In these days of uncertainty, with the COVID-19 death toll rising daily, many people are wondering about how to put their affairs in order “just in case”.
Although there is no relevant guidance to consider from the Baha’i Writings, making our final wishes known is a great service we can provide for those left behind.
Many people have asked me for copies of the document which I’ve put together, to use as a model, so they can have a starting point to write their own. I hope you find it helpful too.
Keys to My Home: Hopefully you’ll have access to my key ring, but if not, XXX has my spare. She’s at XXX. Her cell number is XXX. If you can’t reach her, contact (my landlord) to release a key: XXX After hours: XXX
Pets: Someone will need to make arrangements for my pets to be fed and watered as quickly as possible. XXX often looks after them and will know what to do. She will need a key to get in. XXX number is: XXX
The pets are bonded and should be rehomed together.
XXX (male) is the orange one, and XXX (female) is the grey one.
XXX at XXX may be willing to take the cats and see that they get good homes. If they are unable to do it, you can surrender them to the SPCA in XXX. Call first to make arrangements. Address: XXX Phone: XXX
There is nothing in the teachings which would forbid a Bahá’í to bequeath his eyes to another person or for a hospital; on the contrary it seems a noble thing to do. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 290)
Bahá’ís are permitted to specify in their wills that their bodies or organs of their bodies may be donated to the proper uses of science or the replacement of organs or organ parts. (Universal House of Justice, Compilation on Reproduction and Other Biological Subjects, 30 August 1988)
We have not come across anything specific in the writings on transplants of hearts and other organs or regarding the time of death, and the Universal House of Justice does not wish to make any statements on these points at this time. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 290)
I’ve always wanted to donate my organs on my death, but when I was living in a small community three hours north of a major medical centre, I learned that if I died there, they would keep my body on life supports, ship me three hours away, harvest the organs and then ship me back for burial. This called into question where the location of death would be, and could I actually do this, given the fact that the body would be moved for more than an hour. I wrote to the National Centre (of Canada) for their guidance and this is their response:
“On the matter of donation of one’s body for medical research after death, Shoghi Effendi stated the following in a letter written on his behalf on 22 March 1957. . .
As many people make arrangements to leave their bodies to medical science for investigation, he suggests that you inquire, either through some lawyer friend or through some hospital, how you could do this, and then make the necessary provision in your Will, stipulating that you wish your body be of service to mankind in death, and that, being a Bahá’í, you request that your remains not be cremated and not be taken more than an hour’s journey from the place you die. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 290)
They also said “In light of the guidance and your understanding of the transportation of the body at the time organs are harvested, your decision regarding [withdrawing] your organ donor card would seem to be sound.
I have registered as an organ and tissue donor, but before proceeding with the donation, please ensure that it does not conflict with Baha’i burial procedures – for example, the body must not be transported more than an hour from the place of death. If I die in the town where I live (please God!) and the body needs to be kept alive and on life support while it’s transported to the nearest medical centre that processes organs; this may not be in keeping with the spirit of Bahá’í law, which should take precedence.
Leaving Our Bodies to Medical Science:
There is nothing in the Teachings against leaving our bodies to medical science. The only thing we should stipulate is that we do not wish to be cremated, as it is against our Bahá’í Laws. As many people make arrangements to leave their bodies to medical science for investigation, he suggests that you inquire, either through some lawyer friend or through some hospital, how you could do this, and then make the necessary provision in your Will, stipulating that you wish your body to be of service to mankind in death, and that, being a Bahá’í, you request that your remains not be cremated and not be taken more than an hour’s journey from the place you die. The spirit has no more connection with the body after it departs, but, as the body was once the temple of the spirit, we Bahá’ís are taught that it must be treated with respect. ((From a letter dated 22 March 1957 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer) [Also quoted in Directives from the Guardian, section 126]
There is nothing in the teachings with regard to turning the body over to Scientific Institutions for scientific research, and therefore the individual may do as he wishes, until such a time as the Universal House of Justice may legislate on this matter, if they ever do. The practice in the Orient is to bury the person within 24 hours of the time of death, sometimes even sooner, although there is no provision in the teachings as to the time limit. (From a letter dated 2 April 1955 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)
Car: My car is a standard 20XX black Make and Model, license plate XXX. If parked in the parking lot of my apartment building, it needs to be moved by 9:30 am, every time there is a snowfall greater than 5 cm. Not everyone is able to drive a standard, so whoever you get to move it, make sure they know how!
There is information that might be of interest to my son on my computer, particularly under (these file paths)
It would be a good idea to send an email notifying people of my situation to those who email me, or those who are in my address book. The easiest way of course is through Outlook Express on my computer, but if you need to access it online:
You can put an autoresponder on my email account, which will save you having to notify everyone one at a time!
You should also put a notification about the time and place of the funeral on these social media platforms: List each one with URL, usernames and passwords. These accounts can all be deleted after the funeral.
