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Founder of https://www.funeralresources.com and http://www.memorialtechnology.com, the funeral industry's leading online resource centers. These family-focused websites offer free access to the top funeral resources to help families find answers to the most common questions. Some of which include how to plan a funeral, memorial technology, funeral home services, end of life, grief and loss, funeral directory, funeral guides, funeral blog, funeral insurance, and more.

Death, Organ Donor, and Organ Donation

Death and Organ Donation

Contributed by Elizabeth Hurlow-Hannah, 301.785.7619, elizabeth@yourexitstrategy.org

Birth and death are opposites, so why don’t we give them equal air-time? Just as talking about sex doesn’t make you pregnant, you won’t drop dead because you’ve talked about death and dying!

Diagnosed with Stage IIIA breast cancer in 2004, I’m assured that my soul will return to heaven whenever I die, but who can use my body?

My cousin, Mike, suffered a cerebral aneurysm while shopping, and the paramedics kept him alive to harvest his organs.

When Tom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at 64, he said, “Let me sign the papers to donate my brain to the Neurology unit to help someone else.”

Organ Donation:

These websites will bring you up to speed:

http://www.organdonor.gov at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service

123,361 people are waiting for an organ 18 people will die each day waiting for an organ 1 organ donor can save up to 8 lives

Watch this five-minute video http://donatelife.net/understanding-donation/ to learn how the National Wait Transplantation works. Click on your state here: http://organdonor.gov/becomingdonor/stateregistries.html

Organ Donation/Transplantation:

United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) http://unos.org/is the private, non-profit organization that manages the nation’s organ transplant system under contract with the federal government.

Whole Body Donation for medical research and education:

Both organizations cover all costs: transportation; death certificates; cremation and return of cremains to your family.

Science Care www.sciencecare.com, 800.417.3747, info@sciencecare.com

MedCure, www.medcure.org, 866.560.2525, info@medcure.org

Query medical schools in your state: Is pre-registration necessary?

International Whole Body Donation:

If you die overseas, check with medical schools in that country about donation.

Read this article, The process of donating a whole body for medical research written by Sara Madsen, Editor in Chief for US Funerals Online. http://www.us-funerals.com/body-donation.html#.VMQNPS7uZ8o [Permission granted.

Check out the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB) a professional, non-profit, scientific and educational organization. http://www.aatb.org

Be assured that all of these procedures are legal and ethical. No one removes body parts to sell on the black market. Ask yourself, “WHAT IF _________ developed an illness and was put on the transplant list? How would I react? What could I do to help?”

I signed up with MedCure in 2009, because it’s an even barter: they pay all costs associated with retrieving my body and using it for medical research; I avoid paying $7K-$10K in funeral costs —which adds a bump to my grandchildren’s educational fund. Isn’t this the best win-win situation?

Life’s never easy, sometimes not fair. We need to roll with the cards we’re dealt, even when it looks like a lousy hand.

How about you? What are you going to do? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Click Here To View Our Most Popular Free Funeral Guides

Chronic Illness, Death, and Medicare

Medicare and Chronic Illness Death

End-of-Life Care Facts

According to the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, below are some important end-of-life-care facts:

  • More than 90 million Americans live with at least one chronic illness.
  • Seven out of ten Americans die from chronic disease.
  • Among the Medicare population, the toll is even greater.
  • Patients with chronic illness in their last two years of life account for about 32% of total Medicare spending, much of it going toward physician and hospital fees associated with repeated hospitalizations.
  • About nine out of ten deaths are associated with just nine chronic illnesses, including:

 

1.  Congestive heart failure

2.  Chronic lung disease

3.  Cancer

4.  Coronary artery disease

5.  Renal failure

6.  Peripheral vascular disease

7.  Diabetes

8.  Chronic liver disease

9.  Dementia

What do patients want at the end of life?

Do they want their physicians to do everything possible to extend life? Do they want more time in the hospital? If additional treatments offer little possibility of benefit, do they want more invasive care? Research suggests that the care they get is not necessarily the care they want.

To read more about these end-of-life care facts at the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, click here

By |January 25th, 2015|Categories: Chronic Illness, Chronic Illness Death, Death, end of life, End-of-Life Care Facts, End-of-Life-Care, Medicare|Tags: , , , , , |Comments Off on Chronic Illness, Death, and Medicare

How to Talk Death with a Doctor

Advance Care Planning

How to Talk to Your Doctor About Death

Jane Markley,  one of the most widely-recognized experts on advance care planning, was kind enough to share dome very valuable information about end of life planning.

Jennifer Brokaw, MD is an Emergency Department physician, and the daughter of commentator Tom Brokaw.  She is another excellent specialist who emphasizes the importance and value of advance care planning.

Although most people don’t like to talk about death and dying, the harsh reality is death is something we cannot avoid, postpone, or predict.  In fact, Dr. Brokaw believes that in order to live your best life, you need to think and talk about death.

MUST-SEE Video – How to Talk to Your Doctor About Death

In this extremely informative and educational video, Dr. Jennifer Brokaw opens up about the uncomfortable but vital conversations we should all have with our doctors, our families, and ourselves – well before we near our end of life.

Click Here to Watch This Video:
How to Talk to Your Doctor about Death

By |January 24th, 2015|Categories: Advance Care Planning, Death, death and dying, end of life, end-of-life planning|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on How to Talk Death with a Doctor

Are Your End-Of-Life Care Wishes Clear

End-of-Life Care

Are Your End-of-Life Care Wishes Clear?

As acceptance of end-of-life planning grows in the U.S., new concerns are emerging about how well patients and their doctors understand the forms they are signing about the care they want in their final days.

In September, the Institute of Medicine’s “Dying in America” report called for a national effort to improve medical and social services for end-of-life care, both to improve quality of life and to help reduce the outsize costs of unwanted care at the end of life.

Some health plans are reimbursing doctors who help with advance care planning, and the federal government is weighing doing the same for doctors who talk to Medicare patients about options. A growing number of states are starting programs known as Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment, or Polst, a form offered to patients who might die within a year so they can document their wishes in a medical record, signed by the doctor.

Read more of Laura Landro‘s article in the Wall Street Journal by clicking here.

By |December 14th, 2014|Categories: Advance Care Planning, Advance Directive, Advance Directives, end of life, end-of-life planning, End-of-Life-Care|Tags: , , , , , |Comments Off on Are Your End-Of-Life Care Wishes Clear

Death is Not Failure

Death is Not Failure

As I am preparing this newsletter, I am awaiting a call from a longtime colleague with the knowledge that it will be the last time we have a chance to talk.  Recently diagnosed with multiple brain tumors that are inoperable she has chosen to let her life run its course and to enjoy what quality time she can for as long as the tumors allow.  Tragic, sad, emotional; you bet, but not a failure, as far as we can tell, on anyone’s part.  Remember I said before, death is not an option.  Fortunately, her healthcare providers understand this type of terminally ill planning.

