When I was a young girl, my father had “the talk” with me. No, not about the birds and the bees but he discussed what I should do in the event that he passed away (even though there was no indication his end was near). He showed me exactly where his legal documents were placed and who we should contact to handle any legal matters. Throughout the years - and, especially closer to the end of his life - these conversations transformed to more specific topics ranging from funeral arrangements to making a list of every subscription service he was using. As you can imagine, these conversations can be challenging to have with your loved ones but it is necessary and significant for those making your life/death decisions.
Now, before jumping into “the talk”, I suggest preparing legal documents that express your wishes clearly in writing. A power of attorney (POA) allows you to designate an agent to handle your affairs during life and a Last Will and Testament offers specific instructions on how to distribute your assets after passing. Choosing agents and executors for these legal documents isn’t simply picking the person you are closest to. Instead, you should consider who will uphold your wishes best. Additionally, these documents guide you on the decisions that need to be made and provide discussion points for your end-of-life conversations - and, at the very least, examining these legal documents will get you to consider the decisions you and others will need to make for your end-of-life journey.
Once you have some direction on how you want things carried out, it is crucial that you discuss your plans with whoever will execute your wishes and anyone else you want involved. Even at ten-years-old, I knew the gravity of what my father was telling me and I understood his intention was to protect our family. The National Council for Palliative Care provides a helpful guide on subjects to talk about, how to start the talk, and tips to use during these conversations.
I know that it seems strange to prepare for death when it isn’t something you’re expecting to happen in the near future but studies indicate talking about your plan with loved ones helps to alleviate the fear of death and reduces stress during highly emotional times (i.e., incapacitation, death, etc.). People are often reluctant to talk about death due to its ominous nature; however, by the end of each discussion with my father, I felt more prepared and less anxious about the unknown.. We didn’t have all the answers and even learned some things along the way. We made difficult decisions but felt confident in our choices based on our previous end-of-life conversations. By discussing my dad’s wishes throughout his life, it gave us the freedom to cherish every last moment with him.
If you need assistance with end-of-life planning, book your appointment with KJ Dykema, MRFC® today.