Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, was reading the newspaper one morning when he was shocked to discover his obituary inside. The newspaper made a mistake published Alfred’s obituary when his brother died. His shock many say is what led him to set aside the bulk of his estate in order to establish the Nobel Foundation.

Well, it’s time to write your obituary. In case you are a bit hesitant, here are four good reasons to do it.

  1. It’s an opportunity to reflect on your life, your accomplishments (and foibles), your passions, and your quirks.
  2. Your loved ones will thank you because it can be a lot of work for someone else to do it.
  3. You get to have the last word. It guarantees that you’re in control of what the words say.
  4. Your obit will be better for it. After all, you know the most about the subject.

Begin with your basic resume. This does not mean listing the companies you worked for, but rather important life events: birth, marriages, awards and other talking points. Also include the names of your spouses, children and key charities.

If you’re writing someone else’s obituary, check the person’s LinkedIn page or talk to other family members and friends to find out more. Ask for colorful stories and anecdotes as well. Need content? Read your LinkedIn page.

Here are a few good questions to ask yourself:

  1. What was the turning point in your life, a realization, chance meeting or fluke that made a change in your path?
  2. What fictional or real people inspired you?
  3. Did a national event or catastrophe spur you to action?
  4. What did you spend their free time doing?
  5. What do you what to be remembered for?
  6. What words would you associate with you (funny, generous, honest, dynamic, fearless, insightful, kind…)?
  7. What makes you happy?
  8. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
  9. Did you start a charity or volunteer at one
  10. What did you love?

If you need guidance, you can find it on the LifePosts webpage.

You can also join a workshop or group and get advice and support from other people, or use fill-in-the-blank templates online.

There’s also a great documentary about obituary writing that shows how the pros at the New York Times do it.

And remember, obituaries have next to nothing do with death and absolutely everything to do with life.