My Dad Is Dead. His Landlord Just Evicted Him.

A jumble of complicated and unexpected logistical tasks can fall into your lap after a loved one dies.

By Stephanie H. Murray

When my father’s heart stopped, I had no choice but to keep moving. He had lived alone, and I understood that managing the logistics of his death—planning his funeral, settling his debts, divvying up his belongings—would be an enormous task. Those looming practical matters infuriated me; I hated that my world-shattering news had not, in fact, shattered the world. It kept spinning along, so I did too. I got the news on a Thursday; flew from my home in the United Kingdom to his home in Savannah, Georgia, on Saturday; and headed to his apartment with my sister on Monday to begin tying up the loose ends of his life. We didn’t have a key to his apartment, but my sister knew the building receptionist and was sure she’d let us in under the circumstances.

Instead, she turned us away. I began to panic: How would we get his suit for the funeral? How would we figure out if he had
life insurance that we could use to pay for the funeral? When would we be allowed to empty his apartment, and would I still be in the country by then?

I had never been to my father’s apartment before—I moved overseas in the fall of 2019, two months before my dad moved to Savannah and six months before the coronavirus pandemic thwarted my plans to visit family—but it hurt to be treated like a stranger there. I wanted to rifle through the artifacts of his life and sink into the happier memories their presence conjured. To sit with whatever remnants of my dad lingered among his belongings. To reclaim what little I could of the visit that COVID had denied me. And I resented the receptionist standing guard at the door to ensure that I didn’t.

I felt certain that there was some misunderstanding, but the only error was mine. Any permission I’d had to rummage through my father’s things had died with him. Successfully navigating the process, referred to as probate, for getting that permission back can be tricky and usually requires the help of a lawyer. Even then, things don’t always go as expected—which is how I ended up collecting my father’s belongings from the sidewalk when he was evicted almost three months after he died.

My circumstances felt bizarre, but it’s not unusual for a jumble of complicated and unexpected logistical tasks to fall into a person’s lap after a loved one dies. Stephanie Handel, a grief and trauma psychotherapist at the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing, in Washington, D.C., told me about pamphlets that the center used to provide recently bereaved people, detailing the enormous list of things they’d need to do in the following weeks and months: contact Social Security, find burial assistance (if they were eligible for it), publish an obituary, order death certificates, contact employers and banks, shut down social-media accounts, cancel subscriptions, handle medical paperwork, hire an attorney, pay taxes. “It’s an intellectually and psychologically challenging task. And it’s a task that you have to undertake when you’re not at your best,” R. Benyamin Cirlin, the executive director of the Center for Loss and Renewal, in New York City, told me.

What I learned after losing my father was that the laws protecting a dead person’s property are surprisingly robust. If he’s made prior arrangements, the ownership of some of his things will transfer automatically. Banks, for example, allow clients to name a “payable on death” beneficiary on some accounts. In almost all cases, practically everything else—even clothing and silverware—must go through probate before anyone can legally claim it. The fact that my father had a will that named me as his executor did not allow my sister and me to sidestep this process. “The will is just a piece of paper until the probate court has verified it,” Gerry W. Beyer, an estate attorney and a professor at Texas Tech University’s School of Law, told me.

The probate process varies by state and even by county, but it generally involves tracking down an original will and getting any “heirs-at-law”—usually the spouse and children—to acknowledge it. If all goes smoothly, probating a will might take a couple of weeks. But any hiccups—say the original will can’t be found, or a pandemic overwhelms the probate-court system—can slow the process down. And if an eligible heir contests the will, probate can take years, Gregory Matalon, an estate attorney based in New York, told me. In the meantime, the deceased person’s things are in a kind of legal limbo and, except in rare circumstances, no one’s supposed to touch them.

Of course, in many cases, people touch them anyway. Family members take what they want of their relative’s heirlooms and donate the rest. Landlords may pressure a deceased tenant’s family to clear out his apartment. When it comes to items of little personal or monetary value, jumping the gun on probate is rarely a problem, the Ohio-based attorney Joan Burda told me, but prematurely making off with cherished or expensive items can lead to legal trouble down the road. For that reason, some landlords won’t allow anyone into a deceased tenant’s apartment without court approval. Our lawyer advised us to halt my father’s rent payments in the hopes that his building would relax this requirement. If my father was evicted, our lawyer reasoned, we could take his things when his apartment was being emptied.

