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A Single Mom’s Advice on Planning for Passing

Jackie and her two sons
Jackie and her two sons

Single moms are responsible for so many things. You’re not only bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan — you’re also the only one remembering that bacon is not good for you and that it clearly won’t properly fulfill your children’s nutritional needs.

Sometimes I do that last one, sometimes I don’t.

When everyone is depending on you for everything, it can be hard to think about what happens if you’re not around. But it’s something that’s doubly important for a single parent to consider.

I attended the funeral of the mom of a friend a couple of years ago. In listening to her (a grown woman) talk about how hard it was to take care of everything on behalf of her mom, I started wondering about how my own teen children would deal with things if I died. Yes, their father is very involved in their lives, but I don’t know how excited he would be to step in and take care of my funeral, pay my bills, etc.

That’s when I realized I needed to take care of these things now, while I’m healthy and we can all talk about them without it putting undue pressure on anyone.

Since the one thing we know for a fact is that we’re all going to die, I think it just makes sense to plan for it, just like we would a vacation, college, a wedding — even the weekend. There’s a great website, www.passare.com, that has an overview of all the things to consider when planning for your passing.

I’m working with attorney Patricia Halstead to update my will, which I hadn’t done since I was married, and obviously things change with a divorce. I am in the process of creating a living trust so that everything I acquire in my lifetime can easily be transferred to my sons if something happens to me.

As weird as it sounds, I like the act of paying bills. But I made the choice to sign up for auto-pay for recurring payments after hearing my friend talk about how great it was that she didn’t have to worry about her mom’s power being turned off while they were busy organizing her things.

I have appointed friends and family members as executors and financial guardians and the keeper of the plug (in case someone has to make that decision). And yes, I have very good friends. I’m in the process of organizing all of my passwords so I can share them with someone else.

Oh, and that one box in the garage…I’ll need someone to take care of that.

I bought life insurance so my sons won’t have to worry about things like college and weddings and house down payments all on their own.

And yes, I have planned my funeral. Not all the details, as things change. But I did write down that I want to be cremated in a plain cardboard box and that my boys should dispose of my ashes someplace where they would like to come visit me. I want there to be a party afterward (not a service) where everyone wears hats. Then I filed the paperwork with Walton’s so everything is in place. And I paid for it. They estimate that funeral expenses double every 10 years, so this will save my family some money in the long run.

Even if I die at 90 when I’m planning to, my boys won’t have to deal with all of this when they’re sad.  They won’t have to wonder if I would have wanted something fancier or if I would have been okay with people not wearing hats to my funeral. I’m not. Just as importantly, they won’t have to pay for it, as it will all be taken care of.

I have discussed this all with them, in a very calm, matter-of-fact way, so they know what’s up. This planning has actually led to some pretty great conversations with my sons and other members of my family, as well as the friends with whom I have placed a great deal of responsibility and trust.

Yes, I am an obsessive planner – I will own that. But putting all these things in place now has taken the stress off of me of worrying about what might happen if (when) I die. Now I can focus fully on living and enjoying this time I have with these two amazing young men and the rest of the pretty great people in my life.


jackie sheltonAfter a 25-year career in the communications industry, Jackie Shelton still has a hard time focusing on one particular aspect of it, so she’s stopped trying. As Vice President of Public Relations for the Estipona Group, she gets to handle media and community relations for clients ranging from governmental agencies to healthcare and higher education providers. 

A graduate of the University of Nevada, she formerly published two of the Northern Nevada region’s premiere publications, RLife and Family Pulse. In addition to her magazine work, she has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul (twice!) and 365 Scary Stories, a Barnes & Noble anthology.

As much as she enjoys her work, she gets the most fun out of hanging out with her two boys, though their receptiveness to that changes by the day. Teenagers, am I right?


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