SENIORLIFESTYLE/ISSUES – DECEMBER 2008/JANUARY 2009
How to “wrap up” a deceased person’s home is not a subject or topic of discussion commonly found in schools or at many dinner tables around Australia.
In fact, it’s a subject that Gold Coast author Diana Todd-Banks says most people avoid like the plague.
However, finalising a lifetime’s worth of personal and financial effects of a deceased loved one is something that many of us, at one time or another, may have to do.
So just how do you prepare for this stage of life and where do you start in the wrapping up process?
Diana, author of Wrapping It Up – The Ultimate Guide (Now Closing the Final Chapter), asked herself these same questions 10 years ago when her mother was found dead in her apartment days after death.
Upon returning from the holiday, the building manager noticed a pile of newspapers outside Diana’s mother’s door.
Unable to reach her, he called a locksmith, the sad discovery was made and Diana was notified.
“This image of my mother dying alone was a very powerful, sad and haunting experience that I’ll never forget,” Diana wrote in her book.
Speaking to Senior Lifestyle Bayside, Diana said a hasty flight from Cairns to Adelaide gave her time to think about the task ahead of her and she had expected to find “loads of information” that would tell her how to wrap up her mother’s affairs.
She found the exact opposite, however, and, although she had helped in dealing with the life possessions of two other people, the enormity of carrying out this task for her mother, which she had to do alone, suddenly dawned on her.
“My immediate action when I was in Adelaide was to go straight to bookshops, but I found nothing, “Diana said.
“They started searching for me.
“They couldn’t find anything.
“They called libraries.
“I had some good friends I know who were really good at searching the Internet.
“I didn’t have time to do that so they searched for me and found nothing.”
In her book, she writes “Back in my hotel room and all alone, many questions raced through my mind, all of which needed answers.
“Where do you start? What do you do? Why do you notify? What do you keep? What do you throw away? What do you give away? Are there any legalities involved? How would I deal with the irrational behaviour of others? Who would that be?
Unable to find answers, Diana wondered how people who were stressed and grieving knew what to do with items not mentioned in a person’s will.
After wrapping up her mother’s life and home, learning as she went, Diana, having worked as a professional writer, decided to write a book that would help others in similar circumstances know what to do and how to do it.
Realising the book would require a lot more information than her own experience of wrapping up, she created a research website.
“It took me months just to work out the questions,” Diana said.
“I had my lawyer look at it; I had accountants look at it and I had lay people look at it.”
It then took four years of research and writing, which included the involvement of not only lawyers and accountants but also of a doctor, financial advisors, funeral directors, celebrants and dementia care consultants.
The result is a comprehensive guide to finalising a deceased person’s affairs.
Divided into easy-to-read, sensitively written sections and chapters that cover topics as diverse as pets, families, pins and passwords, important documents, golden rules for wrapping up, and what to do if you find something shocking or unexpected, the book leaves no stone unturned.
Readers will also find information on grief, stress and nutrition by contributing author Dr Veronica Griffin, a chapter especially for men, more than 200 personal anecdotes and one-liners, and an easy-to-locate master checklist for wrapping up.
“The book is as important for people today of an adult age as for a mature person,” Diana said.
“They need to look at some of the issues I raise and they need to be responsible for their own personal life and those of their family.”
Diana said there were so many complex issues when a person dies that the sooner people realise hey have to face the reality of death, the sooner they could be at ease, knowing they were prepared.
“People have to confront the future,” Diana said.
“Until they confront the future and do something about it they’re not going to really be at peace within themselves.”