Friday, November 30, 2012

Guidelines For Choosing A Headstone

When visiting any stonemasons with regards to purchasing a headstone for a loved one's grave they should be able to talk you through the restrictions and guidelines that apply for the area you wish it to be placed in. However these can change and it is always worth having an idea of the basic guidelines before going to purchase the stone so you know what to expect.

One of the most important steps is to gain permission to have the headstone erected by submitting an application form. This is not something you need to worry about as your stonemasons should take care of this for you, but it is worth mentioning to them just to clarify they will do this.

Over the years the regulations adhered to for memorials has changed, meaning what was permitted 50 years ago may no longer be deemed as suitable now, so don't assume that if the graveyard features a headstone you like it will definitely be allowed now. This is especially true of large memorials. Guidelines state now that a memorial must conform to a certain size which is 107cm tall, 76 cm wide and 102mm in thickness. The stonemasons you choose will be able to inform you of the types of stone that can be used as these must be selected from an approved list, it is also worth asking them about the durability of each type of stone.

Another aspect to consider is the difference between being buried in a churchyard and a cemetery. If being buried in a churchyard it is usual for the headstone to be sympathetic to the church and you have to gain the church's permission to erect a headstone. It is also a requirement that inscriptions are compatible with the christian religion. There are more regulations affecting headstones placed in churchyards, such as the fact they cannot be made from a polished or shiny stone as they must be non-reflective. It is also worth noting that ceramic photo plaques are not permitted on headstones in churchyards, so if this is a particular feature you would like on the headstone then you may wish to consider a cemetery burial. Some of the above regulations still apply within a cemetery however the rules tend to be much more relaxed allowing you to express yourself more with the headstone you choose with regards to size, design and the type of stone used.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Grieving Process - How People Deal With Death and Dying

Every one of us is going to die some day; it is the one thing that is common to every human being. Death is not discussed easily, however, even when it involves a family member, a close friend, even a parent.

We have many euphemisms when we want to say someone has died: he 'passed', he 'passed away', he 'lost his wife', and many others.

Typically in western society, when someone dies friends and family members rally, supporting the bereaved person with letters, flowers, phone calls and visits, until the time of the funeral and for a few weeks after. Then frequently everything goes quiet and the bereaved person is left alone to "get over" the death, on their own. The truth is that in the case of a much loved person, be it partner, spouse, parent, child or grandparent, often the lives of those affected by that death are changed forever. You become a different person as you adjust to living without the one who died.

Our attitude can make it very hard for a bereaved person. Take, for example, a man whose wife dies after a long marriage. There will be many aspects of his life that have been taken care of by his partner - starting with cooking meals. Organising a social life - seeing friends and family for outings, dinners etc -is often handled by women and suddenly a man, left on his own, can struggle. He may want to talk to his family and friends, to keep the memory of his wife alive but may fear breaking down and letting others see him cry. He may not be used to confiding in others and may worry about burdening them with his pain. For a woman whose husband dies the situation is similar, although for her the losses could include financial worries and concern over all the things her husband used to see to when he was alive.

When a parent dies, it is common for young children to be told very little and as a result they are afraid to ask questions. Many children are excluded from the funeral and are not given the opportunity to grieve. When a grandparent dies, others in the family may be prepared for the death, particularly if the person was ill or elderly, while a child may have no understanding that the death was likely. Grandparents occupy a vital role for children at times; young people need to be given the opportunity to grieve.

In our society, suicide is still treated as a taboo topic, rarely discussed. As a counsellor I have worked with several young people whose parent committed suicide. No one ever discussed with them what occurred and as a result they were deeply affected, long-term by the experience. Twenty years later in counselling sessions, a number of clients addressed their wounding.

The loss of a child is always a traumatic event and sometimes leads to the parents' separation, as they struggle with pain and guilt.

As a society we need to learn how to discuss death, openly and with compassion, to help those around us, whoever they are. We need to be brave; simply being there for someone and letting them talk is often all it takes. Death is something we will all experience as part of being human.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer When Settling an Estate?

