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10 steps in getting your affairs in order

Getting your affairs in order doesn't have to be difficult. Here are 10 simple steps to get you started.


Getting your affairs in order can seem overwhelming right? Who wants to think about dying when you’re so busy living? But – whether you like it or not – death is inevitable and if you don’t face your mortality and prepare for it by getting your affairs in order, you will place unimaginable stress on those you love the most.

As a funeral celebrant, I’ve seen so many families struggling and overwhelmed because they’ve had to make some sense out of their dearly departed’s affairs and clean up the mess that’s left at a time when they feel vulnerable, exhausted and in deep grief. Is that truly the legacy you want to leave?

The only thing that keeps us accountable to getting our affairs in order is our sense of responsibility and desire to leave a loving legacy for our families.

I first wrote the Rest Easy Journal in 2004 and have been banging on about this since then – and still, when I look in my garage and some cupboards, I feel a sense of guilt because I know what stress I am leaving for my son, who has to fit his mum’s funeral, notifying all the relevant people, agencies and entities that I am no more, closing down my digital footprint, cleaning and emptying my home and contents whilst trying to attend to a busy job, family and many life commitments – all while he is grieving. (First action after writing this blog? Clearing that cupboard!)

Getting your affairs in order doesn’t have to be overwhelming. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you’ve given up on life. In fact, I think that getting your affairs in order gives you your life back, because you don’t have this nagging guilt hovering over you. And it’s not just about when you’re gone. There are important legal steps to take to cover yourself at the end of your life, particularly if you find yourself in a position where you can’t speak or act for yourself.

The only thing that keeps us accountable to getting our affairs in order is our sense of responsibility and desire to leave a loving legacy for our families.


One Step at a Time…

You can get your affair in order in baby steps – just do one thing every week that impacts the size of the footprint you’re leaving on the world. The important thing is to just START!

Here are 10 things to do to start the process. (Congratulations if you have done some of them already.)

1. Write your Last Will & Testament. Solicitor fees in Australia for creating a legally-binding Will start at around $300, depending on the intricacies of your assets and beneficiaries. Some people choose a ‘Do It Yourself’ Kit that can be purchased from a newsagent or Post Office, but I recommend that you invest in legal advice, especially if you are a blended family, have ex-spouses, own a business, have lots of assets or are in a de facto or same-sex relationship. And update it every time your life circumstances change.

2. Appoint an Enduring Power of Attorney to take care of your finances and an Enduring Guardian to take care of your health and wellbeing when you can’t. These legally-binding documents must be done through a solicitor, so get your Will, Enduring Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardian documents done at the same time.

3. Talk to your doctor about end-of-life choices (medical interventions especially) and create an Advance Care Plan. Once you’re clear that your choices are in line with your values, write an Advanced Care Directive, a legal document that can ensure those choices are respected. Part of the Advance Care Directive is appointing a Person Responsible/Substitute Decision Maker (if you haven’t appointed an Enduring Guardian) to advocate for your medical choices on your behalf when you can’t.

4. If you have superannuation savings, it’s important to complete a Binding Death Benefit Nomination if you want to make sure your nominated beneficiary actually receives your super. This is a big topic, and I found the simplest explanation here. (Note: I have no affiliation with this company – I just find the explanation simple. Feel free to research Binding Death Benefit Nominations for yourself.)

5. You can’t just tell people that you want your body to go to science or donate your organs and hope for the best. You must register for body, tissue and/or organ donation well in advance if this is a part of your final wishes. Carry a copy of your organ donor card with you and add that information to your driver’s license. Find out how to register your body with your local University if you want to leave it to ‘science’. (Note: many universities are not accepting bodies at the moment because of COVID 19.)

6. Write down your funeral choices. Families are left hoping they have made choices that their loved one would have liked. Even decisions like burial or cremation can cause anxiety for families if they’ve not been given clear instructions. The Rest Easy Journal contains a whole section that guides you through the choices you can make around funerals. The most important thing is to leave either a Prepaid Funeral Plan or money that’s accessible to cover the cost of the funeral. Don’t put your loved ones in debt by not making some provision for your exit.

7. Write it down! Let your family know where your important documents are, your digital footprint (logins, passwords, online subscriptions and shopping sites etc.), services and subscriptions they’ll need to cancel etc. Having to sort through all of this can lengthen and place pressure on the grieving process. I started with an 8-page document that has evolved into the 94-page Rest Easy Journal because there is so much you information your loved ones need to process!

8. Clean up your mess (your cupboards, shed and garage). I’ve seen families in such overwhelm that they hired a truck and had everything in the house taken to the tip because they didn’t have the time, energy nor inclination to sort through another’s belongings, no matter how much they loved them. Set goals – one cupboard per week or month. Donate special items (war medals, doll, coin and stamp collections etc.) to clubs who may value them more than your family. And give things to your loved ones now when you can enjoy their delight at receiving treasures from you.

9. The most important step once you’ve ticked these off your list is to talk to your family about the decisions you’ve made and actions you have taken. They are more likely to follow through on your wishes (end of life and once you’ve gone) if you have explained why you have made particular choices. If talking to them is too challenging, that’s OK. Go to Step 10….

10. It’s important to put your instructions and communications about all aspects of your life (not just what you are bequeathing others) in a place where those left behind can easily find them. The best funerals I have been celebrant for are the ones where there is a written document such as the Rest Easy Journal for the family to refer to.

I was going to apologise for banging on about this, but I won’t, because my life experience, especially in my work as a funeral celebrant, has proven to me time and again that getting your affairs in order is so important if you love those who are left behind. It’s why I created the Rest Easy Journal – so that getting your affairs in order doesn’t have to be difficult. Just follow the prompts and fill in the blanks!

To recap: 10 things to do to get your affairs in order:

 Write a will and keep it up to date.
 Decide and appoint an Enduring Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardian.
 Talk to your doctor and create an Advance Care Directive that outlines your end-of-life choices.
 Decide if you need a Binding Death Benefit Nomination and request a form from your superannuation fund. Note, it expires every three years, so keep it up to date.
 If you want to donate organs or leave your body to science, register. Note: at the time of writing this many universities are not accepting bodies due to COVID19.
 Write down your funeral choices to guide your family. Here’s an article I’ve written on things to consider.
 Make a record of your choices and details of your assets, digital footprint, who to contact etc. The Rest Easy Journal is a simple, cost-effective way to record your affairs – just follow the prompts and fill in the blanks.
 Clean up your mess! Gift special items to clubs, send unwanted items to charity, shed your shed of items that don’t work or you no longer need.
 Talk to your family about your decisions and choices. They’ll be more inclined to follow through if they understand.
 Keep your documentation in a place where others can easily find it!

If I’ve got you feeling better about taking action, check out my other blogs for information that will help you in getting your affairs in order.

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