Kathryn Perks explains what prompted her to write a guide to putting our affairs in order before we die.
During our lifetime we seldom consider preparing for our death or what will happen to our possessions when that time comes, or more importantly who might be given the unenviable task of trying to make sense of all that we leave behind. Often our siblings or children live in different cities or countries and we put off discussing with them what we know we should. It just never seems to be the right time and for some of us it can be a sensitive topic to raise, even with those closest to us. It is however usually our family members who are faced with this responsibility and are expected to step in.
When my mother died our family were relieved that she had at least collated her important documents, but she had left us no guidelines regarding her funeral service. Luckily we were all in agreement when it came to selecting hymns and readings, but what if we hadn’t been? We made funeral arrangements and hoped our choices were what she would have wanted, but how could we be sure? She had told us her preference regarding burial or cremation so we didn’t have to make that decision and she had prepared a Will, but we anguished over why we had not discussed with her all that was suddenly unknown and how that would have helped us decide what to do.
At that time, I was living overseas and had taken leave from my job. There was a house full of her possessions to sort through so that it could be put up for sale. As none of the family lived close by, this all had to be done as a matter of urgency. I started going through her papers, hoping everything was in order but it soon became clear that this was going to be a challenging and lengthy task. In fact, it was overwhelming. Was what she had kept still relevant and current? I discovered that some companies had changed their names and some no longer existed. What could I throw out with any certainty, and where on earth should I start? All this was at a time when I was in a state of grief. Administrative concerns were the last thing on my mind. I just wanted someone to step in and take the burden away.
It was then I started thinking about how I might make it easier for whoever has to sort through my own accumulation of ‘stuff’ when I die. What would be helpful? I thought that by creating a readily accessible point of reference which contains my personal details, this would surely help reduce some of the stress for whoever gets this job. I passed the idea around friends and family who were all encouraging, and those I spoke to who had lost parents said how they wished there had been something similar available to them so they may have been more sure their choices were what their loved ones would have wanted.
When I Die was created as an aid, initially for myself, to help record my important information in one place. I hope that you will also find it useful and that it may prompt you to consider, share and discuss your wishes with your family or friends, so that the administration of your estate will be an easier process for them.
Kathryn Perks is originally from Christchurch. She moved to Australia in 1988, returning to New Zealand in 2013 to live in Hawke’s Bay. She currently works part time as an administrator, and in her spare time enjoys yoga, dance and playing the guitar.
For more information about When I Die, see the website here, or contact Kathryn by email on firstname.lastname@example.org