Everplans is all about planning ahead! It’s what we do. That said, it’s important to be very careful when it comes to pre-purchasing your funeral.  Although this can be a responsible and altruistic gesture for your family, you also are potentially exposing yourself to some dubious behavior and inappropriate actions. Recently, a business in St. Louis going by the name “National Prearranged Services,” was indicted for stealing $600 million of pre-arranged funeral funds from families.

The Robertson Family of A&E’s breakout reality TV hit Duck Dynasty might be afraid of soap and shaving cream but they’re not afraid of dealing with death. For those unfamiliar with the show watched by nearly 12 million people each week, it’s a rags-to-more-expensive-rags story surrounding a Louisiana bayou family who made millions fabricating top-of-the-line duck calls and decoys out of salvaged swamp wood.

On a recent episode called “Jerky Boys,” CEO Willie, who’s by far the most sensible and business savvy of the bunch, is confronted in his office by Phil (dad) and Kay (mom) who just got back from the doctor.

You’ve decided to “donate your body” after you die. But, what does that actually mean? Donate to what? Or whom? Will your body be used for actual science and medical advancement? Will callous med students be making jokes over your naked corpse? And what happens to your body after they’re done with it? No need to worry, because the following list has you covered with the most popular options.

Educate The Next Generation: Bequeath your body to a university for students

If you’d like to help first-year medical students learn about the human body, this is the choice for you. Forget all the movies and TV shows you’ve seen where crazy co-eds use cadavers to play pranks on one another. This is serious business for them and hands-on experience with actual bodies is vital for them to become real doctors. Still, it’s worth researching this decision and finding out exactly what your body will be used for, which depends on which school you choose. This is site offers a list of body donation programs in the U.S.

Help Doctors Stay Sharp: Assist doctors in refining their skills

Maybe the idea of having untrained med students prodding your body scares you. If so, you can still be generous and give your body to the Medical Education and Research Institute in Memphis TN, where trained doctors use your body to learn new techniques and refine old skills. Bonus: The institute will pay for your body to be transported to Memphis, a cremation afterwards, and will either return the ashes to your family or bury them in Memphis.

Decompose In Peace: Make the “Body Farm” your final resting place

The University of Tennessee’s Forensic Anthropology Center has a “body farm,” which consists of over 650 skeletons and teaches students about the various stages of decomposition. It’s important to note that your family will not get your remains back.

Carefree Approach: Give your body to a “body broker”

If you’re not choosy about where your body goes, or what type of research it’s being used for, this is a great option. These brokers pay for your body to be transported to their facility and offer free cremation of the parts that are not used for research. Although your body will go to science, you have no say in where exactly it ends up. If that’s not an issue for you here are three places that fit the bill: Anatomic Gift Science Care, Bio Gift.

Keep the Body, Donate the Usable Parts

If you want to help others, but still want your family to bury or cremate your body, you can simply donate your organs. Next time you renew your driver’s license select the box that says “organ donor.” Check out this article for all the info you'll need.

It's not often cartoon artists mine for humor in the world of advance directives, but when they do, you better believe we're going to run it on Everplans.com. Historically, comics aren't funny. They often get a message across but rarely will laughter ensue. This is no exception:

See, not funny. But with only around 30-percent of the population having advance directives--legal documentation outlining the sort of medical treatment you want or don't one if something happens to you--people are leaving the choice up to their kids, families or strangers. At least things like this might get people to talk about it

Last week I was at my desk when I received a group text from my mom: “My mom just died.” And then, “I was with her on FaceTime.” I replied, “OMG.” And then my sister replied angrily, “oh my god MOM how did you just text us that??? oh my god.” (She was clearly upset to find out our grandma had passed away via text.)

My aunt was with her when she died and facilitated the FaceTime call. Here’s an excerpt of the events as they happened.

I called my older sister Karen on FaceTime and said you need to see mother.  I aimed the camera at mother’s face.  The nurse put her fingers on mother’s pulse and announcing the time of her death said, “2:14.”  Karen started crying “mother, mother, mother.”  Apparently, seeing and hearing Karen, mother roused from death and took a few more breaths.  The nurse pronounced her dead for a second and final time at 2:18pm, Wednesday, October 2, 2013.

My sister saw my 95-year-old mother take her final breath on FaceTime. 

The technological death didn’t end there, as my aunt explains how she arranged the funeral and contacted everyone in the family within 4 hours.

I group texted my two brothers and two sisters while the funeral director called the rabbi and asked if we could have funeral on Sunday to give the others time to fly in from places all over the map.



Graveside ceremony?

Plain pine box?

Limousines for the family? 

