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Intro to “You have six months to live. How to survive that”: In this article, we’ll look at potential preparedness steps you can (maybe) implement after being diagnosed with a fatal disease or condition to help your loved ones survive your death with less unnecessary stress. This is NOT a mental health guide or professional advice. A prepper might take these potential preparedness steps for that ultimate and final SHTF scenario.
NOTE For New Preppers: Before I get too deep into this topic, I want to mention that death preps (AKA, the exit strategy) may not be the first preparedness project for most preppers. Sure, some of it, like insurance and a will, is right there above the fold, while others are usually not.
While important, so are food, an emergency fund, paying down debt, storing water, emergency heat and fuel, etc., etc., and even more Et Cetera. There’s no end to the prepper fun once you’ve been exposed to actual logic. Then again, if you did get that dreadful six months to live talk by a doctor, get right on it, please. Well, after you get a second opinion, anyway.
We’re all about steps here, so I thought it necessary to mention that. If you’re new to prepping, you might want to check out Building YOUR Realistic Preparedness Action Plan, Threat Assessment 2021 / 2022, Becoming A Prepper – Take On A Preparedness Mindset, or How To Start A Prepper Pantry – Updated w/ Video
Back To “You Have Six Months To Live”
Death is understandably a sensitive topic for a lot of people. Unfortunately, as with most SHTF situations, we don’t generally know when it’s coming. Only EVERY person will experience it.
Getting a “Six months to live” diagnosis, or whatever the timeline, isn’t a blessing in most situations BUT, depending on the condition the sickness puts you, it could offer a small window to tie up loose ends. As I mentioned in the intro, this is not a mental health-related article, I’m not remotely qualified for anything like that.
I will mention that from personal experience of a lesser degree, the mental state of such news can prevent many people from taking the appropriate steps, if needed, regarding preparedness for death.
Without The “Six Months To Live” Diagnosis
In the past, I can remember hearing people mention, “I hope to die suddenly in my sleep.” That is about the best we to go, I imagine, regarding the least amount of suffering. Isaac Asimov, an American author and biochemistry professor, said:
“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”
That quote rings true, short of the sudden death in your sleep scenario. It seems anything we can DO NOW to alleviate that ‘transition’ is a prep worth doing if it is in our power.
Death is the ultimate SHTF event, and outside the unthinkable, it’s one that often comes as a surprise and one that very often leaves few options and little control. In other words, it will be too late to get most of our life in order, even with that ‘six months to live’ warning.
I can not think of a more worthy long-term (hopefully) prep for our immediate attention. Not only for our piece of mind but for our loved ones.
Story Time (Skippable)
My regular readers know I have a lot of personal stories to share, so here ya go. Feel free to skip it if you’re short on time.
I lost my Mother and Father, who were separated for over 40 years and living in separate states. I was the executor of both. When my Mother passed, it was a tough time for everyone, and I was both amazed and thankful for all of the preparation she had already done. Especially when she had been living on a very small social security check when she made those preps.
Without going deep into the details, I didn’t have to worry about where or how she was buried and what was to be done with her few worldly possessions. Even her monument stone was selected and paid for, and the words were already chosen. All I had to do was sign papers and iron out the tiny details. It was a huge blessing that my mother had given me.
My father’s situation was similar, except that he had a living spouse and more assets. I was also his wife’s co-executor, and she followed a year later. For my father, all of his assets went to his wife, so I had another year to deal with that.
This is an important point.
He had a couple of life insurance policies and a handful of bills and balances to deal with. My Mother’s bill, only one really, was written off after her death because she was unmarried. My father’s wife became liable for those incoming bills and outstanding balances. (I’m not an attorney, so get legal advice elsewhere, this was just my experience)
My father’s preparation helped because he had a small notepad with account numbers, death benefits, retirement policy information, utility and recurring payment information, and all outstanding balances. He also had his burial wishes listed.
I got my sense of humor from my father, who called this paper his ‘Death Note.’
My father, along with his life insurance, had a will, bank account information with passwords, and instructions. He wanted me to remove the remaining cash from his bank accounts (legal because I was a joint account holder) and give that money to his wife in case the bank temporarily froze his accounts. Smart. (She was paralyzed from an infection months before my Father’s death).
His life insurance allowed me to make sure everything was paid, including his debts, and allowed his wife to continue without the added stress and worry on top of the grief. She was debt-free, and I ‘turned off’ the subscriptions and reoccurring orders she didn’t want or need. Everything else, such as the necessary utilities, was transferred into her name.
