End-of-Life Planning

End-of-Life Planning

While no one wants to think about their mortality, end-of-life wishes are an essential part of estate planning. This type of planning gives you the opportunity to explicitly state what you do and—perhaps more importantly—don’t want. Advanced planning includes writing down your wishes and discussing them with friends, family, and doctors to help prevent potential misunderstandings with your survivors.  

While you’re still healthy, you should consider updating your estate plan with a living will (or known as an Advanced Healthcare Directive in California). It is essential that you share these documents with your agents and health care providers before it’s too late as they provide a blueprint for how to handle your medical affairs in the event you are unable to make decisions. Once in place, a good rule of thumb is to revisit these documents every few years as laws evolve and your choice of representatives may change. With advancements in medicine, your feelings about end-of-life care may also evolve.

To help kick-start those end-of-life conversations, below are some topics to consider. Remember, if you don’t make your wishes known now, your survivors will not only be in crisis, but they may be scrambling to figure out what you would have wanted:    

• Do you want to spend your final days in a hospital with all efforts made to prolong your life? Do you want to be at home if possible? Involve hospice? According to the State of California, 70% of Americans prefer to be at home with their loved ones at the end of their lives, but only 25% die at home. 

• If you are dealing with a terminal illness, discuss with your doctors and caregivers what to expect as the disease progresses and what they recommend as a pain management program.

• Are there specific medical procedures you do or don’t want?  

• Do you want to donate your organs? If you do, beyond checking the box on your driver’s license, you need to make arrangements in advance with your chosen institution.

• Do you want a casket funeral or cremation? At present, these are the main choices, with additional options likely to become available in future years. There are some environmentally friendly options currently available in California, such as  a green burial (Fernwood Cemetery in Marin County offers this option), although they are considerably more expensive than a standard burial.

• Once you make this decision, it would be very helpful to your survivors to make complete arrangements, including transport, either with a funeral home or with an organization like the Neptune Society (for cremation). This detail is regularly overlooked, which can result in last-minute decision making under less-than-ideal circumstances. 

• What kind of ceremony, if any, do you want after your passing? Religious funeral? Celebration of life? Party? Who would you like to invite? Anyone to exclude?  

The more specific the information and guidance you have in writing and the more you communicate those wishes with family members and friends who will be caring for you, the easier the end-of-life transition will be on you and your loved ones.


Sources:
https://lp.fernwood.com/green-cemetery-natural-burial
www.oag.ca.gov/consumers/general/care

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