If you are like most people, you spend a lot of time planning things – from mundane chores to life's most significant events. If you really think about it, you have likely spent countless hours creating grocery lists, deciding what to wear to your high school reunion and planning your wedding. But how much thought have you given to pre-planning for the end of your life? You have probably had fleeting thoughts about it and may even have a vision of what you think it will be like. End-of-life pre-planning is taking the time to outline your wishes before it’s too late. It is the only way to ensure your wishes will be met and to alleviate the burden on your loved ones.
If you are reading this, you should have an end-of-life plan in place. It isn’t only about having your wishes fulfilled or who gets your prized coin collection – it is about alleviating unnecessary burdens from those who love you. Your loved ones should not have to agonize over decisions regarding your health care, your children, your estate, or your funeral/burial wishes. Nor should your end-of-life care and after-death arrangements cause unnecessary financial strain on those you leave behind. It will be a stressful time for your loved ones and it is up to you to make sure there is a roadmap – just like you take care of planning for your family while you are still here, you should be even more thoughtful about how you can help them deal with your end-of-life.
There will be many questions and decisions to be made at the time of your death or if you have a health crisis prohibiting you from making your own decisions. While you are of sound mind, discuss your wishes and research options with loved ones, put final plans in writing and ensure several of your family members have copies of the document. Don’t let it end there; while you are alive and well, keep the conversation open so that there are no questions about how things will be handled.
Pre-planning for your final days is not all about you; it is your loved ones who will be left to deal with whatever you did not. Don’t put your family in the uncomfortable position of guessing about your wishes, burdening them financially, or with moral dilemmas in the face of a health crisis or your unexpected death. This may cause them to struggle later with choices they made and it could cause rifts amongst those involved.
Pre-purchasing a burial plot is planning ahead, but there is so much more that you need to think about. End-of-life plans should include pre-need insurance, your will and estate planning including plans for your health care, funeral arrangements and other concerns. Some things to include in your pre-plans are:
Funeral/Burial Wishes: Regardless of your personal and religious beliefs, you must decide what happens to your remains once you have passed. It will be a relief to your loved ones if you include your wishes in writing. If you plan to be buried, you should pre-purchase your burial plot and ensure your loved ones know where the documentation can be found. If you plan to be cremated, your family members should know what your wishes are for your ashes. When you consider funeral home services, cremation, burial, funeral merchandise and church services, you must also consider the costs. If the financial aspect of these services is not adequately planned for, you may place an undue financial burden on your family.
Pre-Need Insurance: If you want to ensure that the cost of your funeral is not a financial drain on your loved ones, you may want to consider pre-need life insurance. Once you have determined your wishes and the costs, you are able to set aside the necessary funds through this policy and ensure the expense does not fall to your next of kin or drain your estate.
Will and Estate: It is important to know what you own. Itemize it, and put into writing your decisions about who you will leave each possession to. Don’t forget about the items with sentimental value; discuss with loved ones and come to agreements about who will be getting what. Make a list of financial accounts, important documents (and where they are kept) and online account numbers/passwords. Your will should include plans for your dependents. If you have young children, you will need to include plans for their guardianship. If you have grown special needs children, you must include plans for their care. Don’t forget to include care for pets. Your will should be kept up-to-date to reflect your current wishes.
Health Care: Assess the costs of different end-of-life care options like nursing homes, in-home care, or if you will be cared for by a loved one. Make decisions with finances in mind. If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, talk to your doctor about treatment options, such as hospice care and pain management. You may consider having a living will to outline your health care wishes. You can assign a health-care proxy who will be responsible to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated. You should include your wishes regarding heroic actions and your feelings about being resuscitated if your heart stops.
There are not many things in life that you can be sure about. One thing is for certain; your end-of-life will come. It may come suddenly and unexpectedly or it may come due to an illness or at advanced age. But it is never too soon to ensure that your affairs are in order and your loved ones are taken care of.
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