There are some good reasons to protect a dead person’s belongings—you wouldn’t want the wrong person walking away with their prized possessions—but the rigidity of the process can create nightmares for loved ones with good intentions. One woman I spoke with had to take nine months off work to help her elderly father manage his late wife’s estate—he was the official executor but was unable to manage the task on his own.

These logistical headaches can shape the experience of grief in a variety of ways, Cirlin told me. Sometimes, the people saddled with the practical matters sideline their emotions for a while, which can seem strange to outside observers and can be unsettling for the bereaved themselves. People can feel like “Why am I not crying right now?” Handel explained. “But there are things that need to be done, which means that your ability to be present for your own feelings in some ways needs to be halted.” For others, these responsibilities can heighten grief. Filling out paperwork or donating clothing can serve as “another window into the fact that your whole reality has changed,” as Cirlin put it. Someone may feel they’ve found their footing in the aftermath of loss only for one of these innocuous tasks to pull them back into grief. Especially when the process doesn’t go smoothly—if a loved one’s paperwork is poorly organized, for example, or probate unveils unpleasant information about them—the ugliness of these chores can complicate the fond memories and rosy narratives we want to walk away with. “It’s hard to sit with resentment when you’re missing someone,” Cirlin said.

My father’s apartment building never relented, but with the help of our attorney, we did arrange a supervised visit to search for the will and pick up my dad’s suit. (An assistant property manager for the building declined to comment on specifics of the case, but noted, “Generally we are not allowed to provide individuals who are not on the lease with access to an apartment even if they are related to the resident. We try to work with family members of a deceased resident to allow them to obtain their loved one’s belongings. Our actions were taken with direction from, and in coordination with, the family’s attorney.”)

We couldn’t find his original will, but we printed a copy from his computer and then folded the lone suit hanging in his closet into a grocery bag, along with a pair of black sneakers. My sister slipped a plastic rosary from his bedside into the pocket of his jacket, and as she glanced over her shoulder to make sure the receptionist wasn’t watching, we both began to laugh, quietly and tearfully, at the absurdity of the circumstances. If his estate had anything of value, it wasn’t in that apartment. American property law stood between us and a crusty baseball cap sitting crumpled on the counter, a poem I’d written for him on his birthday that he’d printed and tacked to the wall in his office, a hundred worn books that his excessive underlining had rendered worthless to anyone but us.

On our way out, the receptionist gingerly peeked into our bag to ensure that we hadn’t taken anything we shouldn’t have and then escorted us to our car, where she reminded us that we’d be welcome back once we had the proper documentation.

He was evicted before we got it. Mercifully, the assistant property manager let us know the date and time in advance, so we hired movers to collect my father’s things and put them in storage. But when we arrived to get his belongings off the sidewalk, some of them had been damaged. An open bottle of Drano had soaked the contents of one bag. The praying hands of a statue of Our Lady of Fátima that my parents had gotten on their honeymoon had cracked off her arms. And there was nothing I could do about it, because the laws designed to ensure that my father’s things ended up safely in my possession had exhausted their reach.

“I think, very sadly, what you’re learning is that grief is very messy,” Handel said. It’s inextricably bound up with the tedium and absurdity of human existence. It may be triggered by death, but grief is a province of the living. And life goes on.

Complete Article HERE!

Planning for death can bring peace of mind

By: Cynthia Breadner

“All that lives must die, passing through nature to eternity.”
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2

Today is a day of earned celebration as Italy takes home the cup for their big win playing soccer, or as it is called elsewhere “football”. As I watch the news recounting the celebrations, it is with joy I watched people together in community with a common goal to be celebrating and sharing the love of a sport or activity. Being alone, or solo is not how we are meant to be. We are social beings and in the animal kingdom, this is evident when all things gather.

