Practical Resources

A List to Reduce Work for Your Next-of-Kin

This useful list and accompanying templates were kindly shared with us by Donna Woodward, a Hospice Volunteer and Dementia-care Volunteer. They will be particularly useful for friends or family in a caring role.

No matter how simple your life is, there is probably more to be taken care of when you’re gone than you realize.  By thinking through and carrying out the tasks below, you will be saving your family and friends administrative hassle after you have gone. 

Family members and friends that survive you need to know where your personal papers are, what assets and debts you have, where important documents are located and relevant information such as account numbers, passwords, and a variety of other things.  Ideally you will have a will directing how you want your assets to be distributed, which you update as circumstances change.  

By completing the checklist below you can help those who survive you to complete all necessary paperwork as quickly as possible. There are templates at the end of the blog that you can use to note down some of the information. It’s also worth noting that if you reduce work for your Executor or attorney, you might reduce costs to your estate too. 

Keep the information from the questions below in a document. Keep that document in a very secure place and only give access to a trusted person, as it contains account numbers and passwords. 

Check list

  1. If you have a will, make sure relevant persons know where it is kept and who can access it.  It should not be kept in a Safety Deposit box unless someone else has the code or key to access it.

  2. Ensure that relevant persons know who your Executor or attorney is so he/she can be contacted as soon as possible in the event of your death. Put the Executor’s name and phone number in some prominent places: refrigerator door, back of bedroom door, glove compartment of your car (along with a copy of your Living Will in case of a medical emergency while you’re alive.)

    Make sure you also let your physician, funeral director, and attorney know who your Executor is so that the Executor can be notified of your death as soon as it happens.

  3. Create and share a list of friends and others who should be informed of your death.

  4. Share any final arrangements that have been made or that you would like (burial or cremation, cemetery name and location, memorial or religious service, music, or readings you’d like).

  5. Provide a list of all your assets (e.g., deeds, stock certificates, bonds, bank accounts), where to find them, and all the corresponding paperwork showing proof of ownership.

  6. Provide a list of all your liabilities and debts and the corresponding details.

  7. Create a list of banks and other financial institutions that need to be informed of your death, plus account numbers and bank locations.

  8. Create a list of your credit cards that will need canceling, including the card numbers, name, and phone number of the issuing institution.

  9. Make a list of the automatic payments being paid by a bank or credit card and the contact details and passwords for the organizations you are paying, e.g., your mortgage, household utilities, homeowners’ insurance. These will need to be canceled/updated.

  10. Create a list of the subscriptions and accounts that need to be canceled, including the subscription name, your account number, and the username and password. Subscriptions could include: newspapers, pharmacy refills, other online subscriptions, and accounts include email and social media like Facebook and Twitter. 

  11. Provide a list of benefits that need to be stopped at the time of your death: e.g., SSA, VA, pensions.  You will need the contact information and account numbers for these.

  12. Provide all your tax records.

  13. Create a folder with all your documents related to any safety deposit boxes, post office boxes, storage units, including their locations, where the keys are kept and any passwords or codes.

  14. If you have a car, then note down your car registration and insurance details, as well as a copy of your drivers’ license.  If your vehicle is to be used before the administration of assets is complete, the title may need to be changed.

  15. Write down who has your house or other keys in circulation and if any locks need to be changed.

Note on finances: You may need an estate attorney, but the county Probate Court Clerk can be very helpful. If your finances are simple and there are no conflicts among survivors, your legal needs may be minimal. 

Below are templates you can download and print for your use.

Actions for those surviving you

  • Inform anyone with Durable Power of Attorney. Durable Power of Attorney (PoA) ends at your death.  After your death, the PoA no longer has the authority to exercise any control over your assets.  He/she may not access your safety deposit box.  The Executor or Administrator of your will get the authority needed from your county probate court.
  • Collect Death Certificates.  The funeral director will provide these to the next of kin or executor.

Note: To prevent identity theft which might later impact the finances of survivors, it is recommended that copies of the death certificate be sent to the credit reporting agencies.