In this day and age so many healthcare providers feel like they have failed if they are unable to cure their patients.  They frequently continue to offer alternative treatments when they know that the chances of doing anything truly helpful are miniscule.  They talk about end of life planning matters extending life, but not about the quality of that life.  They are also confronted by patients and/or loved ones who want “everything” done.   They offer treatments that they themselves would not take were they in the same condition.  The healthcare professionals’ role in life has always been to make people better, to cure them, and when they can’t they feel inadequate or like they have failed so they keep trying even as hope wanes.  It is a reasonable response considering their training focuses on the cure.  But, death is just a part of life and it is sometimes best to accept.

As you might guess, the call came before I had finished this.  I was floored.  In fact my friend was ecstatic when I spoke with her.  Hard to believe isn’t it?  She kept telling me how wonderful it is to have time to talk with people who love her and who share with her what a difference she has made in their lives.  She said that this truly has been the best experience of her life and she is so pleased that her life will be ending this way because she never really thought that she had made a difference in anyone’s life.

She’s living fully in the moment.  She is making plans for the “celebration” of her end of life, when she is gone and where to scatter her ashes.  And given the advent of the Internet and advanced technology tools today, there are many new memorial technology options for cremations.  She has made peace with what is happening to her and is embracing the experience better than anyone I have ever met.  Surely there are down times but to everyone with whom I have spoken who has spoken with her they all are getting the same vibe.

Death for her is not a failure but truly is an experience she is cherishing.  Talk about acceptance!  And yes, she has her advance directives in order.

The bigger question is when will you:  Have ‘The Conversation’ And Give ‘The Gift’

Courtesy of M Jane Markley Consulting 

 

Is There Such a Thing as a Good Death?

End of Life

Is There Such a Thing as a Good Death?

After several years of relentless chemo and radiation to check her cancer, Rebecca decided to die with dignity.

She consulted with family members and some close friends and then contacted a nearby hospice. Whatever ‘tough conversations’ there might have been were brief, open and honest. How could anyone object to Rebecca’s decision after all the various treatments that she had undergone? Everyone was in the loop: family members, close friends, some neighbors and a few former colleagues.

When Rebecca became so weak that she could no longer eat or take care of herself, we all knew it was time. I recall one of Rebecca’s last cognitive acts was to view a DVD of her grandson performing in a piano recital. Then she rested, grateful for having viewed her grandson’s artistic triumph.

For the three or four weeks that she lay in bed, a constant stream of family, friends and neighbors visited with Rebecca. She lay in her furnished basement apartment. Soft music penetrated the space. A scented candle burned. Each visitor brought his or her own special treatment ‘modality.’ Some sang, others massaged her limbs, a few talked quietly, reminiscing about happier times they had spent together. What was so impressive was the solace that pervaded the room.

Except for the early hours of each day, Rebecca was never alone. When she died, everyone was at peace…with her and with themselves. We felt sad, but not depressed. I learned that her last breaths were labored and short. Then nothing. We all shared a part in Rebecca’s passing. Because she gave us a bond that we will never forget, our gratitude to Rebecca is boundless. She allowed us to be part of her vigil of peace.

Contributed by Sig Cohen of Beyond Disputes Associates, www.toughconversations.net

 

By |October 6th, 2014|Categories: Death, Death with Dignity, end of life, good death|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on Is There Such a Thing as a Good Death?

Top Technology Tools to Plan a Funeral and Memorial Service

Memorial Technology

New Memorial Technology to Plan a Funeral
and Better Remember Loved Ones

MemorialTechnology.com is an online resource center designed to help families, Funeral Directors, and Cemetery Directors to learn more today’s new and creative ways to help cope with grief and loss and, most importantly, help celebrate the special life and memories of a loved one.

This family-friendly online resource center was specifically designed for three main purposes:

1.  Raise awareness about today’s most popular, newest, and most innovative technology tools, all of which can help remember loved ones in a more meaningful way.
2.  Offer valuable information and education on exactly how these new memorial technology tools work.
3.  Provide access to the most qualified and credible companies offering these funeral  home services.

MemorialTechnology.com features six of the most commonly sought-after and utilized memorial technology options families are choosing to add to their funeral, memorial, burial, or cremation planning.  These six options include:

1.  Memorial website
2.  Video Tribute
3.  Gravestone technology
4.  Funeral webcasting
5.  Memorial diamonds
6.  Memorial reefs

Unfortunately after my family lost a dear loved one, we were not aware that any these excellent memorial technology tools existed.  Therefore, we did not know how they worked, nor did we know who to turn to for help.

My sincere hope and prayer is this helps families make a difficult situation a little easier.

Christopher P. Hill, Founder
FuneralResources.com

Death and Burial Rituals

Burial Rituals

Death and Burial Rituals

The Business of Death

Around the world, every day, every hour, every second, medical treatment is unable to prevent death. When doctors, nurses and hospitals can do no more for a patient, another industry steps in.

World population Estimate – 7,142,797,806

There are bodies everywhere.

World Death Rate: 8 deaths/1,000 population 55.3 million people die each year 151,600 people die each day 6316 people die each hour 105 people die each minute ~2 people die each second

Burial Rituals:

Traditional Western Customs:

The two most common methods for the disposal of corpses are:

Cremations (Burning the body) or
• Interment (Burying the body)

Today, the average North American traditional funeral costs between $7,000 and $10,000.

• Fee for the funeral director’s services: $1,500
• Cost for caskets: $2,300
• Embalming: $500
• Cost for using the funeral home for the actual funeral service: $500
• Cost of a grave site: $1,000
• Cost to dig the grave: $600
• Cost of a grave liners or outer burial vaults: $1,000
• Cost of monuments: $1,500

Islamic Customs:

• Muslims try to bury their dead ASAP.
• Family or community members wash and shroud the body in scented water and clean white cloth.
• The body is positioned so that the head is facing Mecca. The average adult Islamic funeral, before the cost of burial, was $6,550 in 2009, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

Tibetan Buddhist Sky Burial:

• The traditional Tibetan Sky Burial involves a corpse being dismembered by trained professionals and left outside (in one of the 1075 sky burial sites) for animals to feast upon. Today, 80% of Tibetans choose to have Sky Burials.

Green Burials in the U.S.:

• Going “Green?” People are forgoing traditional methods for environmentally friendly burials.
• Why expose the Earth to unnecessary embalming chemicals or steel caskets.
• Opts for biodegradable caskets or having your remains turned into an artificial reef? Factoid: Americans currently bury around one million tons of steel caskets each year.

Ngaben:

• Balinese cremation ceremony is performed to send the dead onto their next life, and is considered a sacred duty.
• The dead are placed inside a coffin, which is then placed inside a structure resembling a buffalo or temple.
• The structure is carried to the cremation site and set aflame. In group ceremonies upwards of 60 people’s remains were cremated at one time.

Ghana’s Elaborate Custom Coffins:

• In Ghana it is popular to bury loved ones in coffins that represent certain aspects of them, generally either an occupation, or something they loved.
• For example, a farmer might be buried in a coffin that was built to resemble an ear of corn, or a businessman could be buried in a coffin resembling a plane.

