Preparations for death are varied

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management, LLC
May 22, 2011

Researchers in Madrid claim to be able to measure the rate at which a person is dying and plan to begin selling a life-expectancy test by the end of this year.

For $700 you will be able to measure the length of your telomeres - the tips of certain chromosomes which shorten as you age. Scientists claim this will provide an approximation of your date of death.

Like Charlie Munger, all I really want to know is where I’m going to die so I’ll never go there.

Unless I can figure out how to pull that off, I will die. So will you. So have too many people in my life recently. Old ones and young ones. Healthy ones and sick ones.

It has reminded me that there is a lot more to preparing for death than simply writing a will.

But a will is one of the steps. If you are reading this, you should have a clear, non-ambiguous will. It doesn’t matter if you think you don’t have any money or not. My father’s estate was worth a grand total of $55,000. None of the siblings fought over it, but there were other family members who hired lawyers and filed suits – over a piece of $55,000.

You need some other documents, as well. A lawyer will tell you what they are.

There is, of course, spiritual preparation. Every tradition with which I’m familiar accommodates preparation at any time, but encourages it as early and regularly as possible.

Closely connected with your spiritual preparedness is your emotional preparedness. One of the best tools I’ve seen for learning about your parents or teaching your kids about yourself is a small book, “Questions for my Father” by Vincent Staniforth. It’s $10 at Amazon. If you don’t like it, I will buy it from you.

You will learn things you ought to know – both about your parents and yourself, as well. Write them down. Pass them on to your kids.

Clean your house and garage regularly. You should have a garage sale or ideally, move every ten years to force you to purge. It is unfair to your kids to make them crawl over boxes that haven’t been opened since you got them out of your parent’s attic when they died 27 years ago.

If you’re a survivor responsible for planning a funeral service, be practical. Any time you struggle deciding between two options, make the sensible decision rather than the emotional one.

Make lists. If you have some cash hidden in the back of the trash compactor, don’t just tell someone, write it down in a file where you also list your bank accounts, automobiles, retirement accounts, etc. You want to leave assets to your family, friends or other designees, not the folks who buy your house.

Let go of family secrets. They are neither healthy nor fair. And the secret keeper is often relieved of a burden when she discovers that the secret wasn’t a secret, anyway.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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