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The Importance of Making Our End-of-Life Wishes Known

While it’s a topic most people don’t like talking about – no matter how old or young – having conversations about death can be beneficial to you and your family. How? Talking about and preparing for death can reduce some of the burden for our loved ones after we’ve gone.

While we may not like to admit it, we all know that we are not invincible, and that our time on this earth is limited. We know logically that our lives will come to an end one day, and in many cases, without warning. Despite this fact, we often put off having conversations about death, because it is uncomfortable, and asks more questions than it answers.

Preparing for Death

There are a variety of ways that we can prepare for our eventual death and, more importantly, prepare our family members and loved ones for what to do when we’re gone. Some of the ways we can prepare for death may include:

1. Start the Conversation

Regardless of whether you think you’re too young to start talking about your end of life wishes, it’s never too early. Even if you only get as far as having a casual discussion about your final wishes with a child, spouse, sibling, or other family member, they will at least have some idea of your wishes.

2. Get Health Documentation in Order

There are two main health documents that we should all consider having to ensure our end-of-life wishes are carried out:

  • Advance Directive/Living Will – This document outlines how you would like to be taken care of with regards to medical care in a life-threatening situation or at the end of your life. Determining this ahead of time will make it easier for family members to make decisions that best align with your wishes.
  • Healthcare Durable Power of Attorney/Healthcare Proxy – This document defines who you will have speak for you if you are unable. This can be anyone you choose, and doesn’t necessarily have be a spouse or even a family member.

By taking the time to create these documents, you can put your family members at ease when the time comes to make what will be difficult choices, more so if they don’t know your precise wishes. It’s also important to keep beneficiary information up-to-date at all times, as they can override anything you put in your will.

3. Document Your Wishes on Your Own

While having legal documentation that states your wishes is one of the best options, you may also want to consider putting your wishes together in a non-formal document, which may be as simple as typing them up in a word document, or as complex as using online forms available through CaringInfo.org or AgingWithDignity.org, both of which offer helpful templates for organizing and documenting your final wishes. There are also books like I’m Dead. Now What? and the Lasting Matters Organizer that can help you collect your pertinent information in one place.

4. Consider Estate Planning

While documenting your wishes in a formal or non-formal way is a great first step, there are some additional arrangements to consider when planning for your end-of-life. Websites such as LegacyWriter and LegalZoom provide users with an easy platform to create a simple will.Or, if your assets are more complex – you have children under the age of 18, and/or multiple family members that count on you for financial support, for example – you may want to work with a lawyer and financial planner to set up trusts or other estate plans to ensure that everything is handled smoothly when you’re gone.

5. Pre-Plan as Much as Possible

Pre-planning is helpful for reducing as much of the unknown as possible. We never really know how long we might have, or what the future holds for us. If you want to ensure that your wishes are carried out – and even paid for ahead of time – pre-planning your end-of-life services is a savvy option.Many funeral homes offer options for pre-planning, not all of which require pre-payment. If you simply wish to document your wishes, you can keep it as simple as that. Or, in some cases, you may set up a payment plan for the exact services you’d like, and begin paying now, so that no one else will be left with the financial burden of carrying out your wishes.

The longer we wait, the more we risk leaving our families to wonder what our wishes are when the time comes. Therefore, the sooner you begin the conversation about your final wishes, the better.

We have developed an end-of-life planning guide to help families answer important questions as they plan their final wishes.

Funeral planning guide

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