That said, as the pandemic has continued, our ability to watch or stream online programming at home offers so much entertainment people may not notice they are alone! One can feel they have friends when watching three, four, five, or even 10 seasons of a program all in one swoop. The characters become your friends. I remember a fantasy movie from my childhood or youth, where a person is standing before a wall of screens and has a script in their hand. They are an actor in a drama from their own living room. That is all I remember and if anyone can identify this drama, I would love to know the name of it. Regardless of that, our choices of entertainment with the addition of NetFlix, Amazon Prime, CTV streaming, GlobalTV streaming, and CBC GEM no one can say they are bored. The world is one’s oyster searching for that pearl of enjoyment. Is this good? I am unsure. Entertaining, yes! Good? My jury is still out.

One of the downsides to so much viewing entertainment, I find my body is stiff. My back and sit muscles sometimes feel the stress of sitting in one place for too long. Evidence that I watch too much! However, I wonder what else can I do in a time where we are constantly threatened and reminded to keep our distance. It seems we are pushed into a solitary life. The chair where I sit has become my friend and my place of comfort and a companion that feels safe and easy. This action in my life is a reminder of when my mom died, and we cleaned out the house where she had lived for over 40 years. I took the sofa she had purchased recently for my own new apartment. I had lived in one room with a bed, out of my car, and transient for a few years going to school and ended it with staying with her in my childhood home, providing companionship and care. In the fall of 2009, I was heading to Toronto to begin the Masters program and as a family, we decided to prepare mom for a move into formal care in the fall when I moved to the city. I was 50 years old that summer and, with grown adult children, was quite alone in the world. As the youngest child of my mother, I was the only one able to live with her and not leave others alone at home. My self-discovery in this journey was huge.

I discovered how much my mother depended on the television as her entertainment and this was pre-streaming, pre-NefFlix, pre-online. She had a satellite dish so was blessed with many choices, yet she always landed on the same programs. The couch I sat on in my new apartment always transported me back to the vision of her perched on the edge watching her “story” (The Young and the Restless), ready at a commercial, to fly out of the room and peel the potatoes or stir the soup. This newer sofa replaced one that had broken down in the one spot where she sat. This new sofa had the indent of her bottom ever so lightly that it gave me comfort. I could believe her spirit was sitting there making this indent long after she was gone. Little did I realize how much I would miss her when she was gone. I was warned. A warning I did not take to heart. I ignored it and guffawed at the possibility I would never miss my mother, I said, rolling my eyes. That said, after her death and 12 years later I still miss her so much.

This sofa represented her alone time after dad died. It also represented the years before he died. The times where she felt so guilty watching TV when she thought she should be busy with something else. The hours she watched and enjoyed this new type of entertainment that came to her later in life. Mom and dad did not even have a television until the late ’50s and so for her, it was still a novel idea and something new! As I looked at the sofa now in my living room I could return to my vision of her perched on the sofa watching her favourite programs. On the 26” floor model console along with her story, she watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. She caught up on the news and her favourite in later years was Reba and Everybody Loves Raymond. I can remember and see her watching The Price is Right every morning from 11 – noon and just when the winner of the showcase was announced she would jump up and fly out to the transistor radio on the kitchen counter and turn it on to hear the funeral announcements from CFOS in Owen Sound. If there were any, they would be announced precisely at 11:56 a.m. right before the noon news. Her timing was impeccable, and her routine was solid. As she listened dad would slide open the patio screen door or push open the sticky wooden door coming from the “back” kitchen, home for lunch from the apple orchard. He would hang his hat on the same peg, sit in the same chair, and lunch prayers would be said over a sandwich and a coffee.

We moved to the house in Heathcote in 1970 when I was 11 years old. My mom and dad both died while living there. Mom’s last days were the same routine even though she could no longer jet from the television room to the radio she still managed to time it right, so she never missed the funeral announcements. She would push her walker out to the kitchen during the last commercial break at about 11:45 of The Price is Right, return and watch the end of her show, then as the music started indicating the announcements, she would push her walker back out to the kitchen and listen as she slowly walked. I often wondered if she pined to hear her own name to escape the loneliness. Both she and dad died in LTC very shortly after leaving this home. My dad died within three or four months of moving and mom was only officially there for three weeks. While mom was able to watch her favourite programs in her last days, she did so while staring out the window into a parking lot, sharing a room with a stranger. They stayed in their home for as long as we thought possible. I see now with what I know, they could have both stayed at home longer if I knew then what I know now.

As I watch my own favourite programs and sit in the quiet of my solitary life, and I wonder what my third trimester will look like. I feel closer to my parents and my older siblings as we all age. Fear sets in as I interact in LTC with all the aging and watch their lives in our current care pattern. Each and every person has my mother’s face and I spend quality time caring for them with a gentle voice and a song if they cannot talk to me, I sing to them. I wonder what care will look like in 25 years when I need it. What I do know is something must change, I am just not sure how to change it. How do you turn the Titanic? We all know that story and our elder care system is the Titanic, quietly cruising in the dark, straight towards disaster because no one knows how to fix it. I do my part staying the course and will go down with the ship, because this ship will go down, taking the frail, the elderly, and the delirious with it.

To not leave this pondering in such a dark place I want to offer some hope. Hope begins with the family unit. How does one die at home? With planning and care. With a community of care and conversation. I was afraid and I was angry when my parents needed me. I thought my life was more important than their last few years. I wish now I had given what was needed to make their last days as beautiful as I could. That said, I want to help others plan for end of life. As we plan for the birth of a baby with joy and beauty, we can do the same for the birth of a soul into the next life. Letting go and the best care possible is at hand. The current system is broken, so be the change you want to see in the world, begin now to plan for your own end of life, and talk with your aging loved ones about what to do when their time comes. If I can do nothing else but bring awareness to choose education and passion around end-of-life care I will be happy. There is always a choice, and good planning for a good death brings joy and peace in the years to come. As the next few years of an aging population who will be demanding and more financially prepared than ever before, let’s work together to make a good death possible. It is not “if” we die it is “when” we die, and embracing death as the next adventure and heading there with acceptance and joy is how life can be lived fully. Our lives are a program that will be in reruns in the memories of those who knew us. When they watch will they watch with love or regret? Be the director of your own movie and make it a love story to be remembered and have people watch it so often they leave a dent in the couch where their bum has been.

Complete Article HERE!

National Healthcare Decisions Day

The COVID-19 crisis has heightened the awareness of mortality for all of us, not just the elderly or people with underlying conditions. April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day created to inspire, educate and empower the public and providers about the importance of advance care planning. It is a reminder to make or update our healthcare wishes, our Advance Care Plans, for the end of life.

Advance Care Planning is a process of reflection, documentation and deep discussion of treatment preferences in the event that you are unable to speak for yourself. This planning involves the completion of your advance directives, most commonly a living will and the appointment of a Power of Attorney to act as your health-care decision-maker. This will help ensure that providers honor your wishes for end-of-life care if you cannot speak for yourself.

Compassion & Choices is a nonprofit organization, dedicated to the expansion of end-of-life planning and options. Free online resources, including the End of Life Decision Guide and COVID-19 Toolkit, available in English and Spanish, and the Dementia Directive, are available at www.compassionandchoices.org. These simple tools can help people open up these difficult yet important conversations about their end-of-life wishes with family, friends and health-care providers.

You’re going to die.

So now what are you going to do about it?

By

My position on death? I’m against it.

That said, I will concede I lose that argument, and that moreover, my opinion has never even mattered. Die I will.

And I am not alone in this — you will die, too. After all, death, darn it, just happens. Globally, about 65 million people die each year, 180 per day, 120 each minute. 108 billion people have walked the planet, and then died. That’s a lotta dying, and while it’s incredibly difficult and tragic — this last year especially so — that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it. Avoidance is not a solution.

Indeed, I’d argue that death is a grand mystery — sacred and important — and this last physical act of our lives can either go pretty well, like a graceful well-rehearsed piano solo or free-throw, or it can go pretty darn badly. Some of how it plays out is beyond our control, but not all of it. Some of it we can prepare for — and if anything deserves our full attention, some preparation, or some renewed clarity, death might be it.

So, the deal is: Tax Day is April 15. But I’d argue the real task — and probably the less miserable one — is to get our stuff in order for Healthcare Decisions Day, which is April 16.

I know: no one wants to do it.

I know: you’re probably starting to X out this essay, or skim it, or scowl at it.

But I’m begging you — and so are your peeps — to take a few hours now in order to save them potentially hundreds of hours. Yes, hundreds of hours. And possibly a lifetime of regret or heartache.

