7 things you must do before you die, some are fun!

Before it’s too late, you need to have those tough conversations with yourself and others

Who will get this?

Do you remember having a parent or grandparent who had something very special that you really wanted?  I remember being at my grandparents house and we children would go through the drawers and find all kinds of things we really wanted.  Sometimes mom mom as she was called would give it to us, and sometimes she would say wait.

The chaos after someone dies

After my grandfather died (my grandmother preceded him in death), lots of family memories and items went missing. It seems, to my recollection, that my grandparents siblings went shopping in their house and barn after their death for those items of value, both monetary and memory.

The estate issues, which was not very much would put a wedge between family members for years.

So before this even happens to our family (because now we are the parent and grandparent), do we have our end of life planning in order?

It’s not always predictable

Our end of life is not always predictable.  I am particularly cognizant that this is the 20th year anniversary of 911.  This was a moment none of us expected, but it happened.  Did all of those lives lost even think for a moment today was the day they would die? I think not.

Estate Plan, Living Will, and Healthcare Power of Attorney documents

In addition to our bucket list and planning and doing the things we want before the end of our life, do we have our affairs in order?

Do you have your affairs in order?

1. First thing we think of is a will, that is the document that says where you want your assets to go. It should be written down with a name attached to each items you want given to someone. Even better, write the list of all of those assets (house, car, art, jewelry, etc) and if you don’t want it to go to an estate sale, let your loved ones know what they can and can’t have and ask in advance for their preferences.  For items like china or jewelry why not give it to them now? You will experience the joy of giving and also start to de-clutter.

2. Revocable Living Trust – just because you have a will,it’s not enough. You may NOT die.  You may just not be able to speak for yourself and express your wishes.  This is a document that needs to be completed NOW. It allows you to appoint who will make decisions for you if you are not able to make them for yourself. This should be someone who you trust to manage your affairs if you are ill or incapacitated.   If this isn’t done and there is just a will, someone (not you) will have to go through probate court, which can be a long and painful process.  Trusts are important because you will not be alive to sign over the deed to your home or transfer titles of car, bank and investment accounts. This could be a nightmare for those who are left behind.

3. Do you have beneficiaries on your financial accounts. No beneficiaries?  Off to probate court again.

4. Anything with a password.  Does someone have access to accounts with passwords? If there is a revocable living trust and the bank account is in the trust, easy peasy for the successor…otherwise, it’s a problem. I didn’t mention social media accounts, that’s a different process.

5. Financial power of attorney. Who will have the power over your financial assets. This is important for retirement accounts and IRAs because they can’t be in a trust and can’t be owned by anyone except the holder of that IRA. Power of Attorney would allow you to appoint someone that could access the IRA if the funds are needed for your care.

6. Advanced directive and durable power of attorney for health care. What do you want to happen if your heart stops or need to be placed on a ventilator to help you breathe? Do you want extraordinary measures taken?  Speak now before you can’t. The advance directive, which is a legal document will specifically call out your wishes. The durable power of attorney is needed to make health care decisions if you are unable to make them yourself (think dementia, brain injury, etc).

7. Now, the FUN STUFF. Your bucket list. It may be and elaborate list or not, but here are some guidelines to writing and sharing your bucket list. Remember, you lived your life and worked hard to do these fun things!  Get to it.

A ten step approach to writing a bucket list

  1. Reflect on what matters most to you and your core values.

2. Next identify some of the life experiences you would like to have or tasks you would like to complete

3. Identify the timeline for when you want to complete each item on your bucket list. Some may take years and others can be achieved relatively soon.

4. Brainstorm a list of items for your bucket list.

5. Review your draft bucket list and trim it down. Limit yourself to 4 to 5 items on your list. At least two of the bucket-list items should be easy to achieve and in a short time. These easy wins will motivate you towards investing sustained effort towards more lofty goals.

6. Discuss your bucket list with your loved ones. They will often want to help you or even join you in your quests.  

7. Talk to your doctor about your bucket list. Ask your doctor to personalize your medical care so you can accomplish the items on your bucket list.

8. Remember to check off at least one or two items on your bucket list every year.

9. Every time you check off a bucket list item, pause for a moment and savor the sweet sense of a job well done.

10. On your birthday or another memorable day, be sure to review your bucket list and update it.


A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death.  BJ Miller, MD and Shoshana Berger. 2019.

Suze Orman’s Will and Trust Kit (I have not used it, we have an attorney, but it may be helpful)


Bucket List Toolkit


A website that is very pretty and helps you identify the items you want to put on your bucket list and what categories they fit into like Travel, sports, entertainment, food, friends and family https://www.bucketlist.net/

Sandi Feaster