Navigating the logistics of death ahead of time

Adam Seifer and Abby Schneiderman founded Everplans to guide people through an end-of-life plan and provide a place to store everything. The site approaches life's last big event in the same way you might plan a wedding or another major occasion: It walks users through what an end-of-life and estate plan should include, provides a place to store everything and goes as far as offering reviews on funeral homes and nearby restaurants. It will also handle the invitation.

The number of end-of-life planning and document storage sites is on the rise, like AfterSteps.com and PrincipledHeart.com Other websites deal with a specific piece of planning, such as online memorials, sending emails from the grave or what should happen to your Facebook account. Here's a closer look at how some of them work:

Everplans

The site, which is easy to use, is surely one of the most comprehensive. When you set up an account, you start by taking a short assessment to see how much planning you've already done, and why you're there. Recently have a child? Caring for an aging parent? Based on that information, the service creates a to-do checklist, and tells you how to prioritize. It might suggest filling out vital personal information first, then creating a will and naming a health care power of attorney.

Once you're done, the account serves as a repository for just about everything: financial accounts and legal documents; where to find your Social Security card and life insurance policy; how to close the cable television account, to name but a few. There's also room to share life lessons or an explanation of why your will was written a certain way. If you already have a contract with a funeral home or crematorium, you can upload that, too.

How and when do your loved ones get access? You assign specific "deputies" for your plan, so they can find everything neatly in one place.

Much of the site is free, but if you want to upload documents and have more than one deputy, the service costs $35 annually. The co-founders promise that, even if the company is sold in the future, they are working on a system that would allow people to gain access to their plans for at least the next 50 years.

Principled Heart

This site, 6 months old, is the brainchild of William Bissett, a certified financial planner at Pinnacle Advisory Group. He created the site to answer a common question that his clients asked: So, where do we keep all of this stuff? And how will my children know what to do?

Bissett said he took a minimalist's approach, encouraging people to keep only what was necessary, including passwords or instructions on where to find passwords for financial accounts, social media and other accounts. A section is dedicated to instructions for pets, a "last letter of instruction," people to contact, as well as a place to upload up to 60 documents (and soon, up to 40 photos). You can also give a financial adviser read-only access to certain accounts.

Three people are required to validate the account owner's death, and then the site, which costs $45 a year for up to one gigabyte of storage, will provide access to all the information stored inside to the named beneficiaries.

AfterSteps

This service, created by Jessica Bloomgarden while she was at Harvard Business School, begins by asking you to name three verifiers. These are the people who will be notified in the event of your death and will get access to all the information stored on the site.

The site's layout is simple and clean, and it offers some guidance along the way. After entering the basics, you enter the legal section, where you can upload your will and let others know where to find it.

If you don't have a will or a financial power of attorney, and you live in certain places, AfterSteps will let you upload free basic forms issued by your state. Like the other sites, it provides a spot for other legal forms. You can also store passwords and instructions for digital accounts, upload photos and share wishes for your funeral arrangements, among other things.

The site requires a credit card at sign-up — it costs $60 a year or $299 for life — but there is a free 14-day trial period.

Navigating the logistics of death ahead of time 04/04/14 [Last modified: Sunday, April 6, 2014 6:32pm]

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