Exploring Death and Dying

RoundGlass: The End of Life Collective

The End of Life Collective is a community of caregivers and care seekers gathered in one place to help you and your family through life’s most important time.

End Well

A non-profit media platform and annual conference with the aim of normalizing conversations about our mortality throughout life. The website shares videos from leaders in all sectors who approach the topic of death and loss from many diverse angles.

ReImagine

ReImagine is a citywide exploration of death and the celebration of life through creativity and conversation. ReImagine will operate in San Francisco and New York over the coming year.

The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living

A book by Frank Ostaseski, the cofounder of the Zen Hospice Project and Metta Institute, who has sat on the precipice of death with more than a thousand people. He has trained countless clinicians and caregivers in the art of mindful and compassionate care. In The Five Invitations, he distills the lessons gleaned over decades of selfless service offering an evocative and stirring guide that points to a radical path to transformation.

End Game

A short documentary following the stories of three visionary medical providers, one of which is Zen Hospice Project, caring for and supporting those approaching the end of their lives.

What does it feel like to die

A book by long-time hospice volunteer, Jennie Dear, who uses the latest medical findings and sensitive human insights to offer answers to questions that affect us all like Does dying hurt? and Is there a better way to cope with dying?

Death Cafes

At a Death Cafe, people drink tea, eat cake, and discuss death. You can search for the next cafe anywhere in the world. They also offer numerous resources on death and dying.

Death Over Dinner

An interactive toolkit to help you set up and host a dinner to discuss death with friends and family. The website provides videos, articles, and thought-provoking questions. Even if you don’t end up hosting a dinner party, it will get you thinking.

End of Life Doula Directory

A directory of certified end-of-life doulas thoroughly trained in all three phases of end-of-life care. 

Heartfelt Memorials

A company offering interactive and collaborative remote memorial services enabling five to 500 family and friends to memorialize, eulogize, and celebrate a deceased loved one. From afar, family, friends, and community will virtually attend your loved one’s end-of-life celebration.

Learning More About Mindfulness and Meditation

We are pleased to support your caregiving with a variety of guided meditations led by our Mindful Caregiving Education instructors. You will find three-minute, five-minute, and ten-minute long meditations on our Resource page.

Resource/guided meditations

Mindfulness and meditation don’t have to be complicated. Our advice: start small, with a few moments daily where you mindfully follow your breath and grow from there. Below are some resources to support you on your journey.

Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World

Created by meditation teacher Dr. Danny Penman, and Clinical Psychology Professor Mark Williams, this website gives a simple overview of mindfulness and provides resources and apps for those who want to explore further.

Science of Mindfulness

A website that explores the latest scientific research into mindfulness and meditation, and how they can be used in our daily lives. The site also shares interviews with leading researchers in the field of mindfulness, meditation, and compassion.

Full Catastrophe Living

Written by Jon Kabat-Zinn, this book offers a step-by-step introduction to the practice of mindfulness and how to cultivate mindfulness in the face of stress, pain, and illness. You can find videos of Kabat-Zinn’s meditation teachings on his website. 

Non-violent Communications 

With Nonviolent Communication (NVC) we learn to hear our own deeper needs and those of others. Through its emphasis on deep listening—to ourselves as well as others—NVC helps us discover the depth of our own compassion. This language reveals the awareness that all human beings are only trying to honor universal values and needs, every minute, every day.

NVC can be seen as both a spiritual practice that helps us see our common humanity, using our power in a way that honors everyone’s needs and a concrete set of skills that help us create life-serving families and communities. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative.https://www.cnvc.org/

Insight Timer

This free app has guided meditations, a timer, and the option to show who else across the globe is meditating at the same time as you are.

Headspace App

This meditation app offers a free 10-day beginner’s course that guides you through the essentials of meditation and mindfulness.

SF Zen Center

The SF Zen Center has in-person beginner’s introductions to meditation while also sharing videos of talks and teachings online.

