Your (last) greatest show on earth

By Heather Compton

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

What do you envision when it comes to your final wishes? Would there be a formal service? If so, who would officiate? Do you wish to be cremated or buried or donate your remains to science?

I get it, end of life conversations are difficult and even if you are prepared to have the discussion, dollars-to-donuts your kids or responsible family members don’t want to go there.

Regretfully I’ve been involved with funeral planning for a number of relatives, and even some clients, and these are the decisions families find most difficult. When the time comes —  and it will —  the question inevitably asked is some variation of “What do you think mom would have wanted?”

If those closest to you know your personal wishes they don’t have to make it up in the funeral director’s showroom while debating between the grand showcase coffin and the budget version you might have preferred!

Bless Mom — she was very clear — cremation by the most frugal means possible, and a nice lunch for our friends.  My Scottish depression-era mother liked the memorial society option because they negotiate funeral cost discounts.

The Memorial Society Association of Canada’s website identifies contacts across the country. A modest membership fee gets you an information package to help document decisions plus they pre-negotiate cost-conscious plans with funeral homes. You can file your wishes with the funeral home or with a memorial society but keep a copy with your other important documents.

Fire Drill Conversations

Because these are difficult conversations, I suggest you treat them like a fire drill: keep it short, discuss what’s needed, make sure everyone understands, document and call it done.  Have another fire drill if your thoughts or wishes change.

Here goes:

Style of service

Funeral, memorial, committal, no service, religious

Who should officiate?

Public or private?

Preferred funeral home or organization?

Handling of remains

Burial, cremated, donated to research?

If burial – cemetery arrangements?

If cremation – disposal of ashes?

Pre-paid or special fund? (yes or no)

Financial considerations?

Gathering, minister fee, organist or other music, women’s auxiliary

Obituary, preferred readings, hymns or music?

Important cultural considerations, traditions, rituals?

Life is made easier for our survivors at a very challenging time if they have direction as to your wishes. Let’s make it easy.


Pulling It All Together: Red Binder

I suggested clients gather copies of all important documents related to their death or incapacity in a Red Binder and inform executor(s), attorneys, the kids or anyone else who might require it where it could be found. Why a Red Binder? It’s highly visible and easy to identify: just don’t fill the bookcase with a dozen red binders!

I recall one, highly organized client, assuring me all this information was on his computer – regretfully the computer was password protected and he was the only one who knew the password!  There are circumstances where old school is best.

The Red Binder is where you would file copies of the Will, Powers of Attorney for Property and Health and Insurance Policies – along with a note on where the originals are located. Other necessary information would include your Fire Drill directives, a list of your key advisors, friends and relatives to contact on your passing, user names and passwords for social media accounts (unless you want those profiles to live on and on and on), and, of course, an up to date Net Worth statement. You may want to include the keys to any safety deposit box (and details on where it’s held) plus computer passwords. A more complete list of items can be found on our website

Well that’s it, the tough stuff is handled!  Now carry on with the business of living.

Heather Compton retired from a career as vice president and senior investment advisor with a major financial services firm and husband Dennis Blas, from IT management positions. Both have extensive experience in personal development and life skills programs. Heather remains engaged in financial and lifestyle issues in her roles as presenter and facilitator of pre-retirement and financial literacy programs; Dennis continues to use his talents as technical guru in supporting Heather’s work. They are co-authors of “Retirement Still Rocks – Canadian Boomers Invest in Life” available from See their website at


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