Designating a grim keeper

Worried about where to keep papers your survivors will need? Chill out -- use the fridge.

March 26, 2000|By seattle times

It may seem like a million times that you've told your daughter, son or significant other where to find your will, your health-care directive, the durable power of attorney and other crucial documents they'll need when you're gone.

But will they remember that the third drawer in the guest closet holds this information? Or the fishing tackle box in the workshop, or some other arcane spot?

Worse yet, maybe you haven't told them anything about your last wishes.

When a death occurs, survivors often feel swamped with details, not to mention grief. Funeral and/or memorial arrangements need to be made. Relatives and friends must be notified. Taxes and maybe a mortgage payment must be paid. And what about your will -- is there is one?

Is there one best place folks should look for at least a copy of this information?

How about in the freezer or refrigerator? Really!

That's the site the Funeral Consumers Alliance, also known as FAMSA (Funeral and Memorial Societies of America Inc.), wants people to think of first, not last. For one thing, a refrigerator or freezer is likely to survive a fire.

Toward that end, Funeral Consumers Alliance is offering a sturdy plastic pouch that can hold numerous papers and closes with a string/ring device, plus a refrigerator magnet to act as a reminder.

The humorous, eye-catching, 2-by-3-inch magnet has an illustration by Edward Gorey, who designed the animated titles for the PBS "Mystery" series. Under Gorey's illustration, the magnet says: "Matters of Life and Death Inside."

Gorey has allowed the consumer group, a nonprofit educational and lobbying organization with 120 affiliates, to use his illustrations at no charge.

Lisa Carlson, executive director of the funeral consumers' group, was tempted to call the package "The Gorey Details" but settled for tamer labeling.

Carlson hopes the refrigerator / freezer will become the universal site for storage of such items as durable power of attorney for health care, advance directive or living will, an individual's desires for a funeral/memorial service, cremation authorization, or at least a list of where such documents are stored.

The package includes a 16-page booklet, "Before I Go, You Should Know ... My Funeral and Final Plans," which asks a number of questions and defines terms involved in end-of-life issues. It also provides a checklist for survivors, "It Ain't Over 'til It's Over," including some millennium touches, such as remembering to cancel e-mail and Internet accounts, and to recycle medical devices such as pacemakers, glasses and hearing aids.

Other packet items include forms for durable power of attorney for health care and advance directive; a directory of memorial societies in various states; a brochure on what to do when a death occurs away from home; and "Talking About Your Choices," a booklet from Partnership for Caring Inc.: America's Voices for the Dying.

And just in case your refrigerator is off being serviced when you pass away, the booklet also recommends giving copies of all your important papers to someone among your family and friends.

The "Before I Go ..." package costs $10 and can be ordered from Funeral Consumers Alliance, P.O. Box 10, Hinesburg, Vt. 05461. Its phone number is 800- 765-0107. Or see its Web site,, under "FAMSA Bookstore."

Pub Date: 03/26/00

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