CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- No one plans a fatal accident or a sudden heart attack. Please do NOT put this off. Do it NOW for the sake of your loved ones.

Have the talk with your spouse or kids or brother or sister about what you want to do with your remains. It s not morbid. It s practical. And it s loving.

Consider organ donation. Your death could save another life.

Fill out a living will or advance health care directive form. Sign it and get it and witnessed and notarized. This need not involve hiring an expensive lawyer in order to be legally binding. The North Carolina Secretary of State has a website with the forms available for free. You can file them online for $10.

Tell several close family members about your decision, and store your documentation with a person or in a place where your next-of-kin will be able to immediately lay hands on it when the time comes.

Consider calling the Funeral Consumer s Alliance or shopping for caskets, urns, funeral homes, cemeteries, monuments or other major expenses so you ll know who to call when the time comes. It can easily save more than $10,000 and a lot of heartache for the family during a tremendously stressful time.

Write your own obituary and have it edited by someone who knows you and loves you and can gently encourage you to brag more or less.

Do you want flowers and/or a donation to charity in your name? If so, which charity?

Draft a will. Interview attorneys. You probably want to say who gets what and you probably don't want to leave your loved ones with a big mess or a bitter and expensive court fight.

Talk on video. I know you may not want to. I know you may be self conscious. I know you don't know what to say. So don t look into the camera all by yourself. It s not a hostage video for goodness sake! Just sit down for a conversation with someone with whom you're comfortable. Press record.

Label the video clearly and store it in a safe place. And please make copies. Videotape crumbles before film. So dub over that old VHS tape NOW.

Load it in the computer and back it up. Back it up. Back. it. up. You cannot replace this. it's your family history.

One last thing. You know this. Tell 'em you love 'em. They know. But it helps to leave nothing unsaid.

Read or Share this story: