The old adage goes like this: “The only two things that are inevitable are death and taxes.”
So, when the time comes, your wishes should be clear.
When my grandmother passed, we all knew exactly how she wanted her service to go, who would get which possessions, and where all her important items were located.
This provided a tremendous sense of peace – we could concentrate on grieving and remembering rather than stressing about plans and searching for information.
An end-of-life planner is a helpful and comprehensive tool to assist you with this difficult but necessary task.
Death ends a life, not a relationship.
– Mitch Albom
It’s a compassionate initiative that will bring peace of mind and readiness not just for those you leave behind, but also for yourself.
My Recommended End-of-Life Planner for Seniors
End of Life Planners: What They Are… And What They Aren’t
It’s important to understand what an End of Life Planner is and what it isn’t. Realistic expectations must be set to get the most out of this tool.
An End of Life Planner is not a replacement for professional advice, legal or otherwise. It’s not a legally binding document like a will, nor does it substitute the need for professional healthcare directives or estate planning.
However, an End of Life Planner is a powerful communication tool.
- It’s like a detailed roadmap that provides invaluable assistance and guidance to loved ones during a distressing moment.
- The Planner is essentially an archive of your life, a repository of important details that your family and friends need to know after passing.
- It consolidates substantial information about your personal and financial dealings, health details, documents, and preferences in one accessible location.
- Its purpose is to ease the administrative and emotional burden on those left behind as they strive to respect your wishes.
The Planner is also a living document that evolves with you. As you change and grow, so does the Planner. This ongoing act of updating and refining allows your Planner to stay relevant and truly encapsulate the legacy you desire to leave.
Getting Started: How to Fill Out an End-of-Life Planner
When you sit down to fill out your end-of-life planner, begin by carefully considering what your family would need to know once you have passed away.
Gathering Important Information
Consider all details about your finances, property, insurance, and other important elements.
When carefully compiled, these details can form a vital guide to help your family manage all necessary paperwork after your departure.
Remember the potential difficulty for your loved ones to deal with this process while grieving.
Think About Your Life
It’s time to take a moment to reflect on your life and all that you have accomplished.
Consider what personal memories, life lessons, family history, and achievements you want to share with your loved ones.
This may not seem as practical as some other tasks, but from my own experience, families truly value this kind of introspection and celebration.
Keep the Goal in Mind
At every step of the way, remember the ultimate goal – to assist your family in navigating the difficult time after your passing, provide them with the necessary tools, and facilitate closure.
This task is a practical responsibility and a heartfelt act of love.
It’s an opportunity to create a lasting and positive impact to continue to protect and support those you love even after your death.
What Should an End of Life Planner Include?
To provide a thorough and comprehensive resource for your loved ones, an end-of-life planner should provide details about the following aspects of your life.
1. Immediate and Important Documents
This section details the necessary documents and actions the family must take immediately after your death.
Provide locations of your will and life insurance policy. Indicate whether or not you are an organ donor.
It serves as an index to the remainder of the planner so your loved ones can take care of the most important things first.
2. Personal Details About Your Life
Include details about your vital statistics, addresses, professional info, spouses (current and former!), parents, family members, etc.
Don’t forget details about your military service, fraternal organizations, social societies, etc.
This section helps with notifications of your death and for planning the obituary.
3. Dependent Information
If you have dependents, this section provides details about their care. If you care for adult dependents who are disabled, include their information here as well.
Remember, this is not a legal document. Consult an attorney in your local area to plan care for dependents once you pass.
4. Pet and Animal Care
All pet parents want to know their fur babies will be loved and cared for after their passing. Include a detailed section about the care of your pet, including their preferred food and feeding schedule, veterinarian contact information, and your personal wishes about their care.
5. Healthcare Decisions
An end-of-life planner can be used to specify end-of-life care options, too.
Use this section to communicate your end-of-life medical care instructions and locations of your Advance Directive, medical power of attorney, etc, to guide loved ones through necessary medical decisions.
In your final days, communicate your thoughts about nursing homes, palliative care, and hospice care.
Include details about health insurance policies and preferred healthcare providers and medical professionals.
Also, provide a detailed account of your personal medical history, including surgeries and medications.
6. Insurance and Legal Details
List any wills, power of attorney, and insurance policies you have. Be sure to include where they are located. The location of your life insurance policy is especially critical.
Include any trusts or divorce decrees you are a party to.
7. Who to Contact
Once your death has occurred, many families struggle with the notification process.
List special friends and acquaintances you want to be notified – especially ones your family may not know.
It’s a good idea to include a list of online and social media friends here, too, if applicable.
8. Debt Account Information
List all your open credit accounts – whether or not you have a balance. Your executor will need this information to pay your final bills and prevent future charges.
Include utilities and online subscriptions such as streaming services. Don’t forget to include login and password information for online services.
9. Bank and Asset Account Information
Provide details for bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and other places where you have money saved or invested. Include online login details for every account. Don’t forget safe deposit boxes.
10. Home Information
Include the full address and location of any homes you own with the location of the deed. If properties are jointly owned with others, include contact information for the joint owners.
If you rent, provide contact information for your landlord and the location of a copy of your lease.
11. Document Locator
In this section, write a centralized list of all the important documents, files, and possessions that those you leave behind might need. Include any additional information needed for access, such as passcodes or keys.
12. Online Logins and Computer Passwords
Because many accounts and services are managed online, providing details of your logins and passwords is crucial. Your e-mail password is especially important since it can be used to reset all your other passwords.
Provide details about all your logins and passwords, including answers to security questions. Be sure to keep this information in a safe place where only people you designate and trust will have access to it.
13. Business Details
Own a business or side hustle? Include business details, with partner contact information, legal details, and attorney and accountant contact information.
Let your loved ones know your preferred plans for the business. Should they sell it or keep it going?
14. Vehicle Information
Share details about your vehicles, including boats, campers, or other “motorized toys.” Include insurance information and details about any money owed on them with creditor contact details.
15. Funeral Arrangements and Obituary
This might be the most difficult section to complete. Planning and detailing your end-of-life funeral arrangements or memorial service is challenging but necessary.
- Don’t put these decisions on your grieving family members.
- Let them know exactly how you want your service to be laid out.
- Write an obituary draft that can be updated quickly at the end of your life.
16. Significant Possessions
Include a list of your possessions with significant financial or sentimental value to you or others. Share any personal stories attached to them.
Examples of items to include here are firearms, artwork, antique collections, jewelry, and heirlooms with significant monetary or sentimental value.
Explain who should receive these items and why (may be subject to other legal documents or your last will).
This will go a long way in preventing possible disputes among your loved ones and preserving precious memories associated with such items.
17. Personal Beliefs and Final Words
This section is more personal in nature but necessary. While the other sections assist in dealing with the aftermath of your passing, this section can provide peace and serve as a lasting memory and legacy.
Be sure to share your personal beliefs about death. This is especially reassuring to your loved ones. Tell them your thoughts about the process and what you believe happens after death.
Include final words, advice, and wisdom for your family.
Leave sealed letters for each family member in your end-of-life planner for personal communication. These will quickly become treasured possessions.
The Benefits of Using an End-of-Life Planner
An end-of-life planner helps organize and control the events associated with your passing. It also encourages continuity while providing emotional peace… For you and those you leave behind.
|Benefits for The Person Who Dies
|Benefits for The Family They Leave Behind
|Rest easy knowing your loved ones won’t be burdened with tough decisions during their time of grief.
|Your family can concentrate on cherishing your memory, rather than getting swamped with locating crucial documents.
|All necessary information is gathered in one spot, preventing any risk of missing important details.
|Having all relevant information at hand helps in making well-informed decisions and honoring your wishes accurately.
|Gain control over your final decisions and ensure your matters are handled as you wish after you’re gone.
|It offers clear guidance for handling your estate and final wishes, making the process easier for your loved ones.
|Guarantee that there will be no interruption in care and services for your dependents and pets.
|The transition process becomes smoother as it provides clear next steps to take.
Storing and Securing Your End-of-Life Planner
An end-of-life planner contains essential information that can lead to unfavorable circumstances if mishandled.
Here are my recommended guidelines for safekeeping this vital trove of data.
- Store the filled end-of-life planner in a secure place. This could be a fireproof and waterproof safe, a safety deposit box in a trusted bank, or a secure filing cabinet. These options provide decent physical security against unforeseen events such as natural disasters or theft.
- Keep it in a location that is easily accessible when the time comes. Often, planners are hidden away in obscure locations that may as well be lost. This act of prudence, well-intentioned as it may be, can result in the planner not being discovered when it is most needed.
- Let a trusted individual or individuals know the location of the planner. Remember, a plan is only as good as those who know it exists.
- Consider the digital aspect of security. If you keep an electronic copy of the document, ensure it is encrypted and stored on a password-protected device or secure cloud storage service. Regularly update your chosen digital storage platform to remain ahead of potential data breaches.
In the end, properly protecting your end-of-life planner involves a careful mix of security, availability, and clear communication with your family or assigned executors. It’s a bit tricky, but it is fully possible with well-thought-out planning and caution.
As we wrap up this topic on end-of-life planning, I urge you to begin creating your own planner as soon as possible. Though it may seem difficult, remember that it’s an act of love for your loved ones. It will help them navigate a tough time when you’re no longer there. So start now. You can make a massive difference with just one piece of documented information.
Begin with the essential details. We’ve discussed several sections; choose the most relevant for you and start there. Remember, you don’t have to complete your end-of-life planner all at once—small daily steps can lead to big results.
If you have any thoughts or advice regarding end-of-life planning, please share them below. Your unique perspective can be valuable to others. And if you’ve found this content useful, consider sharing it on social media—it could greatly assist someone in their end-of-life planning process.