Getting basic and important documents done, and your simple wishes on paper, can literally be your great parting gift.

We all knew someone who left behind a mess — and we all promised ourselves not to be that person. Which means we have to set aside some time and get this stuff done.

First, there’s the medical and legal stuff – Advance Directives and a will – and making sure they’re done, signed, and accessible (they’re really no help if no one can find them). Plus, heck, just leave a note with a trusted person about where some of your stuff is and what you basically want done with it. A great place to start is The Conversation Project.

But in my death-positive work (stemming from my book Making Friends with Death: A Guide to your Impending Last Breath), I advocate writing an ethical will, too — what you stood for, your best and worst times, any reckoning or forgiving or venting or whatever you need to do.

Basically, it’s a “Goodbye letter to life,” if you will. My guess is that doing so will bring you a lot of peace, and will provide peace to those around you, too. Ideally, you don’t want to write this when you’re under duress – write it when you’re feeling great, write it on a lovely spring day, write it on April 16!

Finally, our last task is to advocate simple and direct communication about end-of-life care with those that will likely be involved with it. What looks good to you? What do you want to avoid, if possible? Get clear on what “a good death” looks like for you. Me? I’ve come to believe that a good death is simply one that has been claimed, to the extent possible. For me, that will involve: My medical wishes and decisions being respected (such as my DNR wishes being followed); I would like to die outside, or with a view of nature; I’d like to be with my children and loved ones, if possible; I’d like to be as fully informed about what’s going on, to the extent possible; I want people to be honest with me and I want to be honest with them; and I wouldn’t mind the smell of vanilla or sage and a taste of good whiskey on my lips. Such wishes are written down in about 10 different places, all accessible; my children roll their eyes when I bring it up and say, “Yes, yes, we know, Mom.”

What does yours look like? And who have you told?

Completely bizarre to me is this: A recent Pew Research Center study on end-of life issues found that less than half of people over 75 had given much thought to the end of their lives, and incredibly, only 22% of them had written down or talked to someone about medical treatment at the end of their lives. However, the same Pew study finds a sharp increase in all adults putting something in writing (six in 10 of us) and thinking through our deaths, which indicates that percentage-wise, it’s the slightly younger folks who are preparing now. Attitudes are shifting, too: an unprecedented 66% of us now think there are instances in which doctors should allow a patient to die (instead of doing everything possible to save a patient’s life). A tipping point, it seems to me, has been reached—and we’d like a more mindful, respectful death. We are reclaiming the ancient art of dying.

But there is much to be done. Indeed, though our culture is death-avoidant and confused, I am heartened by the increasingly popular “Death Cafés” and new movements such as “Slow Medicine,” and I’m grateful for April 16, which is the day we should all admit that our life belongs to us, but it also belongs to everyone we interact with, and we owe them the gift of directing an honest gaze at our demise.

But best of all, spending some time now might leave us thinking of death as more of a friend rather than a spooky stranger. With our newfound peace, we can then spend our precious time really living.

Complete Article HERE!

End of life planning

— starting difficult conversations

What do we mean by end of life planning?

End of life planning involves thinking in advance about your preferences and making decisions about the final months of your life. It can include:

  • deciding how you’d like to be cared for
  • thinking about where you’d prefer to die
  • making it clear if there are any treatments you don’t want to receive
  • putting your affairs in order by making a will
  • planning for your funeral.

Once you’ve thought about your wishes, it can help to share them with your close family so they’re aware of your preferences. However these conversations can bring about a range of emotions and starting them in the first place can be a real challenge. Here are some suggestions to help you begin the conversation around end of life planning with your loved ones.

Decide what you want to say

Take a bit of time to think about your wishes and exactly what you want to tell your loved ones. You might want to talk about the type of care you’d like to receive and any treatments you’d prefer not to be given. If you feel comfortable, you may want to let them know your preferences about where you’d like to die. As well as your future care, you may also want to talk about your funeral wishes and what you’d like to happen to your possessions. Make some notes on what you’d like to talk about – think about the things that matter to you most.

Choose the right time to talk

Have the conversation when you know what you’d like to say and, most importantly, when it feels right for you. You may want to let your family member or friend know in advance that you’d like to talk about end of life planning so it doesn’t come as too much of a shock for them when you bring it up.