Famadihana – The Turning of the Bones:

• The Malagasy people of Madagascar have a famous ritual in which every five to seven years, the family has a celebration at its ancestral crypt.
• The cloth-wrapped bodies of the deceased are exhumed and sprayed with wine or perfume, before being brought out for family members to dance with while a live band plays.

Space Burial:

• Money can buy you anything, even a burial in space.
• The first of these burials took place in 1997 and contained ashes of 22 people (including Timothy Leary and Gene Roddenberry).
• Cost, depending on how far you want your ashes to go, $1,000 – $12,000.

No Longer Practiced

Sokushinbutsu:

• Originating over 1000 years ago, Sokushinbutsu was practiced by a sect of Buddhist monks, and resulted in self-mummification.
• Process that involved eating nuts, bark, and drinking poisonous tea, and took over 3000 days to complete.
• Though hundreds of monks tried, only 16 – 24 were successful.
• Sokushinbutsu is now illegal in Japan.

Hanging Caskets:

• Though now a long lost civilization, The Bo people of the Hemp Pond Valley in Southwest China’s Gongxian County, would use two wooden poles inserted into the rock to suspend caskets containing the dead on high cliff faces.
• Over 160 coffins were placed along the cliffs and natural caves. Today locals refer to the Bo as the “Sons of the Cliffs”.

Sati:

• Now banned in India, Sati was the practice of recently widowed women throwing themselves on the funeral pyres of their husband’s bodies.

Contributed by “The Business of Death

Advance Directives and Advance Care Planning

Advance Directives

Are We at a “Tipping” Point?

How is it that 24 years after the Patient Self-Determination Act went into effect we have not made significant progress in increasing the percentage of people who have Advance Directives?  Death has been hidden behind hospital doors for almost a century, new funeral and memorial technology has advanced, and people still seem to think that death is optional and prefer to avoid the end of life discussion.

Current research shows that only about 25% of the population has completed Advance Directives, yet 80% of the population states that they wish to die at home.  Many of us have talked till we are blue in the face, much money has been spent, and many different initiatives have been started but the number hasn’t budged.

All of this may seem discouraging but there are several different moves afoot that may open the subject up and bring it into the mainstream.  Things like:

  • Respecting Choices – an advance care planning model that has been inculcated into the fabric of the community in La Crosse, WI and has been around long enough to demonstrate significant community, personal, and financial impacts that are being noticed and shared.
  • Institutes of higher learning have started and/or increased their emphasis on end of life care and Advance Directives in their medical and nursing school curriculums planting the seed for better communications with patients in the future.
  • Accountable Care Organizations and Medical Home models are being encouraged by Health and Human Services to collect and report data on the advance care planning, that they are providing to seniors, which will eventually impact their reimbursements.
  • Ever increasing numbers of people, bothered by the lack of discussion and emphasis placed on the needs of people at the end of life, have taken the initiative to develop electronic tools on the internet to guide and help people address these issues before the need arises.
  • And, as I referred to in last month’s newsletter, Death and Dying Cafes and Dinner Parties are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. as the underlying need to talk about death and our beliefs about it are being met through this informal yet growing medium.

Making advance care planning and Advance Directives a part of the mainstream of American life, where it is considered inappropriate not to discuss our thoughts and feelings on these issues, will go a long way towards increasing percentages in the future.  With the pace of change upon us we may just be at the beginning of that tipping point.  More people will be willing to have “the conversation” and give “the gift”.

Contributed by M Jane Markley LLC, www.mjmarkley.com

By |March 17th, 2014|Categories: Advance Directives, Death, death cafes, death dinner parties, end of life, Memorial Technology|Tags: , , , , , , |Comments Off on Advance Directives and Advance Care Planning

Death Cafes and Dinner Parties??

Death Cafes

Death Cafes and Dinner Parties

 

I know what you are thinking.  “Why would anyone participate in something like this?  I like to enjoy my dinner and this doesn’t sound like fun.”  Talking about death over dinner might not be the usual way you get people over to your house for a meal, but it couldn’t be more crucial.

Too many people are dying in a way they wouldn’t choose, and too many of their loved ones are left feeling bereaved, guilty, and uncertain.  Having “the conversation” about end of life care wishes with family, friends, and even total strangers is an important step you can take to ensure that those wishes are understood and respected.

Death Cafes and Dinner Parties

These types of activities, also known as Tea Parties, Death Cafes, etc., have taken off worldwide.    And why is that?  It is because they work.  They allow people to discuss death and related issues and be open to a variety of opinions and issues in a non-judgmental and safe environment.  A colleague of mine, Laurel Lewis, has been hosting these dinner parties for several years with growing interest and attendance such that there is usually a waiting list.  You can learn more about her and what she does at http://laurelllewis.com.

You can also see a sample of one of her dinners on You Tube at http://youtu.be/N2SOlsDTXK8  (Deepak Chopra @ a death and dying dinner party!).  This dinner is rare as it includes a well known physician but that is certainly not necessary.

The Death Cafe which started in Europe is now in the States and lets you know what is happening so check it out at http://www.deathcafe.com .   Another site provides a tutorial on how to set up such a get together.  You can check it out here at http://www.deathoverdinner.org.  An alternative approach used by Paula Schneider of Nevada is to host “Open Forums on End of Life Issues.”  Whatever terms you need to use to get people there, listening, and engaging is what is important.

Why Not Take the First Step?

These dinners and teas are meant specifically for any person who is going to die.  Does that describe you?  So, you need not wait till Thanksgiving this year to have the conversation with family and friends.  You can start now either hosting your own party or getting on line and seeing what meeting is in your area that you can attend to have the experience.

Yes, as I always remind you, it is time to have ‘the conversation’ because you never know when the crisis will occur.  Your discussions will help you feel more comfortable about documenting your wishes allowing you to give ‘the gift’ to your friends and loved ones.  Unless you are certain of your immortality, now is the time to get started!

*Contributed by M. Jane Markley Consulting, LLC

 

By |February 15th, 2014|Categories: Death, death and dying, death cafes, death dinner parties, death over dinner, end of life|Tags: , , , , , , |Comments Off on Death Cafes and Dinner Parties??

Protect Your Family Against Grave Robbers

Grave Robbers

Protect Your Family Against Grave Robbers

It’s no surprise that identity thieves are running rampant, however it’s a shocking fact that these scammers are using the personal information and vital statistics of more than 2,000 deceased people every day. An ID Analytics study recently revealed that the misuse of social security numbers belonging to the deceased occurs more than 1.5 million times every year. Are the identities of your deceased loved ones protected from these identity thieves?

Protect Identity Today

In the same way people provide protection for their families using funeral insurance to cover funeral costs and burial expenses and replace lost income after a death, many people today are also taking additional steps to ensure their loved ones left behind aren’t abused by scam artists.

