Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we may receive a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.
We are in very unusual, seemly unreal and most certainly – very uncertain times. The global pandemic has shocked and stunned the world with soaring infection and death rates across the globe. Everyone has been rapidly adjusting to the newfound lockdown status of our daily lives. As we manoeuvre towards the new norm of restricted movement, closure of schools and services and working from home – everyone is trying their best to adapt and stay safe.
This pandemic has affected everyone. Anyone you speak to can immediately recite countless family members and friends that they have serious concerns about. This may be vulnerable people, elderly parents or front line workers. You may be concerned about excluded groups in society such as homeless, domestic abuse cases and people with mental health needs that are struggling. Cases are continuing to increase daily and the threat gets ever closer.
My idea for this website and blog had started brewing in March 2019. At that time, I could not find generic information as to how to resolve the practical areas of a life after death. In dealing with the reality that followed a family member’s funeral, it dawned on me that most people do not have a central record of all of their information in one easy to locate place. Paperwork is often scattered around, lost or hidden away.
After the funeral had passed, the task list was quite long. The mortgage company and local authority needed to be notified. Utility companies continued to send demands and reminders about unpaid bills – they were not aware he had been in hospital for long periods of time. The banks were awaiting contact as to updates on financial products that had been provided.
Bills, bills, bills
The mundane daily life tasks continued although they had passed away. For a surviving partner, the process of contacting all of these companies to try and resolve issues is a very upsetting task. Imagine having to explain over and over again to complete strangers that you have lost a loved one – but you now need your name on the water bill. It doesn’t seem so urgent but to be able to pass security questions and maintain a service to the home – it is a life necessity.
Some companies have specialist bereavement teams that you can contact; however the Operator expressing their sincere condolences about your loss can feel quite impersonal and part of ‘the script’. This is a really distressing task and the constant reminder that a loved one has gone.
If a partner is continuing to reside in the house, some of the tasks are not so urgent and re-naming accounts can just wait a little longer as long as the company is continuing to get paid.
If however the person lived alone, the simple fact is that the house would need to be sold or returned back to the landlord. This is a huge undertaking and one that could potentially last a year. The house needs to be put up for sale, items removed or sold, clothing and personal items to be dealt with – all before you start to process the practical side of home life.
Unfortunate timing or opportune moment?
The website idea continued to play on my mind. I searched at length to see if there was such an online service that focused on resolving the practicalities of life after death. There was some information on Government websites and some money advice services relating to registering a death, probate and wills. However I still could not find anything that focused on the practical life admin side of processing life after death.
This research went on for months through internet and social media searches. Online searches for ‘what to do when someone dies’ often returned websites on nursing and end of life care plans. I couldn’t help but start to map out my new found interest in the practical questions and planning ideas, which would hopefully help others when they are faced with dealing with death matters.
After months of researching and bouncing the idea off people, I decided to do something about this idea in late 2019. It was a slow process to draft the content, design the lay out and draft blog articles that I thought may help others in a similar situation. After lots of learning and development, the website was finally ready for launch in early March 2020…..just as the world was facing the rapid spread of Coronavirus.
At the same time, social media was awash with websites and organisations providing End of Life Care Planning and talk about dying and death. I could not help but wonder where all of these organisations had been in the past 12 months when I had been searching for them. As death is not something that is often openly talked, maybe this is why these fantastic websites and resources do not get the wider awareness they deserve.
Covid-19 was bringing the topic of death and dying to the forefront of conversations and media coverage. News providers broadcast concerning articles on care home residents who were being asked to complete DNACPR (do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation) decisions (or sometimes they were being done without the persons knowledge) to the public’s complete horror. This brought the topic to the immediate attention of the public. The care homes that had made some seemly poor judgement calls – were quickly held to account. But it did at least highlight the topic and give it the attention it needs.
The Sunset Plan does not claim to offer medical, legal, financial or professional advice around death and dying. It simply aims to break down the various aspects of day to day life as we know it – and what needs to be done after someone dies. It is all very personal to your own circumstances and this website does not claim to have all of the answers. It merely acts as a prompt to get you thinking about your own circumstances and encourages you to plan ahead. The Sunset Plan also provides a handy free template to download and complete, to record useful information that can help others when it is needed. Keep it safe, update regularly then forget all about it.
I did have mixed feelings about the reaction to this website. I did not want people to think that this had been created as a response to the virus outbreak and may be seen as opportunistic. But then I realised that the topic of preparing for death was getting more coverage than ever. If the site could help just one person to avoid some of the heartache we faced as a family in resolving someone else’s affairs – then it would have achieved its goal. I feel that actually this is an opportunity to build the website and share ideas to help others start the conversation.
In case of emergency…
This type of life admin planning is not only helpful for end of life preparations. The recent outbreak has highlighted how this type of ‘In case of Emergency’ file could be a great help for people when life events disrupt us.
Think about an emergency hospital admission. If you were to have an accident tomorrow that left you unable to incapable of dealing with your affairs, who would be able to step in and keep things going whilst you were in hospital? Who knows where all of your key information is kept? Bills will still need to be paid. Your employer would need to be notified that you are not going to be in. Who would know the routines you have with looking after the kids/dependent family/pets etc.
Creating a handy life file can be useful as you never know what will happen. You can have peace of mind knowing that helpful information will be available to others when it is needed.
Stuck at sea
A perfect example comes from the early days of the Coronavirus outbreak. Take the people stranded on the Princess Cruise Liner in Japan. They set off on a trip of a lifetime in late January 2020. Due to escalating concerns around the outbreak, they were unable to dock in Tokyo as planned. They were stranded at sea for weeks, confined mostly to their cabins. Their ordeal was not over even when the ship docked near the end of February. After they left the boat, many were required to spend a further two weeks in quarantine when they reached their home countries – often far away from their home.
This got me thinking. Who knew how to get into their house and pick up on important tasks that needed to be done on their behalf? Their initial two week vacation led to at least 5 or 6 weeks week away from home. Now I fully appreciate that I am a worst case scenario thinker – hence my need to plan! But I did often wondered how they got on paying their bills to ensure they did not get their power cut off during their absence. The practical knock on effects from this could be house alarms not working, freezers defrosting, vital house functions not working – they would have a nightmare to return home too!!
Not quite the dream vacation they had planned I am sure. By having these details listed somewhere in your home, could really help others carry on with the routine tasks needed for your home in any emergency. This would have helped even a little bit during their cruise ship cabin quarantine – without the additional stress of what is happening at home.
The decision whether to carry on with this blog in the midst of the pandemic was hanging in the balance. However now more than ever I feel that it can be so helpful to have practical plans and useful information in one central place – then forget all about it.
You never know when this information may be needed. But I can almost guarantee you that this advanced planning will be a relief for those that need it in the future.
We cannot help you with making medical or care and treatment plans. Wills, trusts or estate plans are not directly part of this either. However we do have some affiliate links and banner adverts to companies that do provide these type of services.
There is an abundance of resources, services and organisations out there now that will be able to guide you through the various processes and the legal documents you and your family need.
This website aims to supplement that legal, financial and medical planning – by focusing on the practical information that can help others when it is required.
Plan for your final sunset now by creating an account using our digital vault service. Have peace of mind that others will be helped by your advanced planning… when they need it the most.