While end of life planning may sound morbid— the truth is, it’s a really important process that we should all start thinking about. 

Regardless of your health status, everyone can benefit from getting their affairs in order.

Getting your affairs in order through end of life planning ensures that your last wishes will indeed be carried out.

Everything You Need To Know About End Of Life Planning

What Is End Of Life Planning (and why is it important?)

End of life planning refers to the process of getting your affairs in order, so that in the event of your passing, your last wishes are able to be successfully carried out how you see fit.

End of life planning is important because it allows you to make important decisions not only about your health and your last days, but also about your estate, assets, and finances. 

Note: If you’re looking into getting your affairs in order because you’ve been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness such as cancer, ALS, or alzheimers, you may be able to access money from your life insurance policy via a lump-sum cash payout through a viatical settlement. To learn more and see if you qualify, visit us here.

Common End Of Life Planning Documents

When it comes to end of life planning, there are certain documents you’ll want to make sure you have in order. To make this process easier, we have made a convenient list of some of the most important documents.

Advanced Care Directives

An advanced care directive is a document explaining how you want medical decisions to be made for you, in the event that you are unable to make them yourself.

  • DNR: This directive stands for “do not resuscitate,” and means that you are electing not to receive CPR treatment in the event you stop breathing or your heart stops.
  • DNI: This directive stands for “do not intubate,” meaning you are denying the option for a breathing tube, should one become necessary.
  • DNH: This directive stands for “do not hospitalize.” These are commonly used by nursing home patients and instruct caregivers not to send the patients to a hospital under certain circumstances.

Health Care Proxy

Also known as a “durable power of attorney”; this is a document which allows you to appoint another person to make any necessary health/medical decisions on your behalf, in the event that you are unable to do so.

Financial Power of Attorney

This document is basically the financial version of the health care proxy document. In other words, a financial power of attorney allows another person to make any necessary financial decisions on your behalf, in the event that you are unable to do so.

Living Trust

Like a Will, a living trust protects a person’s assets and ensures they are transferred to the designated beneficiaries upon the holder’s passing. You are known as the “trustee” of your own trust, until your passing, when a trustee of your choice will take over.

Unlike a Will, which only becomes effective after the creator’s passing, a living trust is active immediately after it’s created, while the creator is still living. Also, unlike with Wills, living trusts are not required to go through a probate process (which is a legal examination process). 

Last Will And Testament

Your Last Will and Testament is a legal document that functions to protect your estate and assets, and which designates who will inherit them after your passing. It functions in essentially the same way as the living trust, but with those few key differences mentioned previously.

Your End Of Life Planning Checklist

Part 1: Health Care Planning

  • Organ & Tissue Donation: If you have not already done so, now is the time to decide if you would like to become an organ and tissue donor upon your passing. Deceased donors are still able to donate certain organs and tissues, including: the pancreas, heart, kidneys, intestines, lungs, and liver. If you do decide to become an organ and tissue donor upon your passing, you could save as many as 8 lives! Signing up is easy and can be done online through your state.
  • Life Support: Life support is sometimes required at the end of life to keep the body functioning properly; it relies on machines to do the work the body can no longer do on its own, in order to prolong a patient’s life. Life support can include the use of ventilators for automatic breathing, as well as CPR and even electric shocks to restart the heart. Decisions about what life support—if any—you would consent to, should be made in advance.
  • Resuscitate Orders: Resuscitation refers to the process of performing certain actions (usually CPR and/or electric shocks), in order to prevent the patient from passing away in the event that their heart stops beating. The Advanced Care Directives we spoke about earlier include the specific documents for which types of resuscitation, if any, you consent to be used on you.
  • Do You Want To Use Nursing Homes, Hospitals, and Hospice?: Nursing homes tend to be more commonly used by patients who require assisted living, but are not necessarily ill or at risk of passing away in the near future. Essentially, nursing homes help residents with daily living tasks. Hospice, on the other hand, is usually the more appropriate choice for patients seeking end-of-life care specifically. Hospice care places more of an emphasis on caring for patients and making them comfortable during their final months. However, it is important to note that while hospice care generally occurs in a patient’s home, it can also take place AT a nursing home, or another type of care center. Finally, hospitals are most appropriate for patients’ seeking ongoing and necessary medical treatment, rather than comfort care. 

