5 Reasons to Create Your End-of-Life Plan (Even if You’re Nowhere Near Dying)
End-of-life planning is not just for people who are about to pass away. It is for anyone who wants to ensure they will be cared for when they can no longer care for themselves, and for anyone who wants to care for their loved ones in that process. Here are five critical reasons you should start forming your end-of-life plan today:
1. You don’t know when your life will change or end.
We don’t say this to scare you or wave the doomsday flag. We’ve just seen too many worst-case scenarios to keep from mentioning it. You might not be elderly or terminally ill, but tragedies happen to young, healthy people all the time. None of us think it will happen to us or the people close to us-until it does. This is reason enough to plan for the possibility that you could either become incapacitated or die unexpectedly.
2. You have planning abilities now that you may not have in the future.
Take advantage of your ability to think and communicate clearly now – you might not have those abilities in the future, depending on what health challenges you face.
Also, a service such as long-term care insurance requires you to sign up in advance; you cannot qualify for it if you are already in a crisis.
3. You will most likely need your end-of-life plan before your life ends.
We advocate for holistic, relational end-of-life planning that can and should be implemented long before your actual death. This means:
- making a plan to address all aspects of the latter part of your life, whether it be financial, physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual
- being prepared for both the challenges of aging and the event of your passing
- doing everything you can to care for those who will be affected by your death and aging, primarily yourself and your closest loved ones.
- empowering your agents to know how to advocate for you
An adequate plan will care for you and your loved ones through each stage of the aging process, and will eventually handle the details of your death. This means that an appropriate end-of-life plan will have all the necessary details in place so that it can begin to act on your behalf the moment you begin experiencing limitations from aging.
For example, you may need help with tasks like mowing your lawn many years before you are facing a terminal illness, but it is still a need that comes with aging and needs to be addressed.
4. There is more to setting up an end-of-life plan than you may think.
There are a lot of details that come up as you age. They may not seem fun to think about, but it is better to plan now and be ready to face challenges as they come rather than be caught in crisis situations. Your end-of-life plan should include two major parts that can then be broken down into smaller details:
Part One: A Relational Elder Care Plan
The first is a Relational Elder Care Plan, which prepares you for either gradual or sudden health changes. This portion includes addressing things like:
- Financial Power of Attorney
- Advance Medical Directive
- Choosing agents to play various roles in your life
- Long-term care insurance
- Communicating with loved ones about where you will live when you can no longer live alone
- Saving money for potential expenses that come with aging
- Forming a community of professionals (attorney, financial planner, accountant, etc.) to ensure you are not taken advantage of
Part Two: A Relational Estate Plan
The second branch is a Relational Estate Plan, which can help you protect and provide for your loved ones after your death, avoid family conflict, leave a legacy, preserve special memories, and ease burdens for those closest to you. It entails:
- Using tools like wills, trusts, and beneficiary designations to distribute assets after your death
- Making a legally binding plan for any minor children you may leave behind
- Creating an estate guide and inventory to aid loved ones with practical details of estate administration
- Creating an ethical will to pass on your values and beliefs
- Setting aside money and instructions for your funeral and burial
- Choosing an executor or personal representative to administer your estate
- Communicating to loved ones the important things they need to know before you say goodbye
Each part of these two branches of end-of-life planning requires time, forethought, and energy. Every individual and family is different, and what works best for one person might not be a good option for someone else. Though it takes time up front, in the long run, it will make both your life and the lives of those you love much easier.
This is one reason we suggest you seek guidance from an attorney who has relational elder care and estate planning experience and can help you through each step of the process.
5. Your loved ones need you to have an end-of-life plan in place.
Your loved ones will need the guidance of your Relational Elder Care Plan. If you are in the midst of a crisis, they won’t automatically know how to help. Take personal responsibility now to set up a plan that will help them help you. This aids you both by giving them direction and ensuring you will be properly cared for.
Your loved ones will also need guidance about how to deal with your estate once you are gone. Not only that, they also have personal needs that your Relational Estate Plan can help meet.
A Relational Estate Plan is self-sacrificial by nature because you will never see its outcome. This kind of plan uses your death as a catalyst to caring for those you love most. It allows you to address the needs you foresee in their lives and leaves them with gifts you won’t watch them receive. But even though you might not see its effects, you can experience the confidence and peace of mind that come with knowing you have done all you could for those you hold dear.
Law Office of Joshua Hummer, Esq., PLC. Our team practices in Winchester and Northern Virginia. While we have served our clients in many areas of the law, we specialize in estate planning, elder law, and estate administration. Learn more at Getting Your Ducks in a Row: Legal Planning on Wednesday, May 12th!
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