While funeral preparations were being made, I was tasked with helping to coordinate her profile on Funeral Update, emailing back and forth between all five of my grandmother’s children for approvals, and e-notifying everyone we knew with the ceremony details. I also posted a link on Facebook and had my family members do the same to spread the word to those who may have fallen out of touch. Even at the funeral technology played a part as my cousin, who lives in Japan, was able to be present through the entire ceremony via FaceTime.

Technology had seamlessly ushered my grandma from this world and allowed a family scattered all over the country to organize, plan and grieve as one. Video calling apps, texting, social media, websites, and computers haven’t made death any less painful, but it has made coordinating with loved ones much easier.

Abby Schneiderman is the co-founder of Everplans.com

What’s the difference between saying you love the troops and actually loving them? How about making sure their families receive money owed to them when they die.

Ever hear of a “death gratuity?” It’s a $100,000 payout wired to a fallen soldier’s family within three days of his or her death. It helps the grieving family pay for the funeral and cover normal expenses. This isn’t free money. It comes at a cost: A soldier’s life. But since the government can’t stop bickering about who-knows-what, four families aren’t getting the money.

It doesn’t stop there. According to USA Today:

The Department of Veterans Affairs exhausted some carryover funding and furloughed 7,000 workers who process compensation claims. As a result, the VA cut off public access Tuesday to all 56 regional offices where veterans routinely walk in to file claims for compensation of combat- or other service-related wounds, injuries or illnesses.

If all this is making you angry, and putting the government shutdown in perspective, then you’re human.

Via USA Today and The Washington Times

UPDATE 10/9/13: The Pentagon entered into an agreement with The Fisher House Foundation to ensure families of fallen troops are paid survivor benefits that were suspended because of the government shutdown. See, when there's enough outrage over something things can actually get done.

Johnny Wells is not going to live to see his daughter grow up and get married. To replace this loss, he and his family held a mock wedding for her in his hospital room, which is featured on CNN’s morning show New Day as a “Good Stuff” segment.

A New York estate/real-estate lawyer who’s goes by the Reddit username “SpiffySpacemanSpiff” offered up his expertise for free to the massive online community. While most of the users took advantage of his real estate and business forming advice, he offered lots of interesting and down-to-earth insight into estate planning and other topics often ignored by typical websites that traffic in Corgis and, um, more Corgis.

We’ve picked a few of the best nuggets, did a little editing, and compiled them below (click here for the full Reddit post):

Question: I am in my 30s and have been working since I was 14. I don't have a whole lot but would it still be in my interests to set up a living will or something to that effect?

SpiffySpacemanSpiff:  Oh dear god yes.

I cannot tell you how many estates come across my desk where something simple could have saved people years of wasted time.

Typically, when you've hit thirty, you have something you want to protect, and people you want to care for. So, although it may not be apparent to you, having your estate properly settled at a young age can prevent any unexpected nightmares from popping up here and there.

For example, a client of mine, who had inherited a few things from her grandmother passed away rather unexpectedly, and we had to complete her will, trust and personal planning documents in a matter of days, in order to keep her estate from going through the inherently arduous and slow moving procession that is the NYC surrogates court!

Question: Should "normal" people (i.e., the 99%) consider transferring their homes to trusts (be they QPRTs or otherwise) if the total value of their estates will never trigger federal estate taxes? Or are these things that only people with estates valued above several million dollars should be concerned about?

SpiffySpacemanSpiff: I recommend transferring homes to trust for the purposes of simplifying the asset's transfer upon death.

Question: If I wanted to place my fiance, not yet spouse, on a Trust/Will, is it more complicated than if we were married? And how do I go about updating that after we get hitched?

SpiffySpacemanSpiff: It is possible to do an estate plan before the marriage, that contemplates your marital relationship. It is important however, to work with an attorney who can help you think through the specifics of your individual circumstances, both before and after the marriage.

Question: If someone would have inherited a sum of money in 2010 from life insurance, but due to court proceedings and what not, the funds weren't made available until 2013, which year's estate tax applies? I know 2010 was a 0% year, so we're hoping we'll be able to claim under those rules... Any thoughts?

SpiffySpacemanSpiff: The estate tax is filed in the year of the death.

Question: What recourse do I have/what do I do when the executors of a will in which I was named have seemed to completely drop off the face of the Earth. If it matters, I live in NYC, the executor(s) live in St. Louis, and the deceased person lived in Las Vegas. She passed away nearly a year ago and I've heard nothing from the executor, and she seems to be dodging my attempts to contact her.

SpiffySpacemanSpiff: First, Estates are handled by the courts of the state where the decedent lived (sorry for your loss btw) you must first find out which state the proceeding is in, and then contact a lawyer there to help you!

That said, you definitely have the right to pursue this, and one year is an appropriate time! The will is a public document, so you should be able to access it to see if you are a beneficiary of the estate.