With A “Six Months To Live” Diagnosis
Obviously, the “Six Months To Live” phrase is rhetorical. Any length of time, say, under five years, applies.
I’ve already mentioned this above, so I’ll touch on it lightly. Getting a six months to live notice may give you several months to prepare, and it might not. We might be on a respirator, dealing with so much pain we can’t think, in traction, the hospital, hospice, or, like my stepmother, paralyzed.
Even if we’re doing well regarding mobility during that gift of bad news, it’s not the ideal time to worry about preparing to die and helping our loved ones survive our death without added stress on top of everything they’re already dealing with. Just going through the various degrees of dealing, or should I say reeling, with the unfairness, suddenness, undoneness, etc., can be enough of a roadblock to stop any pre-death plans.
In other words – don’t wait for a death diagnosis.
A Few Death Prep Pointers
This article is already going way longer than I anticipated, but I want to do it and you justice. With that said, a topic like this will always be incomplete. I’ll list as much as possible, and if I miss something, please leave it in the comments. I’ll update this as often as needed.
Hey, did I ever tell you I sold life insurance for a couple of years? True story. I was a sergeant in the Army back then, the mid-’80s, and I worked with an MLM company called A.L. Williams. Anyone remember them? I also invented cheese sticks, but I don’t see a way to work that in, so I won’t even bring it up.
Prepping is an insurance policy. That food in the pantry or under the bed ensures you’ll have food even if the stores don’t.
Like food security (Food insurance), we also want a life insurance policy. Don’t wait until you’re considered ‘uninsurable.’
I’m no expert, but I know enough to recommend a solid TERM life insurance policy. There’s no need for multiple policies for most people unless one or more is through work or some other organization, you don’t fully trust the insurance company to stick around., or you’re hiding money from someone. Or if you have a policy paid in full or close to it. Never cancel a policy if it’s paid for. Even if it is not, wait until it’s completely replaced, approved, and in effect.
I’m pretty sure most states now require auto insurance, but there are various types and coverages. The minimum doesn’t usually cover a replacement car in a totaled-out-car accident. That’s alright. If you’re driving an older car, you don’t want to pay more than the car is worth. You want an emergency fund that will cover a replacement car. More on emergency funds in a future article. Soon.
Check out my write-up on Gap Insurance,
GAP Insurance – A $10,000 Insurance Lesson…
Homeowners & Other Insurance
The same with homeowners and rental insurance. They’re like Starbucks – the choices and language are overwhelming. Make sure your auto, home, health, and other insurance will help you, not just blindside you with things not covered.
As an executor, I’ve had two personal experiences with funeral homes, and both just blew me away. Seriously,
I went in with a couple of insurance policy numbers, not knowing how to request the money, and they handled everything. I was shown options, not pressured (In my mom’s case, that was already done), and they took the money from the insurance and sent me the rest. I only had to sign some papers.
The funeral homes took care of the service, the procession to the graveyard, the service there, and the actual burial.
In my father’s case, they even contacted the VA and gave him a military honors salute, flag, and service. If you’re a VET, that’s something to consider. I’ve already looked into it myself.
They made everything beautiful and handled every detail, including getting the body prepped, delivered, and set up. I was so grateful because my pickup was in the shop that week. Wow, did I say that? Sorry. I know, I know, this is no laughing matter. 🤭
Seriously, funeral homes get paid well but earn every cent. Be sure to find a good one with excellent reviews that appears honest, is well-established, and will be around when you aren’t. Don’t wait until the day of your funeral, do that research now.
Pre-paid Burial Services
I’m starting to realize I can go on all day about death.
I mentioned above in my personal story that my Mother set up a pre-paid burial service, even though she was financially poor. Rich everywhere else. She was a fantastic person.
Even though I was pleasantly shocked she did that, it bothered me that she must have struggled to make payments to pre-pay her death expenses. Anyway, for that reason, I believe there are better choices.
First, most life insurance with a large enough death benefit will cover the $10K or so to get you in the ground if that’s what you prefer. I’d be happy in my garden compost, but there’s certainly an ordinance on that.
Next, a large enough bank account will cover it. I highly recommend a side hustle if life’s handing you a week-to-week living. Sometimes we have to go and get it. All the time, actually.
POD – Payable-On-Death Bank Account
Pay-on-death accounts come by many names but are essentially the same. (AKA, Transfer on death, Totten trust, or revocable bank account trust), A POD account is a typical bank instrument (checking, savings, CD, money market account, or savings bond) that you set up so that the person you choose (beneficiary) can withdraw only after they present proof of your death, most commonly a death certificate. Please ask them not to carry your body into the bank. They need less proof than that. 🤣 Sorry.
