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Who Were You?

What words would best describe how I want to be remembered?

I was recently asked to write what I wanted to be on my tombstone. It was an exercise during a professional development course. I was limited to twenty words. We were told these words would be a summary of our obituaries. They would let future generations know who I was. Holy smoke! I am rarely at a loss for words, but I found myself frozen, staring into space--"how will I be remembered?" "How do I want to be remembered?" And, just as important, "what are to best words to best describe how I want to be remembered?"

Then, like a bolt of lightning, it hit me--Bob, practice what you preach. I needed to stop worrying about the inevitable, and just prepare for it. I cannot control how people will remember me. But, I can control how I live my life. And, we all have the ability to control our obituary. So why not make it a way of sharing your life story, of communicating information about significant events and people, as well as important values you would like to impart to others. Control what is written about you. Prepare it now while you are living, clear-minded, and focused. Writing your own obituary can be an important part of your estate planning that you can do today. Do not leave this task for grieving family members to do after you pass away. That is not fair to you or to them.

Estate Planning Is not Just about Money and Property

When estate planning is mentioned, it is not unusual for a will or a trust to come to mind first. Wills and trusts are among the most common estate planning tools for transferring your belongings and money to your loved ones. But money and property are not the only forms of wealth you have accumulated over your lifetime. You have many stories, lessons, experiences, and values to share. You may also want to acknowledge influential family members, loved ones, friends, and other people who have played an important part in your life. Your obituary is also a great opportunity for you to ensure that you are remembered in the way you wish.

What Should You Include?

Because your obituary is all about you, you can emphasize any aspects of your life you wish. There is no correct format, so you are free to tell your story in the way you feel most comfortable, showcasing your personality. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing: