Preparing Your End of Life Plan
We all know by now that we ideally should have a financial plan to guide us through our earning years so that when we finally arrive at retirement’s doorstep, we can live comfortably and worry-free. However, our work is not quite finished yet. While retirement for some can last 30+ years, one never knows when the inevitable will happen. For that reason, it is also important to develop an end of life plan sooner rather than later. You need a plan that will protect you and your loved ones from burden and distress.
During a person’s terminal illness, family relationships often become strained. Witnessing a loved one lose their ability to function normally and then finally watching them die is extremely difficult and highly emotional. The emotional and financial realities of death can be overwhelming. Arguing over medical courses of action, financial matters, or the intentions of an incapacitated person can be avoided or at least drastically reduced if we take the time to document our preferences for the end of our lives in advance of need. Taking the time now can take the crisis mode out of decision making, allowing our loved ones to focus on grieving when that time comes.
An End of Life Plan can be broken down into five key categories:
- Clarify and share your attitudes and beliefs with your designated loved ones about aging, incapacitation, dying, death and life after death. An open discussion on these topics can serve as a foundation for your loved ones when it comes to all decisions made once you are unable to handle your affairs yourself.
- Document in advance your healthcare wishes. Obtain a Healthcare Proxy or Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will. A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a legal document which appoints an agent, as well as an alternate, to speak on your behalf in the event you are unable to speak for yourself regarding your medical care. A Living Will is a document expressing your healthcare treatment preferences.
- Prepare a financial plan that will provide for your own care and comfort through the end of your life. Create an estate plan that explicitly states how you want your assets and possessions distributed after your death. Be sure to identify and inventory all of your assets, including jewelry, artwork and other heirlooms.
- Decide and record your preferences for your funeral and final arrangements. Communicate your decisions on items such as cremation vs. burial, final resting place, religious rituals and services, memorialization selection, and even personal selections of floral arrangements, music, and food. Even minor decisions can be daunting to distressed loved ones.
- Create a legacy letter. This is a way to share your story with your loved ones. You can include your ethical values, blessings, life lessons, and hopes for the future. It is not a legally binding document, but rather it tells your loved ones what you want them to know when you are gone.
The more you do to prepare in advance of need, the more your wishes and desires will be successfully carried out. Also keep in mind that the more intact your plan, the less your loved ones will have to do themselves when your time arrives.
Lastly, your end of life plan is only useful if you share it with others. Communicate the fact that you have created this plan with your loved ones and advisors. Copy it and store it in a safe and accessible location. To get you started on the task of creating an end of life plan, we have attached our VITAL RECORDS FORM that will allow you to record your important financial information in one place. Consider this a gift to yourself and to your loved ones.