- XXX, paid 3 business days before the end of the month, via direct deposit to my personal account.
- XXX, usually paid within 5 days of the beginning of each month. My invoice to them is calculated per assignment and will be up to date. You don’t have to do anything to set this payment in motion. I’m paid in US dollars, through Paypal; and notified by email when the payment has been made. You can see my invoice at: XXX Username: XXX Password: XXX My PayPal account information is: username: XXX; Password: XXX When notified by email that the payment has been made, login in to paypal; click on “withdraw money”. When it gives you an opportunity to deposit it into an account, I usually put it into my business account – ending in XXX. Put in the amount that’s showing (even though it’s in US dollars); and it will automatically convert it to Canadian dollars when it makes the deposit. It’s clever that way! It will take approximately 5-7 business days to show up in my bank account. For more information, contact my boss, XXX at: XXX
- XXX – pays commissions on book sales directly into my business bank account, on the 29th of every month. To track royalties owed: Log in at: URL with Username: XXX and Password: XXX To arrange to have the royalties deposited into your account, call XXX and ask for the Publishing Division.
- XXX sometimes pays commissions from a down line I haven’t worked at: Call them at: XXX, or email XXX to see if there is anything owed to me. If there is, it won’t be much!
Banking: My bank is XXX. Bank card is in a folder in XXX. My passcode is XXX. You can access my online banking at: XXX I have several accounts: The one ending XXX is my personal account. The one ending XXX is my business account. I also have several very small RSP’s with them.
Financial Information: All my financial information is in YNAB (You Need a Budget) – URL Username: XXX Password: XXX If you need to download the program in order to access it, the license number is: XXX
Most bills and payments to the Right of God should be up to date. There may be a balance owing on MasterCard from the current billing period. There is money to cover it in the bank.
The category marked “XXX” is actually a holding account against any income taxes owing. This money should not be spent until my final income taxes are calculated.
Financial records needed for income tax for the current year can be found in the filing rack on the bookcase next to the kitchen table. Income tax information from previous years is in a box marked “income tax” in the storage closet.
Security Questions: If you need to know the answer to security questions:
- I usually use my mother’s maiden name “XXX” or my father’s middle name “XXX”.
- DOB: XXX
- SIN: XXX
Check the website (scroll down) to see how many points I have. You might as well use them for free groceries before cancelling the account. Contact number 24/7: XXX
Phone and Internet: $XXX comes out of my account automatically; every month. You can access my account online: URL Policy Number: XXX PIN: XXX
Monthly service contracts: $XXX comes out of my account automatically every month. Policy Number: XXX Contact: XXX
Water: a new filter for my shower is shipped automatically every 6 months. To cancel: Policy Number: XXX Contact: XXX
Huququ’llah (Right of God):
The obligation to pay Huququ’llah (returning back to God what belongs to God) is normally to be carried out with lifetime giving. If this has been your practice, you could say something like:
I pay my Right of God monthly, so it should be up to date, and the only thing outstanding would be from the past month. I calculate it by adding up all expenses not related to running my household and business, then multiplying it by 19%. This money is then sent to the Representative of the Trustee of Huququ’llah:
If you want to make provision in your will for payment of the unpaid portion of Huququ’llah, you could direct your executor to contact the local Trustee for information on how to handle it.
The event of death does not remove from a believer the obligation to pay Huququ’llah. Whatever portion is due to be paid is therefore a debt due from the believer’s estate at the time of his or her death. (on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, Wills and Inheritance, 1996-07-01)
Here is some more information your executor will need to know:
The cost of the funeral and burial, the payment of the debts of the deceased, and the payment of whatever portion of Huququ’llah remains due are prior charges on the estate which must be met before arriving at the amount of the property which has to be divided in accordance with the provisions of the law of inheritance. (on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, Wills and Inheritance, 1996-07-01)
It should be noted that the question of a legal wording to include provision in a will for the payment of Huququ’llah after a believer has died is dependent upon so many factors, that it would be preferable to seek legal advice so that wording which is appropriate and in accordance with the laws governing inheritance can be used. (on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, Wills and Inheritance, 1996-07-01)
In light of the complexities of sorting out what is to be paid, it is certainly better to make the necessary arrangements for payment of Huququ’llah before your death, in order to avoid complications or confusions which could arise.
Obviously, unless the believer leaves a clear accounting of his or her property and payment of Huququ’llah to date, if any, it will not be possible for anyone to calculate accurately what remains to be paid at the time of death. (on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, Wills and Inheritance, 1996-07-01)
Car: My car insurance is through XXX (paid monthly through automatic withdrawal). Policy Number: XXX (see insurance file in the computer desk filing drawer) Contact: XXX
Life: I have a policy with XXX Insurance to help with my burial and final expenses. It will pay: XXX $XXX comes out of my account automatically every month. Policy Number: XXX (see insurance file in the computer desk filing drawer) For more information, please contact: XXX
Library Books: They will have to be returned to the XXX Public Library at this address: XXX. There may be one in my purse (with me or on the top shelf of my coat closet); or by my bed; or on the kitchen table; with unread ones on the bookcase in my bedroom.
