Talking about death won’t kill you, LOL!

Depositphotos_14013050_l-2015I recently spoke at a business networking luncheon attended by 80 people. My topic was “Who Will Check My Email When I Die?”

I worried that no one would want to come hear me talk about death, especially when it started snowing that morning. But they did! And they loved it. I could tell because they nodded, and laughed, and told me later that they had started conversations with their loved ones about virtual wills and such. Mission accomplished!

Here are some of the ways people reacted to my topic before-hand:

“What do I care who will check my email? I won’t be there.” No, you won’t, but do you really want to burden your loved ones with things they don’t know what to do with, and without a will to guide them? Won’t they be grieving your loss enough as it is without adding a bunch of work and tough decisions to their workload?

“Are you trying to tell us something?” Yes. I am. We all are going to die at some point. So we might as well be prepared, no?

“But…don’t you organize closets, and garages, and such?” Yes. I do…although, I prefer home offices… in part because they are attached to closets and garages and such! And why do you think some of my clients call me to help them? They want to make their own lives easier while they are living, of course, but they also don’t want to leave a big pile of clutter for their loved ones to have to deal with if something should happen to them…which it will…eventually.

I think of these things as a gift to one’s family:

  • A regular will and a virtual will …extra credit for writing your own obituary and planning your own memorial service!
  • A frank discussion of end-of-life issues (both your wishes and theirs)
  • A legacy you can take pride in (rather than a pile of clutter no one knows what to do with)
  • Memories in the form of organized photos and labeled keepsakes …a well-documented family history is a bonus!

Maybe if you think of them as a gift too, you will be more willing to take action…?

My interest in illness, death, emergencies, keepsakes, and legacies is nothing new. To prove it, I have gathered together all of my related blog posts, and a number of other resources, into a new Legacy Resource Roundup to help you navigate this sometimes uncomfortable topic. My talk at the recent luncheon consisted of elements from many of these same resources.

Do you have a virtual will? Are you organized for your legacy? Is this a taboo topic of discussion in your family?

Please share in the comments below!

Copyright 2016 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
Social media links directly to this page are encouraged!
Please contact me for other types of reprint permission.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
(Visited 430 times, 1 visits today)


  1. Such an important message Hazel, and you just reminded me to ask the client I was working with yesterday whose parents died suddenly, days apart, if they have access to their parents online social media.

  2. This is a great article and I love the Legacy Resource Roundup! My dad died in 2014, and he did a pretty good job with most of it, but I have yet to memorialize his Facebook page because he used a fake name and I never knew his password. I have vowed I will make sure I’ve got everything organized for my daughter.

    • Thanks, Fancy! I’m sorry to hear about your dad, but glad you’ll be leaving (someday) a plan for your daughter….and a lot of organized photos, I’ll bet!

  3. One of my friends passed away recently, and fortunately his wife remembered that I had a website, because all the phone numbers are on his cell phone, and she didn’t know the lock code. Presumably that means she also can’t do anything with his many online accounts either. So I know how important this stuff is!

    • I think it is inevitable that we all will be running into stuff like this. Even if you let someone know your password, when you change it you have to remember to update them and/or your notes/spreadsheet/app. Fortunately companies are starting to recognize the need and provide tools for it (Facebook and LastPass being two of them).

  4. After my father’s death, I was responsible for the estate so while I didn’t dealing with the loss I also created checklists to help me out. When my mom passed two years later, I was able to deal with her estate as well. This time it was easier. After this experience, my husband and I revised our well and setup checklists and spreadsheet that have all our digital content in it. It is such a piece of mine. Glad your presentation when well. Thanks for sharing.

    • What a gift to your family, Sabrina! Hopefully none of us will have to settle enough personal estates to truly become an expert!

  5. I’ve experienced many losses of loved ones including friends, colleagues, clients, and family. The idea of leaving your loved ones with a “gift,” is so true. When someone passes, it’s a stressful time filled with grief. When our loved ones have prepared their things and affairs, it helps lift some of the burden and sadness.

    When they don’t prepare, resentments build and stress increases. I’ve been through many different scenarios (best to worst.)

    It IS a difficult topic. We’re all going to die. It’s hard to talk about it because we’re so busy living. As organizers we have the opportunity to help our clients make the now and the later better. We can help be part of the gift.

    Thank you for writing about this, Hazel.

  6. When my Dad passed away 6 years ago, it was a slow process and we were able to access and change over all his accounts before he died. Thankfully that process also helped my mom get her legacy items together. It will make things easier for me and my sister when the time comes. Thanks for the important reminder.

  7. Such an important topic. I think it’s the greatest gift we can give our children – dealing with these issues before they become their burden.

    • I don’t know if it’s the GREATEST gift…I’m thinking keeping them alive for a couple of decades and raising them to be responsible, happy adults is pretty huge…but, yeah. Lots of aging parents say they don’t want to be a burden, but they don’t think of after-death stuff like this.

  8. I just attended a funeral yesterday, Hazel, so your post is very timely. And I love that you pulled all your related resources into a Legacy Roundup! So very practical and helpful!

  9. Spot on Hazel! I think having everything in order before we die is the best gift we can leave to our family – one they won’t appreciate until much later! I’m sure you’re talk was just as great!

  10. I hope & trust this finds you & your families in the best of health & happiness.

    I just stumbled across this article through Facebook;-) I didn’t know your many talents extended to thanatology! Besides your article, I also stumbled today across a thanatologist in your town by the name of Gail Rubin. Ever heard of her? Just in case, here’s her website I figure you two could change the world together:-) Good luck!

    • Hi Shmuel, wow, new word for me, thanatology! I met Gail Rubin last month at my talk entitled “Who Will Check My Email When I Die?”…!

Leave a Reply