Here’s the kicker… A POD bypasses probate! Where have you been all my life lovely? The things we discover researching an article. It’s also free to you AND the beneficiary. There’s no limit to how much you can deposit, and easy to set up. A smart dude (His official pronoun, I’m sure) named Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks, taught me all this and more in four minutes. Check it out at “Payable on Death” – What You Need to Know.
A Little Note Goes A Long Way
In my personal story above, I mentioned that my Father left me a note with short instructions and policy numbers, along with his bank and creditor numbers. That was extremely helpful. He told me how to find the note a couple of years earlier and reminded me a few times a year. He’d say, “Brian, you remember where my death note is, don’t you?”
“Yeah, Dad, I remember where you keep your death note. I also know where Grandma’s old 16-gauge side-by-side is, and that sucker is coming home with me the day I have to get that note.”
I did. And it did.
Who’s Getting All That Stuff?
This isn’t unique to preppers, but I’d be surprised if anyone else in my neighborhood will have to deal with the pure volume of food, supplies, gear, tools, and parts that my wife or family will. It would take several pick-ups pulling large trailers to get it out of here. Thousands of pounds, I’m sure of that. My garage alone has hundreds of pounds of nuts, bolts, and various parts. That doesn’t even account for the tools. Oh, the fuel, propane, and water. So much water.
The garage isn’t the problem, though. A quick estate sale will take care of anything the family doesn’t want. The real issue will be that pantry. My wife already said as much.
My wife said,
And she’s right. That hadn’t even dawned on me. That she might have to sell the place. And that, I’m embarrassed to admit, was just last summer. Funny how people can be on such different wavelengths and not notice.
We were way younger when we started down this path. Now in her early sixties, she has no interest in taking on the prepping projects (obsessions, as she would phrase it) that’s taken all of her husband’s available time for so many years.
Here’s what I decided and explained to her. I’ve got three names and emails of somewhat local preppers I know – All in Michigan. I have those contacts in my “Oh Snap, I Died” binder (Now hold on, I’ll get to that, but you have to wait for part two next week). She can go down the list, and I’m sure one of them, probably all of them, would be willing to rent a UHaul and take what they want. Win and double win.
Your Knowledge Doesn’t Have To Die With You
What you know, what you’ve learned, may save lives one day. It’s worth passing on. I hope you teach any children and/or grandchildren how and why we do the crazy stuff we do. How to garden, can, ferment, dehydrate, make and store power by harnessing the sun. How to store, organize, and rotate food. How to shoot, hunt, fish, fix things, cook, etc. And most important, out of all of that, show them how we have fun and love being a crazy prepper.
Hey, did I tell you I have a Great-Granddaughter now? And another one coming in a couple of weeks. Two great-grandchildren. My grandkids are having kids now. How fun is that? Life is so great right now.
Please give them the gift of knowledge BEFORE it’s too late. Don’t wait until you have six months to live. Otherwise, it all becomes a massive problem on top of everything else.
Wrapping Up You Have Six Months To Live. How To Survive That.
But that’s not the only knowledge we need to consider. Does your spouse, partner, or family know how to pay the bills once you’ve left for the big pantry in the sky? Do they know how to keep your preps going if that’s the plan? Do they have your accounts and passwords? If you have an online presence, do they know how to keep that at least alive? Do they know how to keep the money coming in?
I want to act as if I have only six months to live and get everything I still have to accomplish in the first half of 2023.
Don’t worry, I’m going nowhere soon. I have the body of a very healthy eighty-year-old, and my mind is as sharp as a banana. I mean crayon. Wait. What?
Anyway, I don’t want to make people feel like their sky is falling. I’m old and fairly advanced in my preparedness efforts. These are my steps. Not all of them will necessarily be yours.
In the meantime, we all have a lot to prepare for because we will all experience this private SHTF event. Eventually.
One Last Thing. Our Buddy Chip, God Rest His Soul.
A Chip Feck Dedication
This article is a dedication to my late buddy Chip. Chip got the diagnosis we’re discussing, and it was amazing how quickly he passed. Last month, we lost Chip, just 63, on November 15, 2022.
Chip was a valuable member of the prepper community, sharing his knowledge freely with anyone who cared to read his blog. Chip specialized in estate and financial planning and was my biggest influence on preparing for that final SHTF event. And this was a couple of years ago, way before he got his six months to live news.
Chip had a wife of 32 years, two sons, a grandson, a large family, many friends, and colleagues. He is missed.