Be proactive to protect your family. Take the proper steps to provide protection against identity theft while you are alive. Enroll in a service like LifeLock.com to monitor credit reports and inquiries, applications for utility and wireless service, and many other aspects of personal information to reduce the risk of exposure. Monitor your online bank activities, guard your social security number and private information, and keep your digital devices protected with reliable security software to deter fraudsters from gathering your personal data and vital statistics.

Make Final Preparations

Coping with the loss of a loved one is emotionally and physically challenging for most people, and on top of the grief, it often takes weeks, or even months, to notify creditors and vendors after someone dies. Unfortunately, scammers and identity thieves get started immediately after they see perform an obituary search or read a newspaper report that announces a death.

Assign a friend or relative to take charge of reporting your death immediately. Or consider hiring a funeral estate planning attorney to handle all notifications. Recommendations from AARP.com include contacting the Social Security Administration (1-800-772-1213), sending death certificates to the three major credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—and asking financial institutions and creditors to mark accounts closed due to death. The IRS should also be notified as soon as possible to prevent fraudsters from filing for a tax refund with the deceased person’s information or claiming the deceased as a dependent on future returns.

Block the Channels

The best time to consider identity theft is before it happens. Make sure you create a love drawer with a list of everyone—businesses, government agencies and individuals who have access now, or might have acquired your information in the past. Include medical providers, lawyers, the IRS, the Social Security Administration, banks, creditors and even your landscape and pest control contractors.

Prepare a simple form letter that informs recipients of your death in advance. Assign someone to mail these letters, preferably by certified mail, immediately after your death. Ask your designated helper to cancel your voter registration card, drivers license and online social media accounts (learn more about digital estate planning).

Work With the Credit Bureaus

The credit reporting agency Experian advises that credit bureaus periodically update records with information received from the Social Security Administration to flag files when people pass away. It could take up to six months for the information to be transferred so, having someone designated to report the death is preferable to waiting for agency notification. To protect against fraud, survivors should request credit reports every few months after a loved one passes to be sure no one is trying to assume the deceased identity.

 

10 Advantages to Burial Insurance and End of Life Planning

Burial Insurance

10 Key Things to Know About

Burial Insurance

 

The Average Cost of a Funeral: $7,000-$10,000
The Average Cost of a Burial:  $5,000-$7,000
TOTAL Funeral and Burial Costs:  $12,000-$17,000

 

According to AARP (www.AARP.org), the average cost of a funeral for most families is approximately $10,000.  Depending on a wide variety of individual factors and circumstances, this average cost could arguable by much lower…or much higher.  However, when you consider the fact that your family and loved ones could be forced to deal with a large number of financial choices and decisions that add up to such significant funeral costs, creating an end of life plan and looking into burial insurance is something that nobody should overlook or ignore.

Top 10 Advantages of Burial Insurance:

 

1.) NO medical exam required

2.) Premiums NEVER increase

3.) Accumulates CASH value

4.) Insurance NEVER decreases

5.) EASY to obtain up to age 85

6.) Protection is GUARANTEED

7.) Prepays ALL funeral costs

8.) Prepay OTHER outstanding debts or expenses

9.) Your beneficiary can ALWAYS be changed

10.) QUICK and EASY protection from $2,500 to $50,000

Click Here for a FREE Burial and Funeral Insurance Quote

 

 

By |November 20th, 2013|Categories: average funeral costs, Blog, burial, burial insurance, end of life, Funeral Costs, Funeral Insurance|Tags: , , , , , , , , |Comments Off on 10 Advantages to Burial Insurance and End of Life Planning

What to Do When a Distant Family Member Dies

Death of a Distant Relative

What to Do When a Distant Family Member Dies

It’s never easy to know what to do when tragedy strikes. But, when you first learn of the death of a non-immediate family member, take action right away— or at least as quickly as you are able.

Express Your Condolences

Nothing expresses your concern and solidarity better than showing up in person. If the deceased’s immediate family members live nearby, make it a point to stop in. Sometimes people avoid this step because they don’t know whether it’s the right thing to do, but according to The American Cancer Society, letting someone know you’re there and you care when a loved one dies is more than appropriate— it’s vital. You don’t have to stay long. You don’t even have to cross the threshold of the doorway if you feel like you’ve arrived at the wrong time, but you need to show up long enough to say, “I heard your family member died, I’m so sorry. What can I do to help?”

Grief Counseling

Honor The Lost Loved One

It’s tradition to send funeral flowers and funeral gifts when a family member dies. Very few families are ever offended by a beautiful floral tribute or an enduring green arrangement to honor a lost life. If you’re purchasing flowers for the service that will eventually be placed by the grave, you’ll want to have them delivered to the funeral home. Another option is to send an indoor living arrangement in a planter directly to the home of those who survive to act as a lasting tribute to the person who passed away.

Offer Your Support

All areas of the country have different traditions. In some areas, it’s often appropriate to take a casserole to the grieving family so they can mark dinner off their list of things that need to be done. If this isn’t a tradition in your family, there are other ways you can help.

  • Volunteer to Make Notification Phone Calls
  • Go Along to Help Pick Out the Casket
  • Take the Children Out Somewhere
  • Send a Supply of Groceries for the Grieving Family

 

Be Tactful

Be there to listen and to validate the feelings of a person suffering from grief and loss by avoiding certain phrases. Never start a conversation by telling the grieving person you know how they feel, that their loved one is in a better place now or that what happened was God’s will. Aside from sounding pompous, statements like this only serve to make the person who’s suffering feel guilty for what they’re going through. Only God knows what His will is. Even if the person’s death ended an agonizing struggle, now isn’t the time to point it out. Allow them to feel how they feel and remember that your main purpose isn’t to argue them back into a healthy outlook, it’s to listen, offer support and find out what you can do to make things easier.

Don’t Forget About the Kids

Remember to consider the feelings and questions of the kids— your kids, that is. Explain what happened in a way that isn’t scarring or terrifying. If you’re not sure what to say, some valuable options are speaking with a school counselor or local organizations such as Hope Hospice that employ professionals who deal in loss and grief every day.

 

What is a Funeral Consultant? Why Hire One?

Funeral Consultant

What is a Funeral Consultant?

Perhaps you have never heard of a Funeral Consultant?  Well even if you have not, you probably agree that when it comes to life’s most important and challenging decisions, seeking professional guidance and support is a good idea.  You probably also agree that professional planners, such as wedding planners, can be sanity savers.  Let’s take a wedding for example.  Many people prefer to hire a wedding planner.  Why?  Mainly because they want a professional consultant to assist them along the way with the large number of emotional and financial decisions in planning this important once-in-a-lifetime event.

Why Hire a Funeral Consultant?

Most weddings are usually planned within a 6-12 month time frame.  However, planning a funeral is usually done within a 24 to 48-hour time frame, and involves making over 150 important decisions.  Studies prove that when most families are faced with the task of planning a funeral say they are largely unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and unprepared.

