Why Planning Ahead Matters in Life & Death

In 1903, my great-grandfather, George D. B. Bonbright sold a stamp collection to help fund and open his investment firm in Rochester NY with six employees.  George was a “life planner.” My grandfather was named a partner at Bonbright & Co. where he too was a meticulous planner. In 1958, my father began his 56 year career helping people plan. For over three decades, my husband Tom has served hundreds of families with planning their life’s transitions.

Each of my family members has helped families plan for life’s transitions while they were “above the grass.”  The passion for planning is apparently innate, but I prefer helping adults plan for what happens when they are “below the grass.” 

Widows, widowers, and their children are often “lost” in their search for important information during (and sometimes before) the chaotic time right after death occurs. 

Immediately faced with decisions that must be made, combined with the necessity of attending to mountains of tasks associated with death, does not allow for any breathing space to simply mourn the loss of a loved one.

Ask any widow, widower, or child if they wished they had known where some important piece of information or document was located to have made it easier during their time of grief.  Ask if they knew what their loved one’s wishes were. Ask if they knew how to manage and navigate the influx of people needing immediate answers to myriad questions. 

Sadly, most people are not left with a “guide” to help them. The majority of those that have experienced the death of a loved one found out the hard way- that planning for death is as important as planning for life.

Most of us plan ahead for education, weddings, vacations, the birth of a child and retirement don’t we?  So why don’t we plan for the inevitable?  Why do we find it so difficult to plan ahead for the one event we can count on to happen at some point in the future?  The personal wishes and information that resides inside each of our heads will be gone when we are  “below the grass”. 

Documenting a clear and comprehensive plan to be used as a map or guide is a gift to those that are “above the grass”. 

Why does planning for death really matter? 

  • Your family will want and need to know your intentions
  • You can save your family money and time
  • What you leave behind actually matters to someone
  • You can make your death “easier” for your loved ones
  • You can reduce stress and family pressures
  • You can eliminate guesswork
  • Your wishes will be honored

Planning for death, like planning for life, can be the greatest gift a person can give or receive.

After all, death is life’s final transition. 

This article was posted in “Inspirational Stories for Architects of Change” on Maria Shriver’s website at MariaShriver.com