If you’re not ready to have a face-to-face conversation yet, that’s completely okay too. Perhaps you could try expressing how you feel and the things you’d like to talk about in a letter or recording something on your phone instead.

Find the right setting

Have a think about where you’d feel most comfortable having the conversation. You’ll probably want somewhere that’s quiet and private, and somewhere you won’t be interrupted. That might be at your home or maybe while you’re out for a walk. Choose a place where you’ll feel most relaxed and at ease.

Start the conversation

Starting the conversation can be really difficult. You might want to plan how you’re going to bring up the topic and have some phrases ready in your mind. You might want to open with a question, “Have you thought much about…?” or perhaps a statement, “I know it’s a hard conversation to have, but I’d like to talk about…”. Having these phrases ready can help you feel more comfortable getting the conversation started. Try not to worry about saying the wrong thing; there’s no right or wrong way to deal with difficult conversations; the most important thing is you’ve been brave enough to start it.

Take your time

Don’t feel like you have to cover everything in that one conversation. Spread it out into a few conversations over time. Talking about dying can be emotionally draining both for you and your loved ones, so break the conversations down into small chunks and take your time.

Prepare for different reactions

Everyone will respond to conversations about death differently. Some people will find it easier to talk about than others. Try to be respectful of people’s reactions, keep calm and show you understand. If the person you’re talking to is finding the conversation difficult, then you can always say, “Let’s stop talking about this for now and come back to it another time.”

Talk to your GP

It can be helpful to talk to your GP, or another health professional involved in your care, about end of life planning. They can make you more aware of the options available to you. Let your GP know in advance that this is what you’d like to discuss. You could book a double appointment so the conversation doesn’t feel rushed.

There isn’t a right or wrong way to have a conversation about your end of life care. It’s difficult to talk about dying. It’s not something any of us necessarily want to be reminded about. But it’s important to make your wishes known to those closest to you so they’re aware of your plans and you have some peace of mind.

Complete Article HERE!

A Valentine’s Day Song for End-of-Life Care

End-of-life care planning has taken on added urgency as COVID-19 cases and deaths have surged

By Andrea Sears, Public News Service – NY

If you’re looking for a unique gift for Valentine’s Day, you might consider giving some peace of mind — by deciding and sharing what type care you’d want in a health crisis.

The COVID pandemic has brought new urgency to the need for end-of-life planning. It may seem like an unlikely theme for a song, but the not-for-profit organization Compassion & Choices has put its advice to music to encourage people to prepare advance directives for end-of-life care.

Kim Callinan, the group’s president and chief executive, said she hopes the song will help people find new ways to share messages of empowerment, gratitude and the importance of making plans aligned with their personal values and priorities.

“Valentine’s Day is a time when you show your loved ones that you care about them,” she said, “and one way to show that you care is to give the gift of clarity by documenting and discussing your end-of-life preferences.”

The song, “This Is Your Show,” features Broadway and film star Carmen Ruby Floyd. Callinan said the second verse captures the core message with the words, “You have the option to write your last chapter.”

Brandi Alexander, national director of community engagement at Compassion & Choices, noted that surveys show African-Americans are more likely to choose aggressive treatment to prolong life, but this group also is less likely than others to prepare advance directives, to let people know their wishes for end-of-life care.

“A lot of it has to do with a history of mistrust with the medical community, and really just not wanting to have the discussion,” she said, “and therefore, we don’t talk about it until it’s almost too late or until we’re in a time of crisis.”

Alexander added that when her father died without making his own end-of-life wishes clear, it caused disagreement and tension in her family as they tried to decide what he would have wanted.

Callinan urged people to go through the process of deciding what level of care they want, and then communicating those wishes. The organization’s website has a plan-your-care section that is free to use.

“That has a simple checklist that helps them to learn what priorities are most important to them and how to fill out an advance directive, how to make sure your doctor’s aware of what you want; having conversations with your health care proxy and your loved one,” she said.

She pointed out that end-of-life planning and discussions are about love, and how you or your family want to be cared for.

Complete Article HERE!

