New subspecialties are evolving in the caregiving and management space. Preplanning is always preferable to addressing needs during a crisis or at the time of a loss. Aging individuals and those with chronic illnesses are prime candidates. They need to express their preferences for care when they can, so others are unable to do so. It is important that they also explore options to assist their loved ones in navigating after they pass. A resource to consider is an after-loss professional. My interview with Abby O’Leary, the founder of Fare Well Associates, sheds light on a wonderful emerging resource.
What is an after-loss professional?
I like to think of myself as a concierge and project manager for individuals and families dealing with the loss of a loved one. There are so many administrative and logistical questions that surface after a death. These include working with funeral homes, dealing with personal possessions, coordinating with attorneys and accountants, and closing accounts and subscriptions. I help my clients identify all those to-do’s, put together a plan, and cross things off the list.
What prompted you to start Fare Well Associates?
When my father died less than a month after being diagnosed with cancer in 2021, I was shocked at how much there was to do while grieving. Within just the first several weeks, I had to contact over 30 institutions to begin wrapping up his affairs. This process took months. By the end, I learned so much (the hard way), and I saw a real opportunity to share that expertise with others.
What are the most common issues your clients face?
After the loss of a loved one, there are so many decisions to be made and actions to take. Unfortunately, this is a time when folks have little capacity to deal with it all. Grief, shock, and numbness can make it difficult to tackle seemingly mundane tasks, especially when those tasks turn out to be more complicated than expected. For example, closing or transitioning a bank account is a very common to do item. It is not as simple as a quick phone call and may require multiple follow-ups. It can feel like herding cats, and when you’re grieving, it’s too much to shoulder on your own.
When should someone contact an after-loss professional?
I work with families who may be anticipating a loss due to illness or have recently lost a loved one. When the sense of being overwhelmed and frustration build it’s time to reach out for assistance. The earlier the better!
Are there steps people can take in advance to make after-loss easier for their loved ones?
Absolutely! People often say, “We’re all set, we have our will done,” that’s a necessary first step, it’s just the first step. Organizing your important documents, and account information, and writing your wishes for possessions and valuables are additional steps. Talking to your family members to ensure they have the necessary information is key to having them follow your wishes. In addition to the after-loss work I do, I also offer Advance Planning “End of Life Audits”. Clients are often surprised at just how much additional information still needs to be gathered.
What should someone look for when considering an after-loss professional?
After-loss is an emerging field. A great starting place is to check out the directory offered by Professionals of After Loss Services. This association is dedicated to training and community-building within our profession. Most of us provide a free discovery or informational call. You can use that as an opportunity to ask somebody about their experience, their methods, and their pricing. And above all, trust is key. After-loss professionals are not your attorneys or financial advisors. It’s likely that you’ll be sharing sensitive and personal information during the process. Be sure that the person you’re working with has a solid commitment to confidentiality and data security.
Biography and Contact Info
Fare Well Associates founder Abby O’Leary came face-to-face with the bureaucracy of death when her father died less than a month after being diagnosed with metastatic melanoma in early 2021. She saw a huge gap in the support available to families dealing with it. In response, she founded Fare Well Associates. She offers customized planning, organization, and project management services for individuals and families dealing with loss.