Although we understand from an early age that death will eventually come to all of us, it can still be a difficult and emotionally exhausting topic to think about, much less discuss. Whether you recently received a terminal diagnosis or are simply approaching the age at which you know that the end of your life is not far away, end-of-life planning is important. To help you accomplish this important goal, the attorneys at Legacy Care Law Firm offer an end-of-life planning guide.
Steps to Take and Things to Consider
Because you are a unique individual with unique needs and goals, there is no way to cover everything that you should include in your end-of-life planning guide; however, there are several things to consider and steps to take that are common to most people in your circumstances, such as:
- Create or review your basic estate plan. If you do not already have at least a basic estate plan in place, now is the time to create one. If you have one in place, now is the time to review it and make any desired changes. Keep in mind that you could eventually become incapacitated and be unable to make changes in the eyes of the law.
- Execute advance directives. A healthcare Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an Agent who will make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them or communicate them yourself because of incapacity. A Living Will lets you make important end-of-life decisions ahead of time as well. Make sure you have these in place because it is the only way to ensure that your wishes regarding end-of-life medical treatment will be honored.
- Arrange for long-term care. The time may come when you require the type of care that can only be offered in a long-term care facility. Take the time now to research and review your options and let loved ones know where you would prefer to live if an LTC facility is necessary. Because LTC is expensive (averaging over $100,000 a year nationwide), you should also figure out how you will pay for the care if you need it. If you do not have a LTC insurance policy and cannot easily afford to pay out-of-pocket, talk to your estate planning attorney about adding a Medicaid planning component into your estate plan.
- Create or review funeral planning. Do you have strong feelings about how your body is handled after you pass away? Do you want a specific type of service or want the service to be held at a specific place? If so, include these wishes in a funeral planning component within your estate plan. If you want those wishes to be legally binding and you want to provide the funds to cover the cost of your funeral and burial, consider establishing an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT).
- Give someone permission to access your healthcare information. Even if you do not yet need a “caregiver,” it is wise to choose one and take the steps necessary to give them the legal permission needed to access your healthcare records and speak with your doctors. You may need to sign a HIPAA release form to grant access to healthcare records, but you can usually just tell your doctor that you give him/her permission to talk to your chosen caregiver.
- Organize your estate planning and legal documents. To make life easier for the Executor of your estate and for loved ones, organize your estate planning and legal documents and put them all in one place. This may include things such as your Last Will and Testament, trust agreements, life insurance policies, deeds and titles, birth, marriage, and divorce certificates, and anything else that might be needed following your death. Make sure that your Executor has an original copy of your Will and/or knows who does have one. Tell your Executor and/or loved ones where to find these documents but do not keep them in a safety deposit box because your Executor will not legally have access to the box yet.
- Review life insurance policies. You may no longer need a policy, or you may want to make changes to the beneficiaries listed on the policies. More than one person has passed away leaving a large death benefit to a former spouse because they forgot to update their beneficiaries following a divorce.
- Account numbers, logins, and passwords. If you are a Baby Boomer, you did not grow up needing electronic passwords and logins, so it is easy to overlook the need to organize these. To make things easier for your loved ones and your Executor, create a list of social media accounts, online financial accounts, online payment accounts, electronic wallets, and other electronically stored data. Explain how to access the accounts and provide your login and password for each account or website. Put this list with your estate planning and legal documents.
- Review or apply for benefits. With the very real possibility that you will need long-term care in the near future in mind, now is a good time to review benefits and make sure you are getting all the state and federal assistance to which you are entitled. Check for Social Security benefits, VA benefits (if applicable), pension and retirement accounts, Medicaid and SNAP benefits, and any other assistance programs that might be able to help you.
- Talk to your family. It can be difficult to have the end-of-life conversation with family members and loved ones; however, it can also be an important and fulfilling conversation, Let them know what your wishes are going forward and ask them if they have questions or specific concerns.
Do You Need Help with End-of-Life Planning?
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you need help creating your own personal end-of-life planning guide, contact our estate planning attorneys in our North Andover, Woburn, and Beverly offices at (978) 969-0331. Our Salem and Nashua, New Hampshire office can be reached at (603) 894-4141.
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