Lantern is a startup looking to ignite a conversation about how to die well

By Danny Crichton

America is a land of paperwork, and nowhere is that more obvious than at the end of someone’s life. Advanced care directives have to be carefully disseminated to healthcare providers and strictly followed. Property has to be divided and transferred while meeting relevant estate laws. And of course, there are the logistics of a funeral, cremation or other option that has its own serious complexities, costs and choices.

The worst time to figure out how to die is when you die. The best time to figure it out is precisely when you don’t have to.

For New York City-headquartered Lantern, the goal is to initiate those conversations early and give its users significantly better peace-of-mind, particularly in these dolorous times.

The company offers essentially a “how-to” platform for beginning to prepare for end-of-life, offering checklists and monitoring to ensure that the vast majority of details are figured out in advance. In some cases, the startup will handle the underlying details itself, while in other areas like estate planning, it works with partners such as Trust & Will, which we have profiled a number of times on TechCrunch.

Right now, the company has two plans: a simple free one and a $27 / year plan that tracks your progress on end-of-life planning and allows you to collaborate with family, friends or whoever else needs to be part of your decision-making. The company is in the process of adding other à la carte options for additional fees.

Last month, the company raised $1.4 million in a seed round led by Draper Associates with a few other firms involved. Earlier, the company raised a pre-seed round of $890,000 from the likes of 2048 Ventures, Amplify and others, bringing its total raised to date to $2.3 million. The company is organized as a public-benefit corporation and was founded in September 2018, and first launched a year later.

For founders Liz Eddy and Alyssa Ruderman, Lantern was an opportunity to tackle a looming problem in a compassionate and empathetic way. “I started my first company when I was 15,” Eddy, who is CEO, said. That company focused on dating abuse and domestic violence education for high school and later college students. “I really fell in love with the pace and variety of starting something new, but also in creating conversations around topics that people really don’t want to talk about and making it more palatable and comfortable,“ she said.

Later, she joined local suicide prevention nonprofit Crisis Text Line, which has an SMS-based network of crisis counselors who are trained to calm people and begin their process of recovery. She spent more than six years at the organization.

As for Ruderman, who is COO of Lantern, she most recently spent two years at Global Citizen, a nonprofit organization focused on ending extreme poverty. The two connected and incubated Lantern at startup accelerator Grand Central Tech.

The idea for better end-of-life planning came from personal experience. “I lost my dad when I was in elementary school,” Eddy said, “and saw firsthand how loss and grief impacts a family financially, emotionally, logistically, legally — every aspect.”

Today, many of these processes are offline, and the online products mostly available today are focused on individual elements of end-of-life planning, such as estate planning or selecting and purchasing a casket. Eddy and Ruderman saw an opportunity to provide a more holistic experience with a better product while also initiating these conversations earlier.

That pre-planning part of the product was launched just as the pandemic was getting underway last year, and Eddy said that “we had a sort of a really interesting launch where people were starting to come to terms with their own mortality in a way we hadn’t seen in a very long time.” Typical users so far have been between 25 and 35 years old, and many people start planning when they have a major life event. Eddy says that the death of a family member is an obvious trigger, but so is having a baby or starting a company.

One aspect that Eddy emphasized repeatedly was that having a will and pre-planning for end-of-life are not equivalent. “Even if you don’t have a dollar to your name after you pass away, there are a ton of other things that your loved ones, family members, whoever’s responsible has to consider,” she said.

From a product perspective, there are some nuances compared to your more typical SaaS startup. For one, the company needs to engage you regularly, but not too frequently. Unlike, say, a wedding, which is a single event that then is over, your documents and directives need to be occasionally edited and updated as a user’s life circumstances change.

Beyond that, one of the largest challenges with a product that talks about death is building a connection with a user that doesn’t seem cold, and, well, Silicon Valley-like. “Even as a product that is entirely virtual, making sure that you really feel that human connection throughout” is a high priority, Eddy said. “We use a lot of empathetic language, and our imagery, all of the illustrations are done by illustrators who have lost someone in memory of the person who’s lost.”

Longevity startups may remain a thesis for some VC investors, but handling the end — no matter when — is an activity every person faces. Lantern might shine just a bit more light on what is otherwise a debilitating and scary prospect.

Complete Article HERE!