Before the pandemic, entrepreneurs Liz Eddie and Alice Ruderman had trouble getting venture capitalists to invest in their Lantern end-of-life planning app. Potential business partners were also skeptical.
“We’d hear,‘ Oh, that’s really a niche problem, ’which I think is pretty hilarious,” Eddie says. “Death is literally the only thing on the planet that affects everyone.”
The last two years have stressed the importance of such training even for young people. Abigail Hanson, a 31-year-old professor at a college in Phoenix, says she started using the lantern about 18 months ago to plan her funeral, tell the artist where to find her passwords, and explain what she wants to do with her social media accounts.
“I’m a planner, and I have problems with control, so the idea of being able to have my say in what happens after my death was appealing,” says Hanson.
Planning for death and navigating life after loss can be difficult, challenging and sometimes expensive. However, several apps, including Lantern, Cake, Empathy and Everplans, promise to help.
How death planning programs work
Death planning apps usually have free tools for consumers, and most of them have additional premium services available for a fee.
For example, free Empathy offers include checklists, articles, and collaboration tools for family members dealing with death. Those who pay a subscription fee of $ 8.99 per month or $ 64.99 per year can access the repository of documents and automated tools for closing accounts. Subscribers also get round-the-clock access to “care professionals” who can answer questions and help users find specialized consultants, such as lawyers or tax professionals.
Everplans, a site and document storage app, offers a free trial followed by an annual subscription fee of $ 75.
Lantern’s free offers include basic pre-planning tools, a post-loss checklist, document storage and collaboration tools. A one-time fee of $ 149 gives you access to more resources and the ability to create additional plans.
Free Cake features include end-of-life planning, online memorials, post-loss checklists and document storage. An annual $ 96 subscription allows you to purchase unlimited storage, a legal online will, and individual consultations with the app’s support team, says Sweline Chen, co-founder of Cake.
Some programs work with employers, insurers, banks, and other companies that provide app features to employees or customers as benefits. Applications may also receive a referral fee for connecting users to service providers. Lantern has a “Funeralocity” tool for finding funeral homes, for example, and a Cake partner from Eterneva that turns cremated remains into diamonds.
Plan at your own pace
Henson says she chose Lantern because she wanted a digital solution that allowed her to perform pre-planning tasks at her own pace and share them online with trusted people. It was more manageable than dealing with real estate planning at the same time and storing documents in a locked filing cabinet, which her mother did, says Hanson.
“It can be very hard to think about it in one sitting, but the idea that from time to time you can come in and add more is helpful,” says Hanson.
People should not rely on real estate planning applications, says certified financial planner and physician Carolyn McClanahan of Jacksonville, Florida. For example, wills and trusts are difficult to draft, and are best done by experienced attorneys, she says.
But McClanahan likes programs that help with tasks like funeral instructions, extra care instructions, pet care plans and draft obituaries.
“Anything that can get people to start thinking about end-of-life planning is good,” McClanahan says.
Thinking about your heritage
Planning your death can be a huge gift to the people you leave behind, relieving them of confusion and stress. But overcoming the consequences of death can still be a heavy burden, further complicated by grief.
Families often spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on tasks after death, says Ron Gura, co-founder and CEO of Empathy. These concerns may include arranging a funeral, completing an inheritance, closing accounts, canceling services, and interacting with a variety of government agencies, including the Social Security and IRS. The apps allow people to answer a few questions and get personalized advice.
“We can only show you what you need to do now and also tell you what to wait for,” Gura says.
Death planning applications focus primarily on practical activities, such as completing tasks and downloading important documents. But many also encourage users to think about their heritage.
For example, Everplans has a worksheet to help people create ethical will, a document that communicates their values, life lessons and most important experiences. Everplans also has templates and guidelines for writing emails and creating legacy videos.
Cake Chen says people often ask her if it depresses the launch of a death planning program. On the contrary, she says. Thinking about what we value and how we want to be remembered is an important part of not only the process of planning death, but also life, Chen says.
“It really underpins what makes life meaningful,” she says. “I am reminded every day so that I can make the most of my time.”
Liz Weston is a columnist for NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score”. Email: lwestonnerdwallet.com. Twitter: lizweston.