Laundry Card: There is a white plastic credit card labelled “XXX” in the right side of the 3rd drawer in the kitchen, which has money pre-loaded on it for the laundry. If there is a balance on the card when you’ve finished with it, it can be given to XXX in apartment XXX.
Clothes: My clothes and any unused household items and furniture can be donated to XXX: Phone Number: XXX or email: XXX
Individual Items including Baha’i Books (list each item separately): These can be found in the XXX and can go to XXX. Phone number: XXX
In the Event of Incapacitation
In Case of Emergency, please contact (list as many names, phone numbers and their relationship to you as you want). You may want to include:
- local Baha’is and others who may want to pray for you
- Any caregivers you want
- someone to look after your pets
- local coordinator for caregiving
- local hospice
Notifications: The following people are key contacts to notify. They can notify people within their circle to provide news of my death.
List as many names, phone numbers and their relationship to you as you want). You may want to include:
- local Baha’is and other Baha’i friends
- Bahá’í National Centre Records
- Trustee for Huqúqu’lláh
- financial planner
If these numbers are out of service, up to date phone numbers can be found in my address book (in my iPhone). My phone plan covers all of Canada and the USA – don’t put 1 in front of the area code.
Death Notice: Notice of my death can be posted in the local online newspaper: URL Email: XXX Phone: XXX
- I want my funeral and/or memorial service planned, organized and executed by Bahá’ís, working in conjunction with my son XXX, and used as an opportunity to teach the Faith.
- I would like lots of music and singing (artists to consider include XXX, XXX, XXX and XXX). I’m also fond of “XXX” by artist’s name XXX. You can find it on my computer at XXX: or you can buy it at: URL
- Suggested readings for my funeral and/or memorial service can be found at XXX. Other quotes and readings can also be used. If it won’t offend anyone, I like to use ‘Abdul-Bahá’s prayer to Thomas Breakwell, substituting the word “Breakwell” with “Susan”. And of course, I want the long prayer for the departed read at the cemetery.
- Two binders of pictures and information on my life may be suitable for a memorial service, and both can be found here: XXX
- I have put together a slide show in powerpoint, with pictures of me throughout the years. It can be found on my computer under XXX: I like the song “XXX” by this artist: XXX which might work for background music while the slideshow is playing. It can be found on YouTube at: URL
- I have been working on my memoirs, which can be found on my computer, filed under XXX. (or if I’ve already printed it, it can be found in a box marked “Family History” in the storage closet. I would like a copy printed off for my son and one printed and sent to the Baha’i archives at XXX.
- I am to be buried according to Baha’i burial principles. If the funeral director is not familiar with these, please instruct him to contact the nearest Bahá’í community immediately. If I die in XXX, that would be the Spiritual Assembly in XXX (Contact XXX at XXX) or XXX (Contact XXX at: XXX)
- I have a silk burial shroud. It can be found in my bottom right hand dresser drawer, along with the burial ring (packaged together).
- I would also like to have XXX buried with me. You can find it in the XXX. It looks like this (insert picture)
- I wish to be buried in a small, quiet and peaceful place, off the beaten path and away from visual and auditory “clutter”. If possible, I’d like to be buried under a tree.
I’m particularly fond of the old part of the on XXX Cemetery at XXX. If there is a spot close to the XXX plot, along the fence near XXX, at the south end of the cemetery, it would be wonderful, as I often use it as a surrogate spot to say prayers for my parents.
I also like the following cemeteries at XXX in XXX or XXX Contact names and phone numbers: XXX
If I die anywhere within an hour’s drive of XXX, I have a funeral plot at the XXX Cemetery with my name on it. It’s a double adult plot, in Section XXX, graves XXX. If I don’t use it, the cemetery board can attach a note to the grave notifying who will be buried there (so it can be passed along to my son or his heirs). The double lot will accommodate 2 caskets or 8 cremations. A copy of the deed can be found under “Important Papers” in the filing cabinet of my desk. For more information, you can contact: XXX at XXX
- XXX has made me a grave marker, and is storing it at his shop until such time as it is needed. It is paid for, but I’ve just learned that some cemeteries have restrictions on what kind of head-stones they will allow. You will need to talk to the cemetery about the grave marker before finalizing the details. Hopefully this won’t be a problem (especially since I want to be buried in a small cemetery)! Contact XXX; XXX; XXX
Government Pension Plan: I may qualify for a lump-sum payment of up to $XXX. For more information, please contact: XXX Let them know my SIN number (XXX) The form can be downloaded from this URL XXX. It must be submitted within 60 days of the date of death.
For more information on the topic of wills and testaments in general, please see Taking Care of your Will and Testament
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