Bereavement and Remembrance

Bereavement and Remembrance

There is no “best” way to experience grief. It can be almost unbearable at times. However, those that have experienced the passing of loved ones know that that pain comes from missing the cherishing of another. They may wish to mitigate that pain, but not experiencing grief would diminish the relationship that causes it as well.

New technology is popping up in the estate planning sector that can help with remembrance. It may be a great blessing, but could also be a curse. It may be best to consider the technologies in light of how they differ from traditional methods.

Here are a few examples to consider, so when a new technology arises you might make some comparisons –

New remembrance technology for memories

As artificial intelligence becomes more complex, it will become more possible to create AI avatars of real people with the same mannerisms, voice, and appearance. In this recent story by the BBC, we can see a California man has attempted to create an AI chatbot of his Father after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He then created a business to help others do the same, and the article references a South Korean company that captures a person’s likeness to 96.5% of the original person.

Given enough information, it’s not hard to imagine an AI avatar may be able to extrapolate how that person would respond given a particular question. An older method of bringing that person back to speak to them might have been through watching home movies. By incorporating AI and videos with a database of questions asked and answered, a company called StoryFile is doing just that. Rather than an AI Avatar, they prerecord the answers to potential questions that could be asked after a person passes and stores them until that question is asked.

Those that find AI avatars and the interactivity of these new technologies creepy, but who like the idea of getting input after their loved one passes, might want to consider StoryWorth. This is a service that provides question prompts throughout the year for someone to create a diary of stories that could be made into a book later on. We all have stories to tell, but sometimes find it hard to so without prompting.

This type of remembrance technology may make it more difficult to accept the reality that the person that is cherished is gone, and it may seem like they are trying to keep them alive or replace them with these avatars. However, it isn’t that dissimilar to looking at pictures, and reading letters or a diary to get stories and lessons out of the past

New remembrance technology for remains or ashes

The question of what to do with the body has largely been framed as a choice between burial and cremation. However, new technology has arisen to expand those choices. One might be familiar with one of the companies to do so, Eterneva due to the backing they received from Mark Cuban in 2019 in Shark Tank. Their product is to turn part of the ashes and carbon into a man-made diamond or piece of jewelry that is uniquely of that person and a remembrance that stays with someone all the time.

They aren’t the only one looking to offer new options for the body. A company called PartingStone turns the ash from remains into smooth stones that might feel more natural, and a company called Recompose to regrowth, there is the ultimate preservation of the body through freezing it with a company like TomorrowBiostasis.

This type of remembrance technology may be morbid, but cemeteries and funeral urns on the mantle can be morbid as well. The intention is to create a physical reminder of what that person or pet meant. When considering it from this angle, the question of separation should come to mind. Is it better to have that remembrance be focused in a place that causes special reflection, or incorporated into daily life?

What are the conventional tools for grieving?

The most conventional tool for grieving is one that we often lack the most: time.

Adding the passing of a loved one on top of an already hectic life can mean needing to deal with more than just funeral planning. It can mean contacting loved ones, coordinating travel for funeral arrangements, contacting companies to let them know of the passing, dealing with any business interests and debts, among other things. It’s a full-time job in itself, which piled on top of other work may not leave as much space as we’d like to focus on our grief.

A helpful strategy in this process can be to assemble a team ahead of time and create what some estate planners refer to as a death box. This is a box or folder to be opened upon death that has all pertinent information for the executor, such as contact information for the family lawyer, accountant, life insurance agent, a list of financial accounts, who has power of attorney, real estate deeds, funeral directions, and passwords for computers among other things.

Another way to organize the financial part of the transition is through the use of a trust. It’s what we at Garden State Trust Company specialize in. By placing assets in a trust and having specific instructions on how to proceed with distributions, probate is avoided in most cases, giving survivors more time to focus on their grief and whatever remembrance methods they choose.

To learn more about trusts and estate planning, please feel free to reach out to us directly or subscribe to our newsletter for free.