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Preserve and Protect Your Legacy

Kiahnna D. Patton

Few things hit as hard as a loved one dying. What do you do? One of the first things people do is notify others that the person has died. Then, the funeral planning begins. After that, closing out final affairs is a priority. If the person had a trust or will, it might be easier to close out those affairs, but keep in mind that there is so much not addressed in those documents. 

One thing you may not know to do to preserve and protect the legacy of the dead is closing accounts – credit cards, driver’s licenses, voter registration, social media properties and many other time-consuming tasks that can make end-of-life seem endless. Contacting an employer to inquire about death benefits and medical insurance is another responsibility. And, I speak from experience when I say that I know that these are just the tip of the iceberg.

It has never been easy to be on the side of death related to either personal loss or loss at work. As a human resources professional, I worked at a company where we lost four people within a few days. Three in a boating accident and one in a car accident. My job was to speak with the families. I reached out to them to offer my condolences and to guide them through the process of receiving benefits (retirement, life insurance, medical insurance, etc.) and other services from the company. It was also my job to arrange wellness services for employees who worked with those who died. We provided grief counselors and organized memorial services to honor the lives and legacies of those we lost.

At the time, I didn’t know how much work those families were still tasked with after they spoke with me. That was almost 20 years ago when the amount of information one had to navigate was a bit less. In today’s world, we have cryptocurrency and multiple social media accounts, not to mention the subscriptions, utilities and bank accounts of yesteryear. Each process is unique and different, requiring varying time commitments and information requirements. As leaders and employers, how can we help our team members preserve and protect their families? Organizations like Journa (thejourna.com) are doing just that by taking care of closing out accounts and handling the burdensome follow-up. There are also plenty of free resources that an Internet search will take you to if you’re keen on taking care of these things yourself. There is checklist upon checklist that offer guidance on what you need to do when a person dies, but rarely are they personalized for your situation, nor is there an opportunity for someone to do these things for you.

If you live in California, you are familiar with earthquake preparedness. When you’re ready for the inevitable “Big One,” you have your kit complete with water, food, blankets, flares, a means to build a fire, a radio and possibly more. You also have your designated family meeting place.

I’d venture to say that death is the most inevitable of all life events, yet we seem to be the least prepared to preserve and protect our legacies. I’m not only talking about wills and trusts, but also small things like closing accounts, canceling a driver’s license, filing taxes and so much more. Those things take a lot of time to do, and many we don’t realize we need to do to prevent identity theft and financial fraud.

What do you risk by not handling the many logistics after death? Two of the biggest are identity and financial theft.

Did you know?

  • An identity thief can file taxes on your behalf and do whatever they deem necessary to secure money that will land in their own pockets.
  • Someone can assume your identity and start a whole new life. They can use your Social Security number to open credit card accounts.
  • A person can open utility and cellphone accounts using your identity.
  • Someone can get medical care or even pretend to be you if they get arrested!

How’s that for a tainted legacy? How’d you like to see an arrest record on ancestry.com that you didn’t earn?

While a pain to get them corrected, it may be much easier to catch these things when you’re alive. After death, who’s monitoring this for you, especially when they don’t know they should? Among the many innovative benefits companies offer these days, I’d love to see subscriptions to services that help you or your loved ones manage logistics post-death to preserve and protect your legacy. It will give you much-needed space to grieve and celebrate the life of your loved one. •

– Kiahnna D. Patton is human resources professional with experience in the health care sector as well as a nonprofit founder.

 

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