End of Life Planning

When we think of end-of-life planning we normally think of funeral planning.  Although that is part of an end of Life Plan, I want to broaden this definition for purposes of our discussion here.  An effective end of life plan should start many years before you die. If you plan earlier you’re much more likely to get what you want.

Notice I used the word “you” as the one to do the plan.  You should plan while you still have capacity and are able to make end-of-life decisions for yourself as opposed to someone else. I’ve often said that if you fail to plan, you forfeit the right to choose.

Before Making Decisions

Let’s start by talking about a few things to plan. These are typically not mentioned in an End of Life Discussion.  They are important because they have to do with what you want and who you want making decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself:

  1. Are your health care documents current and do they reflect what you want? Most of the time people have no Health Care documents in place at all.  If they do any documents, they are woefully out of date and may not even reflect their current desires.
  2. What legal documents (if any) have you prepared. It is important to check to see that at least the following documents reflect your intentions.
    1. Health Care power of Attorney
    2. Private Living Will
    3. HIPAA Authorization
    4. (DNR) Do Not Resuscitate Order

Things to consider

Although there are other documents that you may need, these would be a good start. They may be called by different names in your state. So it is very important to meet with an Elder Law Attorney as soon as possible. To make sure that you have the documents that you need and they reflect your intentions.

  1. Disposition of your Final Remains. Do you want to be buried or cremated? Where do you want to be buried? Who do you want to invite to the memorial service? Do you even want a memorial service or funeral? These are a few of the many decisions that you’d be making prior to death. Most people fail or refuse to make these decisions, leaving the burden on their kids or some other loved one who has to guess as to what they wanted.
  1. How to pay for final expenses. Do you have a prepaid burial contract? Burial insurance? Life insurance designated to pay for final expenses? Money set aside to pay for this? Let someone else worry about it? All of these are potential ways to pay. But you need to plan and think about it before your death.
  2. End of Life Discussion with your Parents. If your parent’s have not done end of life planning, this would be an important discussion to have with them.  Be gentile.  You shouldn’t create the impression that they are about to die in the next 15 minutes.  Just bring up the topic in the context of planning for incapacity or estate planning.  End of life planning should be part of any effective estate plan.  Make these decisions in a loving and stress free environment with the whole family there to help.

End of Life Planning should be a positive discussion with the intent of getting in place what you want and selecting the agents you want to make your end of life health care decisions.

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