In this post, we examine a vital and often overlooked aspect of life: end-of-life (EoL) planning. Many individuals need help making financial, legal, and medical decisions toward the end of their life. Here, we look at end-of-life planning, it’s impact, and whether it’s genuinely necessary. Plus, after years of guiding and supporting individuals and families, I share my down-to-earth thoughts on the matter.
What Is End-of-Life Planning?
Notice that I referred to end-of-life planning as an “aspect of life.” Sure, Hollywood frequently approaches the topic of death with humor in such movies as Death Becomes Her or even Casper the Friendly Ghost.
However, perhaps the best-selling author Mitch Albom defines death best in his acclaimed book, Tuesdays With Morrie. He writes about what we can learn about life through death, saying, “Death ends a life, not a relationship.” The experiences of professor Morrie Schwartz (who has ALS) and his former student, Mitch Albom, provides an honest look at life — and the end of one.
That said, Albom’s work is an excellent example of how no one is guaranteed the mental capacity to make crucial decisions for themselves, now or ever — though, most of us merely assume that we do. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of every four U.S. adults lives with a disability. And yet, most Americans have historically shied away from talking about their life’s end, let alone EoL planning.
Unfortunately, diseases and various health conditions can quickly rob individuals of their decision-making abilities. In these cases, end-of-life planning becomes exceptionally vital.
When your loved one faces incapacitation, an end-of-life plan fills in where the incapacitated individual cannot. This essential strategy provides tools for individuals to control their finances, legal affairs, and medical decisions — even when they’re indisposed.
The 4 Parts of End-of-Life Planning
Those who make plans about the end of their lives typically know what needs doing. It’s a relief to them, knowing that their wishes will be fulfilled. It’s also comforting to the family to know this sensitive time is playing out as their loved one desired. However, end-of-life planning isn’t merely a heart-felt wish list. Instead, four vital parts make up an EoL plan, including:
1. Completing a Personal Directive
Also known as an advance directive or living will, a personal directive is a legal document that outlines specific healthcare actions. It can be long or short, but it often names the people designated to carry out the loved one’s wishes. A living will is a comprehensive guide dictating instructions for treatment. Sometimes personal directives even forbid some strenuous medical treatment, such as life-sustaining measures.
2. Appointing a Power of Attorney
Included in a living will is often a power of attorney (POA), a legal document allocating one person (known as the agent) to make decisions for their incapacitated loved one. The agent can have broad or narrow legal authority to make various financial, legal, or medical choices.
3. Choosing Specific EoL Care
It’s no surprise that individuals facing a serious disease or chronic illness want to specify the type and place of care. Often, palliative care is part of the mix, too, mostly to improve quality of life. The goal of choosing specific end-of-life care is to relieve suffering from stress and symptoms. Most individuals also give their POA authority to make lifestyle decisions for them, further enabling them to have more comfortable final days.
4. Creating an Asset Distribution Doc
Along with medical care, end-of-life planning also consists of handling financial affairs. For example, an asset distribution document specifies how a loved one wants others to manage their finances when they can’t any longer (i.e., death, incapacitation, etc.). This doc might include access to a life insurance policy, estate planning details, inheritance distribution, or plenty more financial elements.
Who Needs End-of-Life Planning?
It’s not out of the question to assume only those who are dying need end-of-life planning. However, we can all benefit from it. Naturally, those dealing with a chronic or terminal illness find EoL planning helpful. However, those with specific wants and desires about how they want their final days to unreel need to take advantage of this incredible resource, too.
For example, an end-of-life plan might be the only resource for caregivers or family members to use. After all, do you know what EoL treatment your parents or grandparents want? How about you or your partner? Plus, how will living family members carry on?
When my clients ask me who needs end-of-life planning, my answer is that we can all benefit from it, especially families. However, those with obvious benefits are undoubtedly individuals struggling with illness or disease and want specific treatment or final plans.
Is End-of-Life Planning Necessary?
How we carry on during the final days of our existence is purely up to each individual. And yet, it’s crucial to acknowledge that our decisions impact others. From our family members to friends, from our community to our nation, personal choices eventually trickle down on others.
During an interview with then-President Obama, the Bristol Herald Courier unveiled some valuable insight from our former leader. While addressing the soaring costs of medical care, Obama commented:
“Well, one of the things I want to encourage is living wills. We don’t have to make them mandatory, but I think if people have more information about a tool that can help them control their medical treatment at the end of life, then I think a lot of people will say that’s something I want. I speak from experience. My grandmother obviously just passed away. She had a living will and that meant that my sister and I didn’t have to guess what her intentions would have been in terms of extraordinary treatment. And as a consequence, I think that when the end finally came, it came on my grandmother’s terms with the kind of dignity that made sense, and it eased what was obviously a lot of pain for her family as well.”
-Former President Barack Obama
Regardless of what anyone believes about Obama as a leader, he makes a reasonable point. Although end-of-life planning isn’t mandated, it’s necessary to keep healthcare prices in-check and guide family members.
Furthermore, countless stories circulate about “pulling the plug on Grandma” or similar monstrosities. Avoiding these situations requires avenues of communication previously unconsidered by most Americans. In other words, Grandma is much safer with an end-of-life plan in her corner. We are each much better off with such detailed directives — and we here at CB Acker Associates are here to help you make that happen.
Take the Next Step
It’s tough knowing how to protect your family after you’re gone, especially with such a vast amount of information out there. But we can help!
To support you as you safeguard your financial security, I’ve created an up-to-date guide for parents who need life insurance here. My guide can help you with your long term life insurance goals, especially with a family to nurture at home.
Here at CB Acker Associates, we want to help you take care of your family. If you’re ready to find a policy that fits your needs and your budget, we can help!
With access to all the top-rated life insurance companies, we work extra hard to get you the best life insurance rates possible. You can even compare rates and benefits from over 40 providers with no obligation to buy here. Plus, it’s fast—under 60 seconds kind of fast.
Please, give us a call today at 650-969-5844 or email [email protected].