Plan for the Future

Ask Yourself These 3 Essential Questions Before You Die

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When you consider all the exciting opportunities and amazing surprises life has to offer, contemplating your eventual passing is not exactly how most of us would like to spend our spare time.

But there is a way you can live with fewer worries – and make it a little easier for those you leave behind. When you take a few moments and address the following three questions while you’re in good health, you’ll be able to depart on your own terms and spare your family and friends from having to make tough decisions.

The 3 questions to ask yourself now

Question 1: How do I wish to be cared for at the end of my life?

Granted, this is pretty heavy stuff, but when you take some time to consider your preferences for your end-of-life experience, it can actually provide peace of mind for you and others, knowing that you have everything in place when the time comes. For example, you can:

  • Choose someone to make healthcare and financial decisions for you if you are unable to, as well as act upon your specific guidance regarding your end-of-life care.
  • Determine what type of care and medical treatments you’d like to receive, whether it’s in-home caregiving, hospitalization or hospice care.
  • Decide whether you want life-sustaining treatment or to be on life support.

Question 2: What kind of funeral do I want to have?

Planning your own funeral may seem somewhat premature, and well, a little morbid. Yet it can actually be very liberating to know that you have everything taken care of in advance, your wishes will be carried out the way you intended and your loved ones don’t have to make conflicting or difficult decisions after you’re gone. To get started, consider these following steps:

  • Learn about the costs and preparations needed for a funeral. Also, if you can prepay for your funeral arrangements it means one less financial burden for those you leave behind.
  • Decide whether you want a burial or cremation, as well as other arrangements to ensure your loved ones have the peace of mind of knowing your wishes were carried out appropriately.
  • Consider whether you’d like to donate your organs and to make those wishes known.

Question 3: Who — and how — do I want to care for my loved ones?

Probably your biggest concern is what will happen to your loved ones after you’re gone. For example, will they be okay financially? Or, who will look after your children? Questions like these can all be alleviated with some advance planning and ensuring you have the right documents in place. Estate plans don’t have to be complicated, but here are some essential things you can do right now to ensure your wishes are carried out and your family or friends can carry on with fewer concerns:

  • Create a will. It’s probably the most essential of all estate planning documents, but it allows you to put your intentions in writing, such as how you would like to distribute any assets, property, investments, belongings, etc. – and it ensures it goes to the right people.
  • Ensure your beneficiaries and agents are updated on all documents. This would include any estate planning documents, medical and financial documents and insurance policies. A good rule of thumb is to review your beneficiaries and agents anytime you go through a life event.
  • Consider any additional estate planning documents, such as a living trust, to ensure that decisions like asset distribution or minor child guardianship doesn’t fall into a lengthy court proceeding.

The 3 documents to complete now

While getting your will done is what usually comes to mind when preparing your estate plan, there are other essential documents you may want to consider completing first – documents people often overlook that can prevent a lot of legal headaches.

The durable power of attorney, the healthcare power of attorney and the advance healthcare directive (also known as a living will) are the most important ones to consider first, according to Shay Burns Kendricks, an ARAG attorney. While Burns Kendricks stresses the fundamental value of having a will, she adds, “If there is no record of what a person might want, or no specific directions about who will make medical decisions or handle finances, complex legal issues or disputes may arise.”

Burns Kendricks offers these descriptions of what each one is designed to do:

Document 1: Durable power of attorney

Considered a “general power of attorney,” this gives the agent (the person granted the power) a set of broad powers to deal with any assets if you become incapacitated and unable to handle matters on your own.

Document 2: Power of attorney for health care

This document gives your named agent(s) the power to make medical decisions if you are unable to make them on your own, as well as the authority to sign consents and releases with hospitals or doctors on your behalf.

Document 3: Advance health care directive

This document can act as your “living will” for end-of-life decisions, enabling you to proactively state what your wishes would be if certain conditions exist and you aren’t able to express your intentions.

Asking the necessary questions (and preparing the right documents) is a great way to get started. The next step is to share your plans and insights with others, so everyone is on the same page when you reach the final few chapters of your life.