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Geting Your Affairs in Order

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Getting Your Affairs in Order is designed for the use of everyone — young or not so young, healthy or not so healthy, rich or not so rich — men, women, married or single. It is for anyone who has compassion, who cares enough to make life easier for the ones they will someday leave behind.

Studies reveal that over 90% of survivors are unprepared to handle the many immediate and future responsibilities that arise when a death occurs. Why? Simply because no one likes to think or talk about, much less deal with, death.

Consequently, few people plan for it.

The purpose of this book is to take death out of the closet and deal with its realities. This may not be easy to do. Some of the tasks outlined in the following pages may seem harsh or difficult if you have never considered your own mortality. However, it is highly important to fill these pages out. Be positive. Remember: if you don’t do it now, it will have to be done later by a loved one, under much less favorable conditions.

The many details surrounding death — burial arrangements, financial and legal matters, notification requirements, miscellaneous paperwork and such — come at a time of great stress for survivors. Though many of these tasks are not hard, some are time-consuming and can be quite costly when research and legal services are required. Most of the decisions that need to be made at the time of death or shortly thereafter can be made in advance while your thinking is clear. Information can be easily obtained and sorted, and alternatives can be researched, thoroughly reviewed, and discussed.

Getting Your Affairs in Order will show you, step by step, what can be done before a death and what must be done by survivors later. Most of the information and forms here are easy to complete. Some will require research and gathering of information, either by phone, mail or in person. All, however, will be much easier to complete and take less time before, rather than after, a death.

Once your affairs are in order, you will be able to store the information, forget it and celebrate your accomplishment by enjoying life to the fullest each day.

–Elmo A. Petterle

Benefactor: one who renders aid or kindly service; a friendly helper

We all tend to think we are immortal, or too young to worry about death; we avoid thinking or talking about it, or even saying the word. But, having purchased this book and read this far, I’ll assume you are in a frame of mind to accept the fact that death is a part of life — for everyone. And now is the time to treat it as sensibly as you would any other important matter that requires serious thought and advance planning.

Getting Your Affairs in Order is a strategic planning tool for all ages, a workbook to be filled in by you that will make life easier for your eventual survivors. The book lists over 60 responsibilities that your survivors will have to face. You can take care of many of these in advance. Step by step, in order of importance, you will be able to pre-plan and document vital survivor information, no matter how far in the future your loved ones will use and appreciate your thoughtfulness.

What’s in it for you if you complete this task?

  • First, there is immediate practical use in the month-to-month management of your existing finances and assets.
  • Next, while you are here, you can see that the legacy you leave will be free of serious problems.
  • Finally, you will enjoy the satisfaction that comes from getting your affairs in order.

It’s been said that nothing is certain in this life except death and taxes. Every year most of us plan ahead and seek help to take care of our taxes. Just this one year, why not take time to plan for life’s other certainty? Peace of mind and untold benefits are guaranteed for you and your survivors if you do so.

To be read immediately after a death

A thoughtful, caring person wanted to make life easier for you at this difficult time. Recognizing that all this would be hard for you, this outline of what must now be done has been left behind — the what, where, when and how of your responsibilities following a death.

After calling your family and friends, turn to the Who-to-Contact Directory on page 10, where you will find a list of immediate after-death contacts and phone numbers, in order of importance. This previously documented information will speed up arrangements which must now be made and help eliminate unnecessary delays in benefits to which you are entitled. Timely action will help clear up your estate quickly and keep your financial affairs running smoothly so you can go on with your life.

There is much to be done, starting within hours after death. Don’t try to do it all yourself. The pain of your loss and handling the immediate details are all you need to consider in the first week or two. Take time before thinking about managing the many tasks that can wait. Don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for help. Believe it or not, they will be flattered. Many people want to help, but feel awkward about offering assistance. Delegate specific tasks whenever possible.

There is no easy way to escape the sorrow that accompanies a loved one’s death nor to escape the necessity of mourning. In addition to grief and sorrow, you may be feeling fear, guilt, anger or other unanticipated emotions; this is perfectly normal. Let your feelings run their course. During this period, hold off on making permanent decisions. Consult with professionals when necessary.

Use this book. And take it to heart that someone cared enough to leave it for you.


This book has been designed with several users in mind — the benefactor, a thoughtful and caring person who wants to make life easier for those left behind, and the survivors who have to carry on in the absence of that person.

Proceed Step by Step

  • Skim the Book 
    Get a general overview, then take a closer look at what’s involved. I have outlined my recommended order of priorities in the Who-to-Contact Directory on page 10, but you may determine your own priorities depending on your situation and needs.
  • Start with a Pencil 
    Write down everything you can from memory. Using a pencil will allow you to erase and update periodically. You will be surprised at the amount of important information (not generally known by others) that you know off the top of your head.
  • Prepare a Will 
    No one has ever seen a hearse in a funeral procession towing a trailer — you can’t take it with you! However, you can take peace of mind with you, knowing that what you have worked so hard to acquire will be distributed in accord with your wishes, as outlined in your will.

If you don’t have a will, your first priority is to get one prepared.

If you do have a will, review it to see if any changes should be made.

This Point Cannot Be Stressed Too Strongly!

See page 84 for more information on will preparation.

Complete the Book 
As time permits, fill in all the forms, in priority as you see fit. If you need to make contact with outside agencies, do so — and note your agreements on the appropriate forms. Locate documents (policies, contracts, etc.) and note where they are on the Location of Records form on page 14.

Filling in the names and phone numbers in the Who-to-Contact Directory is the single most important task in the book.

If you do nothing else, a well-completed directory will accomplish a great deal for your survivors; at least they will know who to contact for further information. (See page 10).

  • Discuss the Contents with Those Who Should Know 
    Once the book is completed, sit down and go over it with those who will be using it later. Make sure they understand your wishes. Then find a safe place to store it — not a safe deposit box, as the book itself contains information on the location of your box and key. Also, you will need to update the book regularly. I suggest keeping it with your file of current bills and active documents and reviewing the work each year when you do your tax return.
  • Be Sure Your Loved Ones Know Where This Book is Kept.

Every rewarding accomplishment has a beginning and an end, with much to be done in between. What follows is the serious beginning of your legacy.

Don’t put it off. And good luck!

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