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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Scared to Death of Death: The Important Things We Postpone

No one likes to talk about death, and yet we’re all going to die—obviously. Which makes for an irksome paradox.

What’s worse is we often refuse to discuss important topics surrounding death, like burial plans, cremation, living wills, and the like. The younger we are, the more we pretend the inevitable isn’t inevitable.

And so we go about our day-to-day lives with these small little worries in the back of our minds, unsure what would happen if we got sick, if we died unexpectedly, if we became unconscious and could no longer make decisions for ourselves.

But that could never happen to me! we think, knowing full well it could, and it might. Young or old, we’re all one brief moment away from a disaster.

We don’t need to be afraid, though—we just need to be prepared.

I was unprepared for many, many years. Recently, though, I took worry by the hand and faced the fact that, at any time, I’m a moment away from death. So I decided to plan accordingly by obtaining or updating the following:

Living will. A living will, also known as an Advance Health Care Directive or Advance Medical Directive, is a legal document that provides your family, doctors, and caregivers with information about what life-saving measures you wish to be taken should there come a time when you are unable to communicate your wishes.

Last will and testament. A last will and testament is a legal document that dictates what happens to your estate once you pass away. If you have a complicated estate, it’s best to have an attorney help you write your last will and testament, so you can be sure your estate is handled properly. If your situation is relatively straightforward, you can draft your own last will and testament and avoid attorney fees. It’s best to learn about the components of a last will and testament and how to make sure yours is legally viable.

Power of attorney. As an independent adult, it’s important for you to have a will. But something else you must consider is a power of attorney. This document legally allows a chosen person to be in charge of your financial matters (such as conducting bank transactions and investing money), property matters (such as management of property), and other legal situations (such as operating a small business). A power of attorney is not only used in cases of disability and illness, but also in cases where you can’t be somewhere to sign a legal document.

Organ donor. See my essay about the importance of becoming an organ donor: Here, Have an Organ.

Although I intend to live for a long time, my deathbed ducks are now in a row. Even better, the worry has disappeared from the back of my mind. There are other documents and considerations you might want to consider, but the above four routes are a great start toward calm waters and a calm mind.

I used LegalZoom for some of the above documents, as well as for other basic legal documentation needs. There are also free online resources like WikiHow that can point you in the right direction. For more complex taxation or legal matters, I seek the counsel of my CPA or attorney.

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