So similar to a wedding planner, a Funeral Consultant’s job is to help families make an important and difficult situation easier.  Funeral Consultants are professionally engaged, but have the unique advantage of being experienced while not emotionally attached to the event.  Funeral Consultants are trained and educated professionals whose job is solely to educate and guide you through one of life’s most challenging experiences.

Funeral Consultants are responsible for exactly what most families are searching for, which is being educated on a large number of funeral and/or cemetery options, helping you make decisions when you get stuck, keeping you within your budget, and making sure you know what you are doing – and that you don’t forget anything.

4 Ways Family Funeral Consultants Help Families

1.  When a death occurs
2.  If a death is expected
3.  Planning in advance
4.  Grief counseling and coaching

One Example of How Funeral Consultants Can Help You Save Money

In a recent survey of just one small community’s funeral homes and cemeteries, a basic cremation started at $710 at one establishment, but cost as much as $3,820 at another.  Likewise, direct burial costs ranged from $1,695 to $4,455. The same casket cost was $996 at one place, but $4,200 at another. Cemetery opening and closing fees can vary by more than $2,000, depending on the cemetery and day of the week you choose.  In just this particularly local community survey, there were 15 funeral homes and 13 major cemeteries.  So how would a family know how to choose from among them?  The answer is simple.  Consider hiring a Funeral Consultant.

Funeral Consultants research and negotiate the prices for funeral home and cemetery services in a given area.  Serving as part family advocates and part event planners, a Funeral Consultant can show you side-by-side comparisons of all of the cemetery or funeral home services, your options, and your costs in your local area.  They can also help connect you to other funeral planning resources, including financial aid and support.

According to AARP, the average cost of a funeral today is approximately $10,000. (Note:  This does not include the cost of the cemetery plot and associated fees for the monument, and much more.)  The average funeral insurance policy that most people buy to pre-pay their funeral costs in advance is approximately $5,000. Getting help from someone who knows how this entire process works, and also knows your local options, just makes sense.

It’s Not Always Just About the Money

Rather than dress up and rush into a funeral home being unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and unprepared, most people prefer discussing their all-important funeral or cemetery arrangements in the comfort of their own home, among their family, friends, and loved ones.  Rather than listen to strange terminology and make expensive decisions on the fly, most people prefer a third-party and independent professional to help guide and support them through this difficult and time-sensitive process.  Rather than being uncomfortable or afraid to ask certain questions, most people prefer having the option and flexibility to say or ask things like: “That seems too expensive” or “We cannot afford that” or “What other options do we have?” or “What do other funeral homes or cemeteries charge in my local area?”  

In addition, many families want their Funeral Consultant to join them at the funeral home or cemetery arrangement conference, which can be an option.  Funeral Consultants can also be an excellent resource when it comes to matters related to aftercare planning, such as stopping bills and utilities, work with outstanding debts, working with insurance carriers, estate and tax planning, and more.

How Much Does a Funeral Consultant Cost?

For a set fee, Funeral Consultants will take care of all the tasks, price negotiations, and coordination details, freeing family members from this obligation and helping them arrange the funeral they want within their budget.  With the average Funeral Consultant fee being $500, and the average family savings over $3,500, hiring a Funeral Consultant is a good investment.  But keep in mind that by minimizing or eliminating a lot of the financial and emotional stress associated with families and funeral planning, most families will tell you that value-added services of a Funeral Consultant can be priceless.

For more information, or to find a local Funeral Consultant, click here.

 

 

What to Wear To a Funeral

Funeral Etiquette

What to Wear To a Funeral

At some point in life, everyone will have to pick out an outfit to wear to a funeral. Every small detail counts. How a person dresses reflects their respect for the deceased. Although your presence is more important than what you look like in this situation, women should dress conservatively. Keep in mind that outfits should not be casual. Here are some tips on what to wear:

Consider the Type of Funeral

Modernmom.com says that appropriate attire varies depending on the type of funeral you attend.

  • A close family member: The blog notes that although you will more than likely be distraught, all eyes will be on the close family members. This is why it’s important to dress respectfully and tastefully. Wear a classic black dress with a cardigan or blazer or a pencil skirt matched with a blouse. Choose shoes that will compliment a graveside service.
  • Friends and extended family: Complete black isn’t necessary for this type of funeral. Wear dark colors like navy blue, violet and gray. Keep accessories and prints small.
  • Acquaintance funeral: Wear something practical but polished. Choose an outfit you already own that you would wear to a work function. Although the rules are looser for an acquaintance it’s still important to avoid bright and light colors. Avoid low neck and hemlines.

To Reiterate on the Color Dilemma

Note that colors express different emotions. Although you can’t go wrong with black, gray or navy blue, dark brown and violet can portray somber emotions of sadness too. It is never appropriate to wear perky flowery designs and bright, bold colors. Wrinkled, dirty or transparent clothes can come across as disrespectful.

Choose a Simple, Classic Style

You can’t go wrong with a black dress or a black skirt paired with a dark top. Regardless of how close you were to the deceased, these outfits are acceptable at any location. Many cocktail dress brands offer conservative options. Alternatively, it’s acceptable for women to wear slacks or pant suits.

Shoes for Comfort

Pick tasteful shoes that are comfortable to wear. Classic leather styles are best; steer clear of suede, sequins, embellishments or glitter. Simple black flats are probably the safest choice. Do not wear flip-flops or peep-toe shoes. A low heel is acceptable but tall heels are inappropriate. In the winter a pair of low or no-heel boots are fashionable and keep your feet warm.

All About Accessories

Someone once said that accessories are the last thing a person puts on, but the first thing other people notice. An outfit for a funeral is not worn to get attention and should be relatively subtle. Likewise, accessories should compliment a look but should be small. Wear simple, traditional jewelry like a pearl necklace, diamond-stud earrings or a tennis bracelet. Choose a relatively small clutch or handbag free of flashy decorations.

Click here learn more about:  Funeral Etiquette

 

Talking About Death and Funeral Planning

Death and Funeral Planning

Why are Funeral Planning and Death

Considered Taboo Conversations?

There are few things in life that are certain, but one thing that can be relied upon is that we will all die. Although death is an absolute certainty for every single one of us, society at large still seems to find it difficult to discuss funeral planning, death and dying. Death has always been something of a taboo subject, but even in these relatively enlightened times it is still a topic that causes some to react with disgust, fear or denial.

As a result, to plan a funeral for yourself or a loved one can be tricky at best. It is important that everyone gets the kind of funeral plan that respects their beliefs and wishes.  However, if these are not discussed in advance, it is difficult for those left behind to know how the best ways to handle these difficult decisions after a person has died.

Fear of Death and Dying

It’s understandable that, as a species intent on survival, we are reticent about discussing our inevitable demise. Fear of death can encompass a number of things including concerns about grief and loss, worry about pain or suffering, fear of the unknown, and bereavement.  There is also the sense that in death, things that an individual values such as family, friends and loved ones will be lost.

