios for funding what is next-based on your budget, resources, and timetable. Where you have something already covered, you can write "covered" or "not included." If, for example, after using the Cost Checklist, you are thinking about a funeral service, casket, and burial vault as your first or next step, just fill in the amounts from either the funeral home's General Price List (preferably from their "package offerings") or from figures you get on the phone. For example, $2,995 for a church or graveside service (casket extra), $1,595 for a casket, and $1,800 for a burial vault (concrete box) setting fee included. This comes to a total of $6,390. From that point, you can consider your current funding options.

Once you understand basically how to use these two forms, you are ready to conduct a survey of funeral homes.

Other Forms Social Security Death Claim Form

How to Prepare Your Own Will
in Utah For Less Than $50

You can prepare your own will for under $50.00 in the State of Utah--without a lawyer. In some cases, you may want to consult a lawyer if your situation is complicated. Otherwise, you need not pay much money to do your will all by yourself.

Go to the following Web sites to find a will form to match your situation:

Rocket Lawyer

Total Legal

Utah's Requirements for a Will

Holographic Wills

Holographic wills are written totally in your own handwriting and cannot be witnessed. They must be signed and dated and cannot contain any other marks except your writing. It is usually not the formal will you leave, but it is more often used to decide the details of who gets smaller items of value or other personal property you may own. But it could be accepted as your only will if you have done nothing else. Otherwise, with no written will of any kind, you have died "intestate," i.e., without a valid will. But a holographic will is better than nothing. It can be replaced later by another typewritten will with witnesses, or it can be added upon with another will-so long as the separate wills do not contradict each other in any way.

Here's an example of how a holographic will could be written:

Harry Smith Will

1. To my son James I give my remaining two cemetery plots at Wasatch View Memorial Park, which also includes two uninstalled paid for burial vaults.

2. To my daughter Janet I give my collection of mechanical and carpentry tools.

3. To my good friend Alvin, I give my Monopoly game.

4. To my brother Edward I give my 1969 Ford Mustang convertible, which Dad gave me as a birthday present in 1980.

_________________________ Harry L. Smith

Dated: January 11, 2012

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