With everything he was going through, Chip kept in touch with us and showed up at our zoom meetings whenever he could. He was strong and an inspiration to many, including this blogger. Rest in peace, buddy.
Dear Lord, We are so grateful that you have made us all in your own image, giving us direction with which to serve you. Thank you for Chip's life, and the little time we were able to share with him. We know he's with you today Lord, from the good we saw in him and the warmth and caring we felt from him. Please give us the abilty to carry on his mission of community prepardness and well-being, with the strength you send us through Jesus Christ. Amen
Up Next In The Death Preparedness Series – The Complete Guide To Building An End-of-Life Binder
There’s SO much more to say on this topic. I had to make it a two-parter. Part II discusses my death book (Adapted from my Father’s ‘Death Note’). I titled MY binder, “Oh Snap, I Died,” and it’s chock full of important information for my wife or kids once I’ve bit the dust. The actual article is titled The Complete Guide To Building An End-of-Life Binder. I explain why in the article.
Call To Action / Next Step
Next Step: Part II of The Death Preparedness Series – The Complete Guide To Building An End-of-Life Binder.
Stay safe. Stay prepared.
God Bless. Hawkins out!
This Post Has 4 Comments
Brian, excellent article, to which I will add a story that will have us all weeping. My son in law, a nationally ranked Ironman runner was hit by a car in broad daylight, the day before Christmas. It was 3pm. He had run over 2000 miles in 2022, all over the country and even Europe, and yet he was hit less than a half mile from the house he grew up in.
Had a wife,and one year old son.age 35. Coma, brain injury, and did not wake up. He was taken off life support two days ago.
You mention Life Insurance, BUT do not emphasize it nearly enough. My son in law Chris had life insurance, but it won’t be near enough. He had bout $800k, but let’s do the math. Invested at 4%, that’s $32k, and will net down to maybe $20k after taxes.
Where they live in NH, day care for his son is $22k, alone, so my daughter loses his $175k salary, and gets only $20k going forward. Then there is the question of how does my daughter keep her own job? Emotionally broken, the fog of widows,etc.
Chris should have he $3-4 million of life insurance, as he had 30 more earning years that would have topped $10 million, and he could have upped his coverage to that $3-4 million for maybe n extra $2000 per year AND written it off to his business.
Secondly, you don’t mention disability coverage, which is moot for your parents situation, or even yours, but if Chris had survived in a wheelchair , he would have needed MAXIMUM disability insurance, which might have cost him another $1000 per year.
I send many articles from the prepped sites to my kids, maybe too many, but I wish your article had come out a few weeks ago. Hopefully those reading this can benefit from Kate and Vhris loss.
What are the lessons
Wow, you’re right, Jeff. That is such a powerful and emotional story and lesson for us all. For me as well. I hadn’t considered the younger the person and family, the more the insurance would be needed. And that’s from someone that sold life insurance years ago. It was a tough sell for younger people because we feel invincible at that age.
You’re right about the disability too. We all have seen it in one way or another, as our social structure isn’t equipped for the crazy high expenses of catastrophic injury or disease. I’m not saying taxpayers should pay the tab, but the system is clearly broken, and the costs are out of control.
My sister lost her husband a couple of years ago, and he had ALS for his last 22 years. He was completely paralyzed, only capable of moving his eyelids for most of those years. He had to be fed with feeding tubes and needed the assistance of a respirator to breathe. Yet he could still feel pain, itch, and suffer.
It was heartbreaking to watch they had to completely give up on their business and live on his disability social security, and government assistance. Along with the limited help from the Church, family, and friends, of course. Now my sister is struggling to put the pieces of her life together with little experience or income while in her mid-fifties.
These tragedies destroy lives, and we rarely see them coming. I’m sorry for you, and you’re family’s devastation, and I appreciate you taking the time to share that with us. It gives us a lot to think about and makes the preps all that more real.
Thank you, Jeff.
Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour and you won’t have to worry about death.
This physical death is the one that people mistakenly grieve over because their loved one is gone and no longer with them but it is the spiritual death you need to be concerned with.
Repent from sin, and ask Jesus for salvation today.
That’s a warm and comforting message, John, but it has nothing to do with this article. Did you bother reading it? Generally, I’d delete a comment like this, but there may be some lesson here, so I’ll let it slide.
In the future, please stick with the topic. It feels like those morons that think every public bathroom is there for them to deface with biblical messages. It weakens God’s word. Please don’t do that. Time and place, buddy, time and place. This ain’t either.