Many people have superstitious beliefs concerning death and dying that can hinder their willingness to talk about their end of life plans and preferences – and what should happen after they’re gone. The belief that talking about death is somehow “tempting fate” or will hasten death is common and will cause problems with making clear plans for what should happen after death.

Some deaths are more predictable than others, and those people who are diagnosed with a medical condition with a prognosis of shortened life may be in a better position for terminally ill planning since they have “some” idea of how much life they have left. Still, even those people for whom death is imminent may not wish to talk about it.

Death and Money – The Perfect Storm of Taboos

If there is one topic that draws an equal amount of discomfort for open discussion, it is an individual’s personal financial affairs. In working through a funeral planning checklist, the subjects of money and death are brought together in a clash of two of the strongest taboo subjects for discussion in polite conversation.

According to AARP, today’s average funeral costs can run upwards of $10,000.  Clearly this is no small consideration when facing things like funeral estate planning and finding the money to pay for the essentials after a death. In addition to adding the stress of finding this money to the worry about doing the right thing, you also have the drawbacks of not discussing how to plan your funeral with loved ones when the opportunity has always been available.  So these drawbacks significantly outweigh the discomfort of talking about things that are often left unsaid.

An Open Conversation About Death

Although it is hard for some people to talk about dying, it is an extremely important conversation to have. Without an understanding of what a person’s wishes are for their end of life funeral arrangements, families can be left in a difficult position of trying to second guess what their loved one would have wanted after their death. Don’t leave it too late to have the conversation.

If you preplan a funeral, it gives you the opportunity to talk about preferences, funeral costs, and the way in which you want to be remembered.  This includes even the little details such what you want to say in your obituary, what kind of memorial service you would like, what to put on your monuments or head stone, or even new memorial technology for gravestones.

Getting your funeral plan, preferences, and finances in place early means that both the dying person and the family left behind have the peace of mind to knowing that the right thing was done, and the funeral plan and money are available to ensure the deceased’s wishes are fulfilled.

Conclusion

Death and dying is one of the final taboos for discussion in our society. However, making sure that everyone is clear about what they want in death and their wishes for their funeral can bring peace of mind to all concerned.

Article contributed by Memorials of Distinction

Death of a Loved One Funeral Planning Checklist

Plan a Funeral

Death of a Loved One Checklist

Checklist to Help Families Get Through a Difficult Time

Losing a loved one is arguably one of the most difficult experiences in life.  In addition to coping with the grief and loss, there are also a variety of challenging tasks and important financial decisions to be completed, some of which include:

– Making final arrangements

– Reviewing funeral costs and funding options

– Settling an individual’s estate and heirlooms

– Notifying family, friends and co-workers

– Working with various companies and government agencies

– Providing important vital statistics for insurance claims and death certificates

– Securing the financial security of the remaining spouse

Time-Sensitive Tasks

Contact all close family members, friends, co-workers and clergy first.  This is not only important to notify them of this loss, but because you will need their help with funeral planning and emotional support.

Begin working with the family and loved ones to arrange the funeral, burial or cremation and memorial services Since everyone knows that death is a guaranteed event, my hope is that financial professionals have properly planned and prepared their clients and prospective clients in most of these End of Life arrangements ahead of time.

Review all of the important paperwork and documents to identify any instruction containing their final wishes. In most cases, these key End of Life and estate planning instructions can be found in his or her Last Will, Living Trust, or other estate planning preparations.

Notify family, friends, co-workers and loved ones of the final arrangements.  These final arrangement notifications should include details such as cultural and religious rituals, funeral etiquette details, and funeral flowers or donation preferences.

Notify the decedent’s place of work, professional organizations, unions, associations, military branch, and any other organizations where he or she may have been a member or volunteer.

Recommend that each of the decedent’s loved ones notify their own personal employer and arrange for bereavement leave.

Make sure that an obituary is created in your local newspaper as well as on the Internet.

Promptly begin obtaining certified copies of the death certificate. In most cases the family doctor or medical examiner provides a death certificate within 24 hours of the death. The next step is for the Funeral Home and/or Funeral Director to complete the form and file it with the state. Note: Be sure to request and obtain many original copies, since photocopies are not always accepted. These death certificates become important for tasks such as applying for benefits and settling an estate.

Be sure to review all financial affairs, particularly focusing on estate planning documents such as a Last Will or Living Trust, deeds and titles, marriage certificates, birth and adoption certificates, military paperwork and other relevant documents.

If applicable, locate and contact the decedent’s estate planning attorney for all copies of estate planning documents, particularly the originals.

Contact the decedent’s local bank to verify if they had a safe-deposit box.  Note: If the decedent did not leave behind instructions or details regarding who is authorized to open their safe deposit box, you can petition the probate court for an order to open.

Contact the Social Security Administration to report the death.  Also note:

– If your loved one was receiving any benefits via direct deposit, request that the bank return funds received for the month of death — and thereafter to Social Security as well.

– Do not cash any Social Security checks received by mail. Return all checks to the Social Security Administration as soon as possible.

– Surviving spouses and other family members may be eligible for a lump-sum death benefit and/or survivor’s benefits. You can visit www.ssa.gov for more information.

Prepare a comprehensive list of all of the decedent’s assets.

If applicable, be sure to put safeguards in place to protect any key property.

Make sure any mortgage payments and insurance premiums continue to be paid while the estate is being settled.

Regarding the decedent’s place of work, be sure to:

– Request to receive their belongings.

– Inquire about collecting any salary, vacation or sick pay owed.

– Ask about continuing health insurance coverage and potential survivor’s benefits for their spouse and/or children.

– Review all employer, union, or association death benefits details.  Be aware of the fact that if the death was work-related, the decedent’s estate or beneficiaries may be entitled to workers compensation benefits.

Contact the decedent’s past employers regarding any pension plans, survivor benefits, as well as any other forms of defined benefit or defined contribution retirement savings plans.

If the decedent was a military veteran, inquire about any potential eligibility for burial and memorial benefits. This can be accomplished by contacting the Department of Veterans Affairs by either calling (800) 827-1000 or visiting their website www.va.gov.

Contact any IRA custodians, trustees, and guardians. Be sure to review and confirm all of the IRA beneficiary designations, as well as understand all of the IRA distribution options.

Locate and review all life and funeral insurance policies, which could include individual insurance, group life insurance, mortgage insurance, auto credit life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment, credit card insurance and annuities.

Contact each insurance company to find out the necessary procedures and documents needed to file claims.

Promptly contact all credit card companies to notify them of the death and, assuming there are no other names associated, cancel all credit cards.

Retitle all jointly held assets such as bank accounts, automobiles, stocks and bonds and real estate into the surviving parties’ name.  If the decedent was an owner, principal, or had a controlling interest in a business, review all corporate documents and details. Be sure to check to see if there are any additional business agreements such as a buy-sell agreements, split-dollar agreement, etc.

Tasks to Be Completed Within 9 Months:

If the decedent created a Last Will or Living Trust, be sure to file these documents with the appropriate probate court. If there was any real estate owned out of his or her state of domicile, be sure to file ancillary probate in that state also.

