Estate planning

Memorial FlowersThe case for photo scanning in estate planning.

By Mary V. Danielsen: Documented Legacy, LLC

If today was your last day would your family know where your favorite photos of you are?

Don’t wait until something happens to begin the process of compiling your favorite family photos, especially those of yourself. One of the steps you should take while getting organized this year is to compile a few of your favorite photos and tuck them in the file with your legal documents for your final wishes. You control the story of your legacy, even in photos.

No one wants to sound like they’re always talking about death. It makes people skirmish. Even funeral directors tell you that the discussion of your final wishes should focus around the celebration of life, the joys rather than the sorrows. It never fails, however, that life has a way of throwing us unexpected personal disasters and natural loses. Inevitably we scramble for images of loved ones to share at the funeral.

A few things happen in the hunt for funeral photos.

First, it’s an opportunity for lots of photos to be displayed that may not honor the person in the best light. They may be unflattering, poor quality images or, even, the story that person would not like told of themselves. (Think fraternity house parties or the up-the-nose shot taken from a camera held too close and below the level of one’s nose.)

Loaner loss can be a problem when original images are brought to a funeral service and never returned. Even in a closely knit family, this happens.

ACollage of old photoss well, sometimes there’s nitpicking over ownership of older family photos. It’s not uncommon to hear of family arguments over possession of cherished photos albums once an estate is being divided. (This happens in divorce, too.)

When you’re at the service, sitting near the photo displays, you’re bound to hear someone say, “Wow, may I get a copy of that?”

All this makes a good case for incorporating photo scanning into your estate planning. Think of your own funeral for a moment. How do you want to be remembered? What images do you want displayed that tell your life story? What is your primary photo, the one used for obituaries and tributes? It could be one from your youth or a casual shot taken recently that you like.

This week’s assignment is to compile photos – or duplicates – to be tucked into your legal documents folder, instructing your family on what key photos you would like displayed at your funeral. Don’t wait until the last hour to begin making these decisions when you have a clearer head today. Life is not predictable and sometimes we don’t get that last hour.

This is a step in the process of getting your house in order. You are already organizing your home and determining the family history you’d like preserved. While you’re sorting through photos, records and memorabilia, take a few minutes to decide what images tell your story best. Compile the timeline yourself.

If you’re not sure where to begin look at the types of tributes offered by the National Funeral Directors Association at or the ideas on sharing stories and life review offered in a free booklet called Have the Talk of a Lifetime by the Funeral and Memorial Information Council.

  • Can you tell the story of your life with a few dozen photos? In the life story projects I’ve written, there are generally 75-150 photos that are used to illustrate the story they want preserved in a printed book. Maybe you can only find five photos, but they’re five good quality and flattering images you have of yourself. They’re you. Tuck duplicates into your file.
  • Do you have a decent group family photo that includes the family photographer, the person usually taking the photos?
  • Do you have a decent current photo of each family member? Spouses may want to do this step together.
  • Where are all these photos? Are they scanned? Make a checklist of what you’d like to compile.
  • Is there any special memorabilia you’d like displayed at your funeral?

I’m a photographer and a quilter. I’d like one quilt, copies of my family’s life stories I’ve written, and an exhibit of my favorite landscape photography displayed. I know my family well enough to predict that duplicates will be requested. Only I can compile those photos properly and set them aside for my children and nieces and nephews. So, this step makes sense to me. My assignment includes blending a mix of printed photos to be scanned and copying digital images.

At a funeral I attended a few years ago the family wove dozens of family photos with displays of their Dad’s rock and mineral collection and his custom made fishing lures. He was a forensic geologist and considered a genius by many who knew him. If he took up a new hobby he embraced it to perfection. Local anglers loved his fishing lures. I’ve never forgotten how the family cheerfully mixed photos of his life with his work, military history and hobbies without making it look like a museum.

Remember with scanning you’re going to make two copies of backups. Let a family member know where these copies are located. Having everything digitized also helps when family members are dividing up assets and asking for copies of images displayed. It’s is an easy resolution. Another step you could take after compiling your digital archive is to create a permanent online storage account on a website such as

As unpleasant as it may seem to discuss the end of life, we should embrace the responsibility of reviewing our final wishes annually. Estate planning professionals suggest we review our last will and testament and living will at least once a year. Perhaps, we should review photos, too.

If you are working with a group of family members in a central location to prepare funeral displays, take the Flip-Pal with you. Together you could create timelines. As well, the Flip-Pal could easily fulfill the requests for duplicates that are often heard at funerals.

CounselingSessionSome people like to go through the whole process of preplanning their funeral, right down to the music played, readings spoken, and food served. Their legal folder may have a funeral file or death book with instructions for the family. Others may view this as morbid. Even if you are a live-for-the-moment kind of person, you still can plan for your legacy to be well defined and documented on your terms. Flip your attitude and put a positive look on your strategy for getting organized.

With a Flip-Pal mobile scanner you can adopt the take-it-where-you-work philosophy. With your estate planning, you can decide what you’re looking for and work room by room, drawer by drawer and box by box. If you are sifting through photos in an old shoebox and realize that you saw a relate photos in the drawer of an end table you can easily pick up the Flip-Pal and take it across the house to the end table.

Remember your life story is based on a real story. You should write the final chapter, right down to the details of the photos displayed at your servicesAs daunting a task as it is to suddenly review every printed and digital image you have own to find top picks of your loved one, it’s actually a big step in the grieving process. By doing this for yourself, you’ll actually help your family and friends to remember you in a positive light.

Tip #1: Stop Arguing & Flip It
Are you one of those families that argues of who gets to have Grandpa’s family photos or Nanna’s recipe card file? Petty arguments are common when an estate is being divided. Stop Arguing and Flip It. Flip-Pal mobile scanners are the fastest way to end the arguments. It shouldn’t matter who holds the original copy when you can scan everything at 300 to 600 dpi and reproduce high quality images that are saved for generations. You can scan Nanna’s entire recipe card file or reproduce all Grandpa’s panoramic photos of his World War II Army platoon.

Got lots to do? With two Flip-Pal scanners you can make this a team project.

Tip #2: Let’s Party
While you’re sorting through family photos and creating your own timeline, think about your other family members. Who has a big birthday or anniversary coming up? This process works well when it’s time to bring out the fun photos and celebrate milestones. You’ll have a digital set to easily share with others.


Life At Hand:  Your Life. Organized.

Legacy Stories: Your Stories Make History

Reel Tributes: Create Documentaries of a Lifetime

Saving Memories Forever: Record, Save and Share your family stories

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One Response to Estate planning

  1. Lin Joyce February 6, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    Great article, Mary. I always love reading your ideas and suggestions.
    By the way, I love my Flip Pal. It has served me well in many situations and has made life easier.

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