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What is The Sunset Plan?
Sadly the time will come for all of us when we are no longer here. It is not something that we like to think about – and we certainly do not talk about it enough. It is uncomfortable for most of us, and only really considered when people are of a certain age, when we become seriously unwell or someone has died.
We need to talk about death
We make big plans for all other areas of life. Think about how much discussion and planning goes in to starting a family, buying a house, weddings, milestone birthdays and education. None of these events are guaranteed but the one thing that is certain – death – is still very taboo.
When people do think about dying and death, some people may make a Will or arrange a pre-paid funeral plan. Some will arrange a Power of Attorney or Living Will, to help others when you are no longer able to make your own decisions.
Yet the practical parts of our life are not really considered and often this isn’t recorded.
People are busy. We have lots of different relationships with family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and services.
You will have a unique set of information relating to your homes, family arrangements, pets, vehicles, possessions, money, work and digital life. You are the expert in you and your circumstances.
What to do when someone dies
Consider though if tomorrow you were unable to deal with your affairs – who would know what to do? Who would know the practical information needed to unravel all of these areas of your life? Would this person be able to access your accounts – or even know what accounts you have? How to get in to your house, feed your pets – the list is endless!
Following a very long illness, a relative passed away. He lived alone and had been cared for by his Sisters. A Will had been drafted and his medical treatment plans were in place.
He knew he was very ill and was quite an organised person. Prior to his death, he had made efforts to arrange important paperwork in his house.
The immediate days after his passing were filled with making funeral arrangements and contacting with family and friends. Faced with making quick decisions about the type of
funeral, there was a lot of self-doubt as to whether the right choices were being made. At funerals, you often hear people say ‘we think this is what they would have wanted’ when it comes to the funeral, service, music and eulogy. It is only at a funeral that we consider what we would want but don’t think to communicate that to others.
Life goes on
In the days that followed, I tried to help with the practical tasks needed to try and unravel his life. This is where you realise how full our lives are of services and stuff. 60 years worth of life cannot be resolved in a few days. There were lots of aspects of his financial life, property, cars and possessions to consider.
Some tasks were fairly straight forward to sort out. I made lots of phone calls to various utility companies, banks, insurances and routine services to notify them he had died.
This took a long time and required having to repeat the story of his passing over and over again. This process is very upsetting for bereaved people but sadly unavoidable. Not having certain account details often prolonged the calls.
It was a varied experience – some companies were compassionate and helpful. Others made the distressing situation very frustrating by insisting on having certain information first or not giving permission to discuss the accounts until they received the Death Certificate. When there is so much to sort out, this can feel very overwhelming.
When there were tasks that I didn’t know what to do, I searched the internet. In searching ‘what to do when someone dies’, you find websites about medical end of life care planning, will writing services and pre-paid funeral plans. Other information was difficult to find and I was surprised there was no central resource to provide practical pointers as to what to do.
The Sunset Plan was born
As the months went by, I continued to be amazed at what is required of the executor when someone dies. Some tasks were huge – the house needed to be emptied and sold. What would he have wanted to happen to his belongings? Was there anything specific that needed to be given to certain family or friends? The cars needed to be sold.
Some of the details may seem minor, but were actually very important. The cats were being moved and we could not locate the vet and microchip information. Without this being updated, if the cats went missing – whoever found them would be trying to call a phone number that was no longer available.
Here to help
The Sunset Plan website provides various topics to encourage you to consider your circumstances. Every person is different so this is not meant to be a guide as to what to do. It is a prompt for you to think about the different areas of your life and information that others may need.
The digital vault service provides you with a structure to record all of your information in one place. Talk to your family so they know you have a plan and where it is in the event of an emergency. Update your Sunset Plan regularly then forget about it! This should be a routine task for everyone and not just something we think about when we are unwell.
It will not ease someone’s loss. It may just reduce the pressure when someone is bereaved and provide clarity for the person resolving your affairs.