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A stitch in time: Planning your own funeral online

You can save your loved ones the pain of organizing your funeral if you think about it in advance. Here are resources to help you plan for the inevitable.

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No one wants to think about shuffling off this mortal coil. But a bit of forethought will make life a lot easier for those you leave behind.

Fortunately, plenty of online resources are available to help you prepare your own funeral, ready your digital assets and leave messages to be sent to your loved ones. These include dedicated websites, a Wikihow step-by-step and individual processes for your online accounts. If you study them all, your grieving family won't have to.

One of the most useful websites we've found is Everplans, which securely archives your important digital information. In addition to its main service, Everplans offers useful general advice on planning for the inevitable.

The site's How to Pre-Plan Your Funeral asks all the most important questions, such as what you want done with your body, how you'll pay for the service and where you would like to be buried. There are more considerations than you might expect.

It also has a Funeral Checklist, which you can print out and include in your will. This includes more than details about the funeral, such as a list of people your family might not be aware you want informed.

Similarly, the Australian Funeral Directors' Association provides a form for organizing all the details of your funeral. Among the items: names and contact details for your next of kin; your executor; your solicitor; and where your will is located. The organization recommends that you print out the form and file it with your funeral director, as well as keep a copy with "your personal papers for when the need arises."

Logging out: Death in the digital age

Click here for "Logging Out," a look at death in the digital age.

The form doesn't include a line for webcasting your funeral, which is a thoughtful idea for loved ones who can't attend in person and an increasingly common service at funeral homes. But it has a section for further instructions, where you can include such a request.

Website My Wonderful Life offers more. As well as hints and tips for planning a funeral, it allows you to leave letters for loved ones and upload photos. This is a lovely idea, and it's free to register.

Be wary, however, of services that charge a fee. If they disappear, they may take all that information with them along with your money. That's what happened with DeathSwitch, a popular online service that would send emails to your loved ones if you didn't regularly check in within a specified timeframe. Nowadays, if you have a Google account, you can activate a similar service for free.

Obviously, your safest bet would be to create hard copies of any documents you want your loved ones to have after you're gone because technology becomes obsolete quickly. Take the floppy disk. Fifteen years ago, it was standard hardware. Good luck finding a drive that can read one these days.

A printout, on the other hand, will be readable for as long as the ink doesn't fade.

Leave a list of your online accounts and passwords, which will help family members close those accounts, although it's best to be careful what you divulge. Sharing your Facebook passwords violates the website's terms of service, but sharing your Netflix password will allow your family to close the account and stop automatic payments.

You'll probably want to pick and choose from several online services to figure out what's best for you. The Federal Trade Commission offers a good list of issues you should be thinking about when you pre-plan your funeral.

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