Skip directly to content

LAVNS: Unavoidable Tough Topic

on July 16, 2017 - 5:14pm
Unavoidable Tough Topic

No one likes to talk about our own or a loved one’s death. However, as much as we may wish to avoid the conversation, the event is unavoidable.

Planning things ahead of time will grant some peace of mind and lessen the family’s burden of making so many difficult decisions at the time of death.

  • For instance, my husband and I recently talked with our adult daughter to make sure she knew what we both wanted at the time of our deaths, including the location of everything she will need. Listed below are some of the questions that we needed to answer for ourselves and to also ask our loved ones so everyone is well informed:
  • Do you have a will? Where are the originals and copies located?
  • Has a Trust been established? Where is it located?
  • Does the will designate to beneficiaries (children, siblings, charities, etc.)?
  • Is the will notarized properly (self-proving affidavit)?
  • What would you like done with your property not designated in the will?
  • Are there any Power of Attorneys (POA) for medical and financial decisions?
  • Have you chosen a funeral home?
  • Would you like to be cremated or buried?
  • Would you like a service/memorial? Are there any songs/hymns you would like?
  • If applicable – where are your Veteran Discharge papers?
  • Have you written an obituary? Do you have a portrait you prefer?
  • Do you have a safe deposit box? If so, where is it located? Where are the keys?
  • Where do you keep all your important papers and keys/combinations?
  • Are there arrangements for assisted living accommodations?
  • Have you considered Hospice?
  • If a choice is possible where would you prefer to die, in the hospital or at home?
  • Are there arrangements for in-home assistance?
  • Is there a list of whom we should we call upon your death, and where are their names and phone numbers?
  • Who is/are your next of kin?
  • Do you have a list of the passwords/usernames you use and their accounts?
  • Do you have a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) form established at the hospital? Which hospital(s)? A DNR for personal home use (available at is recommended to be posted on your refrigerator with the information listed in the VIAL OF LIFE ( package which is available at the Fire Administration Office (999 Central Ave Suite 200 Los Alamos). If you have a DNR, which physician issued it, and is it in your medical records?  Do you have a copy in your personal file? Is it accepted in New Mexico?
  • Do you have a list with contact information of all your:
    • Bank accounts
    • Investments
    • Propertys
    • IRA/Retirements
    • Life Insurance
    • Disability insurance
    • Collections
    • Other assets

Answers to the first few questions on this list can begin with just two phone calls: one with an Estate Planning attorney and the other with a Funeral Home Pre-Planner.

“Death requires pre-planning. That preplanning does not necessarily result in complex or expensive documents. Estate planners endeavor to prepare only those documents necessary for smooth, cost-effective transfer of wealth and assets” explains local Estate Planner Reid Griffith of P. Reid Griffith Jr. and Philip Dabney – Attorneys at Law.

An Estate Planning attorney can tell you if you would benefit from a Trust and how to designate to your beneficiaries. If you have already completed a will, please think about whether it needs to be updated now.

In addition, Jessica DeVargas of DeVargas Funeral Home explains, “A funeral home pre-planner can help to ensure that your loved ones will be able to focus on the memories of your life, rather than the details of your death.  Pre-planning costs can be in a single payment or amortized over a 3, 5 or 10-year period. There are many ways to fund your funeral in advance to be sure your exact wishes are fulfilled.  Pre-planning also relieves the financial burden on your loved ones.” Please check with the funeral home of your choice to learn the many ways you can pre-plan.

Understandably, no one likes to talk about death, but in the very least, please place a file folder in an easily identifiable location and label it MY FINAL WISHES. Start gathering some of the information that answers the above questions; it is truly a gift to your loved ones.

We would like to thank Jessica DeVargas of DeVargas Funeral Home in Espanola and P. Reid Griffith Jr. and Philip Dabney -- Attorneys at Law in Los Alamos for their assistance in this column.