End-of-life Planning: Everything You Need to Know

End-of-life planning for ourselves or for a loved one is often thought of as an unpleasant task. It doesn’t need to be. Preplanning is a good way to ensure that our wishes are respected and is a final way to take care of our loved ones.

An end-of-life plan is just that, a plan so that your loved ones know what you want to have happen to you and your affairs once you have passed on. There are many reasons to have one in place before your demise.

  • It makes your wishes clear.
  • It prevents squabbling by designating who gets your assets and mementos.
  • Your funeral or memorial service is ready so that your loved ones don’t have to worry about it.
  • It keeps your estate from being tied up in court.

Where To Begin?

It may be unnerving or cause anxiety to plan for our end of life. Therefore, it can be helpful to have a family member or friend help you through the process. If you are making an end-of-life plan for someone else, it is equally beneficial to have family members or friends be a part of the planning. There is an organization, Death Over Dinner, that was created specifically to start the conversation about end-of-life.

There are also online resources such as Five Wishes and Our Care Wishes, that can walk you through the process and provide you with helpful documents.

Making Your Plan

Your end-of-life plan can be as specific or as simple as you would like. However, it should include the following 6 things.

1. Name an executor. This person is responsible for following out your wishes once you are gone. This person often is a family member but can also be a close friend. The important thing is that the person be able to take on the responsibility. It is also a good idea to have a backup person.
Make an inventory of what you own. While we usually remember the big stuff, like the house and financial assets there are other things that need to be considered.

  • If you have children, who will take care of them?
  • If you have pets, who do you want to have them?
  • Do you have collections, such as music or art? Are there particular people or institutions that you want to have them?
  • What will happen to your digital accounts?
  • If you have specific items that you want certain people to have? 
  • Do you want to be an organ donor?

2. Make a will. Once you have an inventory together and have an idea of how you want your assets taken care of, write it down. A will can be done by a lawyer, you can do it yourself with an online template, or you can type it up yourself. You will need to have two witnesses sign and date it. You don’t need to file your will, just be sure that people, most importantly the executor of your will, know where it is. Remember that your will can be changed overtime as your life circumstances change.

3. Make a living will. A living will specifies exactly how you want your medical care to be. You can talk with your doctor about this and also find templates online. A living will addresses important medical issues.

  • Do you want to be resuscitated?
  • Do you want to be on life support?
  • What does “quality of life” mean to you?
  • Do you want to die at home?
  • Do you want hospice care?

4.  Assign someone to be your power of attorney and medical power of attorney. You need someone to be able to take care of your finances and medical decisions if you can’t. This person can be the same person or two different people. What is important is that these people know how you want things handled. 

5. Specify how, or if, you want a funeral. It is often said that the funeral, memorial service or celebration of life is for the people left behind. That may be true but you can relieve your loved ones of the burden the planning by taking care of the details for them.

Things To Keep In Mind

  • Once you have made your end-of-life plan be open about it with your family and close friends. 
  • Designating someone as your executor, power of attorney, medical power of attorney are big responsibilities and caretakers of your children. Make sure you have a conversation with the people you choose to be sure that they are comfortable with it. You should also have a conversation with them about the decisions that they may be faced with.
  • Keep your will, living will, and other documents in a safe place and be sure that the appropriate people know where they are and have access to them.
  • Finally, remember that your plan will be the way that you can comfort those you love when you are no longer able to.