On the freezer door in my kitchen, there’s an index card held in place with a bright red magnet. In bold, black letters, I’ve written an important reminder on it: “Make a ‘When I Die’ file.”

I should point out that I’m not terminally ill, just highly organized. I was a caregiver to my mom, who was dying, and it taught me that getting your shit in order—even (and especially!) when things feel relatively okay—can save you and the folks you love a lot of hassle and heartache during times of illness, injury or death. As she became increasingly sick, my mom and I finally started talking about what she wanted in terms of health and end-of-life care, but there was still so much left unsaid. I remember frantically helping her write a will and meeting with a funeral home in what turned out to be the last week of her life. It was a lot to deal with on top of my feelings about losing my mom.

My queer family structure was another motivator for updating the legal paperwork that outlines who’s included in my family and who gets to make decisions on my behalf. I’m co-parenting my toddler with three other queer people, including my non-binary partner who I’m not married to. We’re definitely not the nuclear family many health-care and end-of-life laws, policies and planning tools seem to be based on. I don’t trust the medical or legal system to recognize our relationships, identities or desires so I’ve taken steps to protect myself and my chosen family by putting my wishes in writing.

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