When you dare to think ahead to the last days of your life (if you dare to think about that), what do you imagine? If you are like 70 percent of Americans, you dream of spending your final days at home, in peace and comfort, surrounded by loved ones who care for you compassionately until your last breath. But in reality, the CDC reports that 70 percent of Americans actually die in a hospital, nursing home or long-term care facility. Why are so few people able to realize their end of life dream?
The two biggest reasons that many people do not have the death they wish: many do not plan ahead, nor do they make their wishes known, according to The Huffington Post’s “5 Reasons to Plan Ahead for the End-of-Life.” No one likes to talk about death, so we put off conversations that would let others know of our desires. And most of us don't take the time to work on required documents to establish a legal basis for our wishes.
There are some very compelling reasons to overcome your fears and get going on this. And it's never too early to start planning: remember there are no guarantees for the future.
1. Preserve Your Financial Legacy. According to a recent survey, roughly 41% of Baby Boomers don't have a will—and 50% of all Americans die without a legal will in place. If you fall into either of these groups, it means that the probate court will decide how and to whom your assets may be distributed among your heirs, according to the state law. If you have no estate plan and don’t discuss a strategy with an experienced estate planning attorney, you may give a significant portion of your estate to taxes. Protect your assets and distribute them to your heirs by creating an estate plan.
2. Provide for Your Minor Children. That same survey found that 55% of Americans with children don't have a will and have failed to designate a legal guardian for their children under 18. Here again, the court may decide who will receive custody of the children if both parents die—a traumatic event for everyone. Take the necessary steps now to name a guardian and protect the welfare of your children.
3. Get the Care You Want at End-Of-Life. Another survey continues the bad news: less than a third of Americans have completed advance Directives—instructions to health care professionals on the type and extent of care to be delivered in a life-threatening situation. Without this, you stand to receive aggressive, full treatment in a crisis, which may not be what you really want. Complete a Health Care directive with instructions for your health care at the end-of-life. This will save energy, resources, and create less stress for your loved ones. Make sure the documents are in your home and easily accessible, should an emergency arise.
4. Be Remembered as You’d Like. If you would like to be memorialized in a certain way, you need to make your wishes known to your family in order to have them executed. Yes, you should stage-manage your own funeral! Write down the arrangements in advance for your own funeral and leave detailed instructions.
5. Alleviate stress for your family. There’s plenty of grief with the loss of a loved one without adding conflicts about handling financial, health care, or after-death arrangements. Communicate your wishes clearly now with detailed instructions and draft the required legal documents to ensure your desires are met.
Talk with a qualified estate planning attorney and make those plans now.
Reference: Huffington Post (September 4, 2015) “5 Reasons to Plan Ahead for the End-of-Life”