Part 2: Financial & Estate Planning

Earlier in this article, we briefly explained some of the most important documents when it comes to financial and estate planning. These documents included: Financial Power of Attorney, Living Trust, and Last Will And Testament documents. It may be helpful to re-reference those sections above before proceeding.

Let’s go over some other things to consider when it comes to end-of-life financial and estate planning.

  • Update Your Beneficiaries: If you have a retirement account, life insurance policy, pension, etc. you’ll want to make sure that the beneficiary(ies) who are set to receive the money after you pass, are still the same people you want to receive your money. 
  • Itemize Your Physical Assets: Make a list of all of the items in your home that have financial value, such as: the home itself, your car, expensive jewelry or family heirlooms, electronics, antiques, art, collectibles, etc. You can use this list to help you decide what to do with these things and/or who will inherit them in the event of your passing.
  • Itemize Your Non-Physical Assets: Make a list of all of the items you own or are otherwise entitled to, including those that become effective after your passing (ie. life insurance settlement, etc.). Here, you’ll want to list things like bank accounts, 401K plans, pensions, retirement settlements, etc, along with all relevant account information for each. 
  • Select Your Estate Administrator: An estate administrator/executor is someone of your choosing who will be in charge of overseeing and administering your will, upon your passing. This person can be a family member or close friend, but you may also prefer to use a qualified estate administrator who does not have any conflicts of interest. 

Part 3: Planning Your Funeral & Obituary

When it comes to end of life planning, planning your funeral and obituary is one of the most important parts.

While some people may not want a funeral, many individuals do indeed have very specific requests for their ceremony. If you choose to have a funeral, you may want to consider the following aspects while planning your ceremony: 

  • What location you’d like the service to be held
  • Whether or not you’d want any religious or spiritual ceremonies to take place
  • What kind of music will play
  • What kind of flowers or other arrangements you’d like
  • Is there a specific cemetery you’d like to be buried in?
  • Do you want to be cremated instead? If so, where would you like your ashes spread? 

When it comes to your obituary, you may choose to have a loved one write it for you, or perhaps you would prefer to author it yourself. By choosing to write it yourself, you have complete control over what will be said, which can be very empowering for some.

Part 4: Talking To Your Loved Ones About Your Plans

When making decisions about end of life care, it’s important to make sure that you are communicating these choices clearly—not only through your documents, but also in conversation with your loved ones. 

By explaining your wants and needs, you open the line of communication with your loved ones— allowing both parties to voice their thoughts and feelings about certain decisions. 

Additionally, by allowing your loved ones to become familiar with both your health and financial decisions, there won’t be any confusion or questions when it comes time to execute your wishes. 

Part 5: Building A Bucket List & Living An Incredible Life

Regardless of your age or health, it’s never too late to start living.

At some point, you may have made a bucket list full of items you always wanted to do.  Maybe now is the time to get back to it! Perhaps you’ve always wanted to go on a cruise, or swim with dolphins, or heck, even just try a new hobby. There’s really no reason you can’t start now. Have fun!

And for those of you who have never made a bucket list, make one now! Grab a pen and some paper, and write down all of the things you have not gotten to—but still want to—experience in your life. Then, go down your list and make as many of them a reality as possible!

An incredible life still awaits you.

Frequently Asked Questions About End Of Life Planning

What does end of life planning include?

End of life planning is the process of getting one’s affairs in order before they pass away. Some of the most important parts of end of life planning include: making decisions about health care and about your estate, assets, and finances. End of life planning ensures your care team and loved ones can honor your wishes, in the event of your passing. Additionally, end of life planning includes decisions about funeral proceedings, cremation, and your obituary. 

What should I prepare for end of life?

When it comes to end of life planning, you’ll want to prepare certain healthcare and financial documents, including but not limited to: any advanced care directives, your health care proxy, Financial Power Of Attorney, and your Last Will and Testament. 

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