HOUSTON - Everyone needs to be encouraged to prepare for his or her own death before it takes place so that family members are not left with the burden.
Robin Craig, founder of Project Widows, says that people should take the following five steps toward preparing for the death of a spouse:
1. Purchase life insurance - When someone loses a spouse, he or she loses the spouse's source of income, but the monthly bills will remain the same. Life insurance can allow a widow or widower to maintain the same lifestyle and help take care of business matters.
2. Have the following legal documents in order:
Last Will and Testament - This will prevent the government from coming in and taking part of the estate of a widow/widower and designate how a widow/widower would like the assets to be dispersed.
Power of Attorney - This will give a loved one the authority to sign his or her spouse's name and act as an agent in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated.
Living Will - This document states the desire to be allowed to die if someone become severely disabled or suffering from a terminal illness. Terry Schiavo was institutionalized for 15 years and diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state. Her husband and parents were involved in the court system from 1998 to 2005 arguing over whether Terry should live or die.
HIPPA form - This stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and involves authorization to disclose health care information. In order for health and medical information to be released to anyone, including family members and health care personnel, proper authorization must be given.
3. Discuss organ donation - Donating organs is a very timely matter and must be dealt with promptly. It can be a difficult decision to make if the topic has not been discussed. Anyone can register to become an organ donor when renewing a driver's license.
4. Plan a funeral in advance - This removes the burden from loved ones when someone dies and can lock in current prices which is important as costs continue to increase.
5. Live each day as if it were the last - People should tell their loved one that they love them and not harbor any anger toward them. It is time to live life to the fullest and prepare for the next life.