If the decedent did not leave behind a Last Will or Living Trust, contact the probate ask the court or a probate attorney for instructions and assistance.

With regards to any of the decedent’s creditors, be sure to notify them by mail as well as by placing a notice in the local newspaper.  Any debtor’s claims must be made within the statute of limitations.  Although this varies from state to state, the standard time is usually 30 days from actual notice. Once a claim has been made, be sure to insist upon proof of all claims.

With regards to estate taxes, you may be required to file a federal estate tax return within 9 months of the date of death. Due to the fact that state laws vary, there is the possibility that state estate tax and/or inheritance tax returns may need to be filed.  Federal and state income taxes are due for the year of death on the normal filing date, unless an extension is requested. Should there be any existing Trusts in place at the date of death, a separate income tax return may need to be filed. It is highly recommended that all financial professionals and their families seek the advice of seasoned tax and estate planning professionals.

Tasks to Be Completed Within 9 to 12 Months

One of the most important tasks, which can often be overlooked or postponed, is to update your own estate plan — or your client or prospective client’s estate plan — if someone was a beneficiary or appointed as an agent, trustee or guardian.

Along the same lines, it is also extremely important to revise and update all beneficiary designations on the decedent’s or surviving parties retirement plans. This includes accounts such as IRAs, Transfer-on-Death (TOD) or Payable-on-Death (POD) accounts, pension plans, life insurance policies, annuities and any other accounts on which the decedent was named as a beneficiary.

Review the impact of the “big picture” financial situation, which includes changes in the household income, expenses, budget, as well as short and long-term goals and objectives.

Review the families insurance needs, including the insurance amounts, types, beneficiary designations and most importantly, any needs for insurance.

Reevaluate whether or not the existing investment options still make sense. This includes reviewing details such as existing asset allocation, goals and objectives, risk tolerances, income and estate taxes, income distribution and legacy planning.

Other Key Considerations

Although this is a matter that most families and loved ones wish to complete and have behind them, take your time and do not try to rush the settlement of a loved one’s estate. When it comes to estate planning and distribution, there are many important decisions that must be made in compliance with the Last Will or Living Trust and applicable state and federal laws. This is exactly why it is so important to seek the help and advice of an experienced estate planning attorney.

If your client, prospective client or loved one did not leave behind any End of Life plan with regards to their final plans and preferences, you can visit www.funeralresources.com and www.memorialtechnology.com. These are family-focused resource centers that contains the large majority of information most families seek help for when it comes to funerals, burials, memorial services, End of Life Planning and much more.

Christopher P. Hill, Founder

Funeral Insurance

End of Life and Funeral Insurance

Everything You Need to Know About
Funeral Insurance

The Average Cost of a Funeral is $10,000 (AARP.org)

 

10 Important Things to Know About
Funeral or Burial Insurance:

 

1.) NO medical exam required
2.) Premiums NEVER increase
3.) Accumulates CASH value
4.) Insurance NEVER decreases
5.) EASY to obtain up to age 80
6.) Protection is GUARANTEED
7.) Prepays ALL funeral costs
8.) Prepay any expenses or debts
9.) Your beneficiary can ALWAYS be changed
10.) QUICK coverage ranges from $2,500 to $50,000

Additional Helpful Resources:

3 Most Common Ways to Plan a Funeral

How to Prepay Funeral Expenses

Key Burial Insurance Details

Top 10 End of Life Plan Benefits

 

Funeral Memorial Technology Services Options

MemorialTechnology.com Offers Families and Funeral Industry New Ways to Memorialize Loved Ones

 

Vienna, VA – The beginning of a New Year is always special for those who have lost loved ones, as well as the funeral and cemetery industries.  However, 2012 is going to be particularly special because families can now take advantage of some of today’s new and innovative memorial technology and memorial services options.

Christopher P. Hill, Founder of FuneralResources.com, recalls “When my family and I lost my mother on Thanksgiving Day, we never knew these new memorial options existed.  I can assure you we would have used at least three of these memorial tools.”

Hill’s personal loss inspired him to create www.memorialtechnology.com, a new educational website which simply makes it easier for families and Funeral Directors to raise awareness, education, and access to these new ways to better heal and remember.

MemorialTechnology.com particularly helps the funeral and cemetery industry by offering Funeral and Cemetery Directors a quick and easy way to educate every family on excellent additions to their funeral and memorial services planning.

Top Six New Funeral and Memorial Technology Options

MemorialTechnology.com contains six options that studies show most families are choosing to add to their funeral, memorial, or cremation planning:

1. New Gravestone Technology – Amazing way to see much more than a name and date
2. Video Tribute – A very powerful combination of video, pictures, and funeral music
3. Funeral Webcasting – Allows families to “attend” a memorial service “live” online
4. Memorial Diamond – Customized Genuine Diamonds for family heirlooms
5. Memorial Reefs – Green Burials at sea offer an underwater living legacy
6. Memorial Website – Personalized websites so families can share together anywhere

View This Brief Video Which Explains Today’s New Memorial Technology Options:

As we approach the New Year, Hill stated; “You will see that MemorialTechnology.com provides a true win-win situation.  For the Funeral and Cemetery Directors, they can now offer even more valuable services.  For the families, the can learn and maybe take advantage of ways to enhance and improved a loved one’s life tribute. I hope my mother is proud to know she inspired such a wonderful opportunity.”

FuneralResources.com is the funeral industry’s leading online Resource Center for both families and Funeral Directors.  This comprehensive website offers easy access to help regarding how to plan a funeral, memorial services, and end of life plan services.

For more information or media contact, you can call (800) 379-2511, or email at info@memorialtechnology.com

Digital Death Online and Digitial Estate Planning

Digital Death and Estate Planning

What Happens Online When You Die?

While it’s a scary thought, the thought usually passes quickly, possibly accompanied with a new status update and a quick image change. However, there are a lot of people who have given the issue of digital death a lot more thought.  This is particularly true given today’s new and innovative funeral and memorial services technology options.

Leading technologists around the world are grappling with the possibilities of what will happen to our online selves when we die. Currently there are no uniform policies across social media and online profiling sites regarding what happens when one of their users dies. As a result this raises questions about:

Privacy. Do you want anyone else accessing your Facebook or Twitter profiles and going through your emails after you’ve died? What about digital assets which are jointly held?

Access. Are you leaving behind the login details and passwords needed for a friend or family member to deactivate your accounts? Should the sites themselves automatically grant access to a deceased profile if a family member wants to close the account?

Legacy. Do you want your online self to remain ‘live’ as a legacy? Do you want friends and family to continue posting in your name? How do you want to preserve your digital estate planning online interactions, and how will that data stay relevant as file formats and technology change and develop?

Digital Death Day

While there may not be a holistic approach to what happens online when you die, there are a number of unique initiatives raising awareness and trialling new ideas and systems to make digital death easier to manage. For example, when the Digital Death Day conferences were held in North America in May 2011 this was the third time that attorneys, entrepreneurs, funeral directors, estate planners, researchers, archivists and leading thinkers gathered to have the conversation about the issues of family, privacy, digital property rights and the archiving and curating of data for anthropologists and future generations.

