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Dave Sather's Money Matters:  Are you ready to die?

  • Originally published January 25, 2011 at 5:42 p.m., updated January 25, 2011 at 6:50 p.m.

With New Year's resolutions come a variety of things on our To Do list.

Often we want to get in shape, pay down debt or spend more time with family.

Almost never is “prepare to die” on that list.

However, if you truly care about your family or loved ones that may be one of the most important things you do this year.

I have a sealed document in my office that I update occasionally. My Letters of Last Instruction are simply labeled "Open in the event of my death."

Although it is not a legally binding document like a will, the goal is to guide your loved ones once you are gone.

Over the years I have buried several family members as well as some very close friends. Even after a long and full life, planning for death is never easy. As we mourn and grieve, we are under tremendous stress.

Without planning ahead of time those we leave behind are left to make a variety of decisions. Without proper guidance these decisions are guesses at best. As such, the goals of my last instructions are to remove the burden from those who I love.

My instructions are pretty simple. They more or less read like this:

Dear Family,

If you are reading this, I'm dead. If there is anything worthwhile, please donate my organs.

I don't want to be buried. Please call all of the area funeral homes and get competing bids for cremation services. Take the low bid - how badly can they screw it up - I am already dead.

I don't want to have a visitation. I don't like looking at dead people and I don't want anyone staring at me when I'm dead - saying how life-like or peaceful I look.

Do not buy an urn. Bring a used Cool Whip container for my ashes. Scatter my ashes overlooking the lake behind the house.

Have a memorial service at the church. I've attached a list of songs to play. No sad songs. I don't want this to be a depressing event. I want it to be a party. You can either celebrate the great life I had or the fact that you are glad I am gone. It's your choice.

I have shared my wishes with my wife, Carol. When I told her the part about using a plastic container instead of an an urn she had a puzzled look on her face. I asked her if that was problem to which she smartly replied, "No, I'm just not going to use any of my good Tupperware."

I am currently young and in good health. It is pretty easy to think about these things now. Death seems like it should be a long way off. However, I spend more and more time on the road. You never know when something bad could happen.

This is why I have taken the time to write out my wishes. It takes the pressure off of my loved ones to make hard decisions when they are grieving.

Everyone will have a different slant on communicating their last wishes. The important thing is that you do it.

For more information on Letters of Last Instruction, please visit our website at

On the left side, click the link for Financial Planning Documents. The third item down will walk you through many of the things that you may want to consider for your Letters of Last Instruction.

Dave Sather is a Victoria Certified Financial Planner and owner of Sather Financial Group. His column, Money Matters, publishes every other Wednesday.