Bonus comment from a user going by the name 10b-5, who discusses the pros and cons to having a will. He was asked how people who don’t have much money can still help their family when/if they die:

10b-5: Life insurance would seem most apt in that scenario, which is also exempt from probate so it wouldn't matter if you had a will.

In essence, there's a few pros and cons to having a will. The main benefit is that you can fully control who gets what, and you can even impose conditions on the gifts.
The negative is that:

1. you need to actually make the will

2. probate might take a lot of time

3. there might become disputes between the heirs over who gets the loot.

It also needs to be said that writing a will does not require you to get help from a lawyer. If you do not have a lot of assets or complicated family issues, it can be written fairly simply on your own, though I'd recommend finding a template online. It would require it to be signed by you and two witnesses, and that's about it.

You don’t need to be a meth manufacturing mastermind and threaten former business associates with assassination to set up a trust for you kids.

In the series finale of AMC’s Breaking Bad, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) has a lot of loose ends to tie up, one of involves setting up an irrevocable trust for his kids. The problem: He has over $9 million in drug money, which would be immediately snatched up by the government. Plus, his son Walt Jr. (a.k.a. Flynn) probably wouldn't be too receptive of the ill-gotten gains.

What’s an Irrevocable Trust?

Better yet, what’s a trust? Think of it as a threeway. (Get your mind outta the gutter, people.) Let’s use Breaking Bad as an example. [Disclaimer: Before any accountants out there blow a thousands holes in our analogy, let’s assume Walt’s a legit businessman who just got a $9 million windfall and wants to make sure his kids get that money with as little taxes and trouble as possible.] Here are the players:

There’s the settlor or grantor, which is the brilliant but murderous Walter White. It’s his money, he’s funding the trust.

There’s the the trustee(s), which are Walt’s ex-business associates Elliott and Gretchen Schwartz. (Long story short: He had a falling out with them many years earlier, their company went on to be worth billions, Walt blames them for his own failures in life.) They’re tasked with setting up the trust through their company Gray Matter (lawyers will do the heavy lifting), managing the trust, and making sure all that money legally goes to…

The beneficiary: Walt’s teenager son Flynn (a.k.a. Walt Jr.). When he turns 18 the money will be made available for him to do as he pleases. Walt hopes he uses it for college, but the kid will probably blow it all on breakfast cereal.

We’re fully aware this example has a few issues--like how Walt legally has nothing to do with this trust and it’s up to Elliott and Gretchen’s to create and manage it--but let’s not make this more complex than it has to be.

So what’s the “irrevocable” part? It means Walt can’t get that money back. He also can’t change who gets it or how the money is managed. It’s no longer his...unless he gets consent from the trustee(s) and beneficiary. In the Breaking Bad universe, once the Schwartz’s set up the trust as irrevocable, Flynn will be getting that money whether he wants it or not.

The good part about irrevocable trusts are the tax benefits and how they’re pretty much set in stone. So if Walt had second thoughts and wanted the money back it’d be very difficult.

What’s Revocable All About?

If you’re curious about a “revocable” trust, look no further than Breaking Bad’s lovable fixer Mike Ehrmantraut.

He was having a sleazy lawyer--no, not Saul--put cash in a safe deposit box for his granddaughter, who was supposed to gain access to said box on her 18th birthday. At any point Mike or his lawyer could take money out of the safe deposit box. That the difference. Revocable you can cancel or change at any time. Irrevocable you can’t without jumping through a lot of hoops.

In Reality...

Breaking Bad might have just wanted to sound smart and badass by having Walt say “irrevocable trust” but here are a few things you need to know if you’re setting up a trust:

--A trust is like setting up a business. It requires a tax ID, a bank account and you have to file taxes on it each year.

--Because it requires all these things, get a lawyer because it gets complicated. You might also require help from an accountant.

--Don’t do drugs. It never ends up well.

For more info on Trusts check out our mini Trust World.

Argentinian artist, Luciano Podcaminski, attempted to bring awareness to the dangers of the tanning bed with his creation “Sundeath.”

Mr. Podcaminski uses the Jersey Shore staple as a symbol of all the dangerous acts we do for vanity. In his opinion, these actions are not only senseless, but destructive. Often, we narcissistically repress negative repercussions just so we can look good at that moment.

If the tanning bed were actually designed this way would consumers cut back on tanning? What if other “bad” habits were reconstructed? For example, should cigarette boxes resemble iron lungs? Should sugar-based snacks come in casket, headstone, and hearse shapes? In the end would it actually matter? Would we just become accustomed to the new design and continue to repress? Or would people think all of these things were cool and want to use them more?

Via Booooooom