Digital Death Day calls itself an ‘unconference’ where all of the attendees work closely together to explore options for dealing with online profiles after death. Everyone is able to contribute and the first morning is spent creating a multi-track agenda from the feedback of all attendees, which makes for vibrant and relevant content. Digital Death Day explores the fact that while death is a part of life, what does that mean when most people’s end of life planning become largely digital?

Digital Death Resources

The conversation about what happens online when you die is of course taking place online too with blogs such as Death and Digital Legacy http://www.deathanddigitallegacy.com which covers topics such as how to download data from a deceased Facebook profile, how to make sure your online storage of posts, photos and files are really preserved electronically and whether you’d want your family to notify your friends of your death using your own Facebook profile.

John Romano and Evan Carroll have even written a book called Your Digital Afterlife http://www.yourdigitalafterlife.com which compares the legacy of photo albums, diaries and video tapes left behind by our grandparents, to the plethora of thoughts, feelings, images and memories we leave behind online. Your Digital Afterlife also discusses the issues surrounding passwords and who really owns your online content, as well as how that content can be preserved as file formats change.

Adam Ostrow takes the preservation of our online selves a step further in his speech at a TED conference http://www.thedigitalbeyond.com/2011/08/digital-legacy-presented-at-ted-global-2011.  Ostrow’s speech titled After Your Final Status Update asks whether we could, or should, be putting our online profiles in the hands of evolving technology in order to live on – there are already programs which can predict your next tweet based on your past posts, so why not upload the collective of your online interactions into a robot, or project your personality as a hologram to go on interacting with your family and friends after you die?

Digital Death Used to Save Lives

The conversation around digital death is also being used to stop unnecessary deaths from HIV and AIDS in Africa and India. The Digital Death Campaign to Keep a Child Alive began on World AIDS Day, 1 December, with the world’s most followed celebrities sacrificing their digital selves. This means that the celebrities’ Facebook and Twitter profiles go silent until a donation of $1,000,000 is reached to bring their online selves back to life. Plus, you can sacrifice your own digital life and encourage your friends and family to donate to the Keep a Child Alive campaign, and bring you back to life online.

Three Facebook Users Die Every Minute

At this rate that means that there will be 1.78 million Facebook accounts in limbo in 2011 because those users hadn’t prepared for their digital death. That’s the equivalent of the population of Western Australia, and as users and status updates continue to grow exponentially, how many deceased pages will there be in 10 years, how will Facebook and the probably non-tech savvy families of these people manage this amount of digital content?

In 2011 there are over 500 million people on Facebook and that number is expected to double by the end of the year to 1 billion users. As you think about those numbers, consider the fact that around 1 billion pieces of information are shared on Facebook every day. That is a staggering amount of information that we all felt compelled to share, so if it was important enough to post, isn’t it important enough to preserve?

However, despite digital content growing so rapidly, there are no plans for a way to manage, archive and remove our digital content when we die. For example, if you die and your friends or family want to close down your Facebook account they have to fill out a form and provide a link to your obituary search. If a copy of a key vital statistics such as a Death Certificate is sent to MySpace or eBay the account will be closed however, closing one of the 20 million eHarmony accounts can only be done by using a Last Will, Living Trust, and power of attorney who even then can’t gain access to the account.

There are 100 million tweets being posted each day from the 175 million users, and Twitter will allow a family member to save a copy of your tweets if you die, but no one else will be given access to your account.

Leave a Digital Legacy?  Or Have Your Digital Self Euthanized?

While you are alive you have absolute control over your online profiles and this is one of the main attractions of the medium – the fact that you can share your thoughts, your feelings, your questions and your experiences freely, with whomever you choose. As a result you are creating a rich database of yourself and your life experiences and isn’t that exactly why we put photos in photo albums, create a video tribute, keep diaries, have children and grow businesses – so we can leave something behind to be remembered by? So would you want to live on through your online self or would you rather leave the physical and the digital plane all together?

Digital Privacy

While most social media and online accounts have a policy to dictate what happens to your account when you die, there is still an overarching policy to protect your privacy when you are gone. For example, do you want your parents reading your Facebook status updates or do you want your partner reading through your private emails? Take a second to think about the contents of your inbox or the photos on your Facebook page – what digital dirty laundry would you be leaving behind if you died? However, it’s not only your own privacy that you should be protecting when you die, consider what would happen to the private messages stored in your Facebook or Twitter accounts, or emails which contain private information about friends, family, clients or colleagues. When you die, once private information is no longer bound by the terms and conditions of your friendship, but by the terms and conditions of your email provider or social network.

The various deceased policies of social media sites you may use include:

Twitter. Family and friends can notify Twitter of your death and your account will be removed. Family members can also save a backup of all of your public tweets. Twitter simply needs the name and contact details of the family or friend deactivating the deceased account and their relationship to the deceased, the username of the deceased Twitter account or a link to the profile page, and a link to a public obituary or news article. Twitter has the specific privacy@twitter.com email address for this process.

Facebook. Facebook has a feature where you can download all of your photos, videos, wall posts, notes, messages, events and friends which can be great for your records, as well as help your family manage your account after your death. Your family will need to know your username and password to access your account and archive the information and deactivate your account. However, even when a Facebook account has been deactivated, Facebook itself retains a copy of all information and there is currently no way to permanently delete a profile. Or family or friends can also complete a form and provide a link to an obituary to confirm your death and your profile will be officially memorialized. This means you won’t show up in Facebook suggestions and status updates won’t show up in the news feeds but your profile will remain as an online memorial technology.

MySpace. If MySpace are sent proof of death they will cancel a deceased user’s account.

LinkedIn. LinkedIn will also close your account if they receive confirmation of your death.

YouTube. YouTube allows your heir or power of attorney control of your account and all of the content.

Google + and Gmail. Google will provide account information to family members at their discretion.

Yahoo and Flickr. Yahoo owns Flickr and as a result both sites have a strict digital death policy, that once they receive a copy of your death certificate they will permanently delete all of your accounts and their contents so that no one but you can access them.

Hotmail. Hotmail will send a copy of all email messages which are stored on the account and the current contacts list to help your family notify your contacts of your death. Hotmail will then close the account on request.

eBay. Your family will need to fax a copy of your death certificate to eBay to close an account and all customer details are then deleted from the eBay database. eBay may also need to call to verify the account information.

PayPal. PayPal will need to view a death certificate before closing an account, and if there is money in the account a cheque will be issued in the name of the account holder.

Match.com. Match.com will block the account of a user who has died so that it is no longer visible on the site and your power of attorney will need to contact Match.com to retrieve account information.

eHarmony.com. Your eHarmony account will remain open until a family member or power of attorney contacts the site. Even then no third party will be allowed to access your account and eHarmony will close the account.