Upaya Zen Center

Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico offers daily Zen meditation, weekly dharma talks, and programs on Buddhist teachings, art, neuroscience, and social engagement. The center also provides professional training for end-of-life-care and Buddhist chaplaincy.

Grief Support Resources

The Five Invitations

A website and book authored by Frank Ostaseski, the co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project. Based on Frank’s own experience of working in hospice care, he offers a unique, comforting, and practical wisdom on how to work and live alongside grief in your life.

Grief.com

A website created by David Kessler, one of the world’s foremost expert on grief and loss. It provides free resources on loss and grief, connections to grief groups and an overview of the Five stages of Grief.

Grieving Mindfully

In this book, the psychologist and Buddhist Sameet M. Kumar offers an alternative approach to grief: accepting and feeling it, and then using it as opportunity for growth and finding meaning. 

Help Guide: Grief and Loss

A page with advice on grief and loss and how to navigate it. This guide also offers links to other useful information in the “resources” section.

Wild Edge of Sorrow

In this book The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief, psychotherapist Francis Weller provides an essential guide for navigating the deep waters of sorrow and loss in a lyrical yet practical handbook.

Kara

A non-profit that offers a wealth of resources and services to support children, teens, families, and adults in the grieving process.

The Dinner Party

A collective of men and women in their 20’s – 30’s who’ve been touched by a significant loss who host dinner parties to share a meal and discuss loss, grief, death & dying.

Breathing Wind Podcast

Breathing Wind is a podcast about grief, parent loss, change, and healing. Founded by Sarah Davis, this podcast began as a collection of stories highlighting the shared experience of losing parents at a young(er) age. Season Two’s focus is on healing.

Support and Resources for Family Caregivers

Family Caregiver Alliance

This non-profit’s mission is to improve the quality of life for caregivers and the people who receive their care. Their website has an online learning center and links to many other resources such as in-person support groups.

Caregiver Action Network

CAN (the National Family Caregivers Association) provides articles, videos, and peer support to family caregivers across the country free of charge. They cover a broad range of topics from practicalities such as medication and nutrition management, to caregiver self-care to navigation of the medical system.

Better Health While Aging

Better Health While Aging provides actionable information for older adults and family caregivers, grounded in what geriatricians believe to be optimal healthcare for older adults.

AgingCare

A website to support families. The site has an active online forum where caregivers can share their experience and learn from others by asking questions, giving answers, or participating in a group discussion.

Alzheimer’s Association

For those caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s, this website has clear and easy to access information on practical and emotional elements of caregiving.

American Cancer Association

The caregiver page of the website has an interactive caregiver resource guide, articles, and videos on cancer-related caregiver topics, online communities, and links to other support groups. 

AARP Local Caregiver Resource Guides

AARP has put together local resource guides showing what support is available for family caregivers in different states and different cities.

Imerman Angels

Imerman Angels support cancer fighters, survivors, previvors and caregivers by matching them with a “Mentor Angel” – a cancer survivor or caregiver who has faced the same type of cancer and who can answer questions and provide one-to-one support.

Next Step In Care

Next Step In Care provides written guides and videos for family caregivers that help them through any medical treatment – from visiting the family doctor, trips to ER, hospitalization and discharge and Homecare.

Companioa from the Institute on Aging

A paid-for service, to support caregivers of loved ones with dementia. This service pairs you with a personal “Care Coach”, a trained dementia expert. The Care Coach helps assess your loved one’s needs, map out a care plan and meet with you bi-monthly to discuss the plan and your needs.

RAISE

On September 22, 2021, the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Act Family Caregiving Advisory Council delivered its initial report to Congress.  It includes a comprehensive review of the current state of family caregiving and 26 recommendations for how the federal government, states, tribes, territories, and communities—in partnership with the private sector—can better Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage family caregivers. 

Download the RAISE Family Caregivers Act Initial Report to Congress.

To learn more about how the council developed this report, check out the Implementing the RAISE Family Caregivers Act factsheet.

