It’s no one’s favorite topic, but facing death is inevitable. While hundreds of books and articles have been written to help families deal with the emotional repercussions of a loss, many fewer resources exist to advise them on how to deal with the logistics. In our complex society, most people have assets and accounts strewn across various institutions, and dealing with the aftermath of a loved one’s death can be overwhelming.
That’s exactly the situation Carol Roth’s father wanted to avoid for his family. To prevent additional difficulty or stress for his children, Roth’s father preemptively created the prototype for what would become the “Future File,” by organizing all of his essential estate planning and final requests into one document. Thanks to his efforts, when Roth’s father passed away after an unexpected accident in 2013, Roth and her sisters at least had their father’s affairs and wishes in order. The family was thankful that their father had worked with them to pre-plan his death. “Because of his willingness to do this, [we] knew what his wishes were and the scope of the financial costs and burdens that [we] were in store for,” Roth writes on Future File’s website.
Roth, a former investment banker and small business advisor, estimates that she and her family would have spent an additional $10,000 on various costs had they not known her father’s wishes so precisely. Inspired by her father, she created the Future File system to help others prepare the way he did for their family.
When a death occurs, Roth says, family members are least prepared for the considerable number of hours that it can take to track down all the needed information. “We’ve heard tales of those who haven’t prepared not being able to find loved ones’ documents, including wills, keys to safety deposit boxes, online accounts, and more,” Roth says. “With digital footprints expanding, this becomes a greater burden.”
The Future File allows users to keep important information like passwords, copies of keys, contacts, end-of-life wishes, financial accounts, social media and digital file access, wills, and powers of attorney available in one central location. “We create one ‘grabbable’ location and roadmap so your loved ones can easily know what to do and access what they need to do it in times of need,” Roth says. The File walks families through each necessary step after an incapacitation or death, givng families immediate access to pertinent information.
While Future File is available in a digital app format, Roth recommends families keep paper documents. “Not only is it easier to get a family around a table to go through a kit, but our inspiration for creating the product was a similar kit my father had created for us.” After her father’s accident, Roth says, “we grabbed the kit to go to the hospital. If I’d had an app, it would have been more difficult for me to quickly find his wishes and the power of attorney, and I certainly wouldn’t have had immediate access to the spare key I needed to move his car and get into his house.”
Roth says that Future File is meant to complement rather than substitute the role of an attorney in end-of-life planning. “It helps you think through issues you need to address with legal documents, financial planning and more, but we advise you use a professional for the documents, as individuals’ needs vary as do laws by geography.”
Future File descends from a long Jewish tradition of preparing for death. The notion that one should “live life as if it is your last day” is Jewish in origin. As the Talmud’s Rabbi Eliezer is quoted as saying, “A person should repent today, for perhaps tomorrow he will die — so that all his days he is repenting.” Similarly, the entire observation of Yom Kippur is arguably about preparing for the afterlife.
Looking for specific tools to use as a mourner? These other Jewish apps may have a solution to ease off some of the burden of planning during this difficult time. Whether the person you want to honor passed away hours or centuries ago, Jewish innovation has an app for that.
For religious mourners who may be traveling or observing Jewish traditions in a new city, Minyan Now uses location sharing to help users schedule a minyan that same day with other Jewish men within a mile. It helps users to daven from an airport, stadium, or any other locale far away from a synagogue.
This app makes it easy to mark commemorative days honoring the calendar dates of loved ones’ passings. The app will alert users when an anniversary is coming up and provide directions to the appropriate cemetery or funeral home. It even includes a Prayers and Meditations section, truly making this app a one stop shop for any cemetery visit.
If your goal is visit the final resting places of the greatest Jewish religious leaders rather than a family member’s, Rabbimap can prove to be a useful tool. It provides detailed GPS locations and directions to the sites of more than a thousand graves in Israel, North Africa, Morocco, the Middle East, and Europe, and is proving to be the perfect travel companion for journeying pilgrims.
Liz Posner is a NYC-based editor and writer, who focuses on feminism, education, religion, innovation and lifestyle for Forbes.com, BUST, Bustle, Refinery29, The Times of Israel, and elsewhere. Follow her at @elizpos