Do your parents have a storage unit? What’s your aunt’s Facebook password? Where does your sister keep her diaries? These may seem like minor concerns—but when a loved one becomes terminally ill or dies, knowing those simple details can take the mayhem out of mourning. “When a relative is in the ICU, you don’t want to be wondering who’s got the spare garage key,” says Amy Pickard, founder of the end-of-life planning business Good to Go.
A former freelance film and TV producer in Los Angeles, Pickard made her way into this work after her mother died suddenly in 2012, without a will. “I became an accountant, detective, lawyer, and housecleaner overnight,” she says. “I was in a grieving hellscape and grappling with cosmic questions while also trying to figure out which electric company my mom used.” The grueling estate-shuttering process took Pickard a year and a half. In 2015, she started Good to Go in order to help others avoid leaving behind, or having to deal with, a similar mess. “One friend calls me a death concierge,” she says.
A typical Good to Go session involves a potluck, cocktails, and a cheeky rock ’n’ roll death-themed playlist. (“Another One Bites the Dust”? Check.) Then guests—a gaggle of BFFs, a group of terminally ill seniors, a cluster of moms and daughters—are presented with the Departure File, a 50-page manual filled with every topic Pickard wishes her mom had addressed that isn’t covered in a will. It’s also available on her website (goodtogopeace.org). Though not a legal document, the guide covers ground both practical (Who should get your jewelry? Will someone inherit your pet?) and spiritual (Who should preside over your funeral? Do you even want one?). “People can be intimidated by how extensive the file is,” Pickard says. “But I say, as overwhelmed as you feel, imagine your family winging this without your instruction. Advance planning is an act of love.”
Pickard’s dad attended an early Good to Go gathering in 2015; he died a year later. “I remember standing in the ICU feeling relieved because I was rock-solid on what he wanted,” she says. “He prepared perfectly, so when he was on his deathbed I could just hold his hand. Thinking back to the peaceful look on his face still makes me cry.”