How Do I Start My Advance Care Planning?

Advanced Planning

Coalition for Compassionate Care of California

This resource shares conversation tools for advance care planning, advance directives, and answers to your frequently asked questions.

Compassion and Choices

This interactive site provides templates, resources, and toolkits to help you with planning for your future care. Spanish versions of all site documents are also available.

Prepare for Your Care

The Prepare for Your Care website caters to people with minimal to no computer experience. They walk visitors through basic advance care planning steps with prompts and videos to help people get started. The website is also available in Spanish.

Five Wishes

A program of Aging with Dignity, Five Wishes is a booklet ( paper or online) that guides you through planning for end of life. It also facilitates conversations with family and friends about your future medical, spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. It is America’s most popular living will, with more than 35 million copies in circulation.

The Conversation Project

The Conversation Project® is a public engagement initiative with a goal that is both simple and transformative: to have every person’s wishes for end-of-life care expressed and respected. The Conversation Project believes that the place for this to begin is at the kitchen table—not in the intensive care unit—with the people we love before it’s too late. The Conversation Project offers tools, guidance, and resources to begin talking with loved ones about yours and their wishes.

Five Useful Resources to Learn About and Explore Palliative and End-of-Life Care

A Beginners Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death

Written by BJ Miller (a previous Zen Hospice Project Executive Director) and Shoshana Berger, Director at IDEO, this book is a practical guide to approaching the end of life. It includes instructions on everything from navigating the health care system, to talking to your children about your will, to writing a great eulogy.

Get Palliative Care

This website provides clear and comprehensive information on palliative care for people living with a serious illness, or those caring for them. It includes detailed descriptions of what palliative care does and how to access it, videos and podcasts on the topic, and a directory of Palliative Care providers across the US. 

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO)

Part of the NHPCO’s website, the Patient and Caregiver pages provide free resources on a range of topics, including deciding palliative care, hospice care, advance care planning, caregiving, and loss. Their resources are practical, clear, and easy to read.  

Compassion and Choices

This interactive site provides templates, resources, and toolkits to help you with planning for your future care. Spanish versions of all site documents are also available.

HospiceDirectory.org

Sponsored by the Hospice Foundation of America, HospiceDirectory.org provides a national database to locate hospices by location and/or name, as well as links to additional information for both caregivers and patients.

List of Resources on Loss, Death & Dying

Facing our own death, or that of a friend or family member, often elicits powerful emotions. To support us through this process Zen Caregiving Project have created a list of webinars, blogs, articles and websites that focus on death, dying and grief.

We hope these resources are helpful and encourage you to share them with anyone you feel may benefit from them.

Exploring Death and Dying

Want to talk about death? You’re not alone. This page lists a number of organizations and websites that explore death from all angles, and encourage discussion around loss and death.

Grief Support Resources

Coping with grief can be painful and challenging. Here we provide some resources and links to other organizations that can support you in your grieving process.

A List to Reduce Work for Your Next-of-Kin

In this blog, Donna Woodward, a hospice volunteer, shares a useful checklist and templates to help us get our affairs in order before we die, reducing work for those who survive us.

Five approaches for caregivers to work with loss and grief

A blog by Zen Caregiving Project sharing mindfulness and compassion-based approaches to managing loss and grief.

Webinar on Working Mindfully with Grief

In this ZCP webinar we explore ways that mindfulness can help us truly experience the grief that is present for us, allowing us to accept more and suffer less.

Caregiver Corner: Working with Loss

This recording for Caring Across Generation’s Caregiver Corner shares techniques and practices for managing losses, big and small.

Podcast on Dying and Death in the Zen Tradition On Shapes of Grief

In this podcast, our Executive Director, Roy Remer, speaks about death and dying in the Zen tradition.

Explaining the Bathing Ritual

The bathing ritual, in which a body is bathed after the person has died, has been a part of Zen Caregiving Project’s rituals since it was founded. This blog explains its significance as a grief ritual.