After someone dies should the executor hire a lawyer? The simple answer is... maybe... it depends. I'm sure you just love that answer, don't you?! Let me explain. And, I'll begin by saying I'm not a lawyer, but as an Executor's Agent, I run across many instances where lawyers are not necessary, and some instances where they provide good value.

Firstly, is an executor obligated to hire a lawyer? Does the law say an executor must use a lawyer? No, there is no rule that says an executor must hire a lawyer. In a nutshell, settling an estate is an administrative task, so many people can do everything on their own.

Now the grey area. Should an executor hire a lawyer? Although settling an estate is primarily administrative, there can be some legal components to it. Not every estate, but many estates. For instance, does the will have to be probated? If the answer is 'yes' then legal forms will need to be prepared and filed in court (probate registry). This is clearly a legal task, but you can prepare and file these forms by yourself if you wish, and in many estates these forms are really easy to prepare. An inexpensive kit can be purchased at an office supply store containing the forms and instructions, and the obvious good news is that you'd avoid paying a lawyer to prepare these forms. The bad news, however, is that you cannot go to any other professional for assistance in preparing the forms. In British Columbia, notaries are not permitted to prepare these forms, nor are financial advisors, accountants, trustees or other consultants. It's just you or a lawyer. So, back to the big question: Should you hire a lawyer? It depends on the complexity of the estate, your level of confidence and the value of your time. In my experience most executors find the legal forms pretty easy, but it's the list of assets & liabilities that poses a challenge, but the good news is that anyone can help you prepare that list; you don't need a lawyer for that task.

We recently helped an executor with a simple estate who hired a lawyer to prepare the probate documents. For this person, hiring a lawyer was money well-spent. He had no computer, poor health, and most of the language used regarding probate was foreign to him, so his lawyer was able to provide him with some peace of mind.

Is the will complicated and hard to understand? A lawyer can help you understand it, especially if trusts are involved. Has one of the beneficiaries threatened to sue for a bigger portion of the estate? I consider this matter grey, but only you can decide how serious and capable the beneficiary may be.

If you choose to hire a lawyer, be clear on why you're taking this action. What do you want the lawyer to do for you, specifically? If, however, you're hiring a lawyer simply because you need to be educated on the steps involved in settling an estate, I would suggest there's less expensive ways of learning. An executor's agent, for example, can describe the process to you, ensure tasks are completed in a timely manner, prepare you for deadlines and can advise you on when legal advice may be beneficial.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Custom Urns: What Style Is Right for You?

We understand that it's never fun to face your mortality, which is why so many people choose not to pre plan for their own memorial service, but it's one way that you can save your family from a lot of stress after you pass, plus you get to ensure that you have the memorial service that you want. Another item that you can tackle before you pass away is to look into custom urns and have one made specifically for you.

Custom urns are a great way for you to express your individuality even after you pass on. They can be as creative as you want, ranging from concrete designs to abstract ideas. So what style of custom urn is right for you?

Realistic - This is for those of you that are interested in custom urns that are physical representations of an item. It can be something that depicts your favorite hobby or your lifelong career. This can be anything from an antique sewing machine for the seamstress or a high heeled shoe for the woman with discerning tastes.

Abstract - This is an artistic representation of whatever you like. You can ask the custom urns artist to create his or her vision of the physical representation of words that you think describe you best. It takes a lot of communication between you and your artist to get the look just right, but the result can be something truly unique and beautiful that's an artistic representation of your personality.

Bohemian - You're a carefree person and you want your custom urn to show that. This can be represented through color, style or even materials being used. Work with the artist to have them create something that shows your truly energetic and carefree spirit in form. The two materials that are good for this style are glass and ceramics because of the earthy feel of ceramics and the flowing feel of glass.

All Natural - Ceramics are, of course, a great choice for custom urns that you want to have an all-natural feel to them, but you can talk to the artist and make sure that they use products that are environmentally friendly even if you won't be burying the urn. Ask them to use biodegradable chemicals and paints and if you do want a memorial that will biodegrade ask that they use ceramics that are designed to break down properly.