Some topics just seem taboo. Like talking about death. Certainly, if you suspect that someone who is talking a lot about death may be suicidal, then, by all means, act to get help.
But what about discussing end-of-life issues? I fear we do not do this early and often enough as families. The thing is, we think about this in different ways at different ages.
When you’re single, just getting started in a career or flitting around trying to find yourself, then contemplating end-of-life issues may seem like a downer. But does it have to be? Maybe at this stage in life, writing something down about your wishes is more about taking responsibility for yourself and making sure someone can speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself. Write it down.
If you choose to start a family and have children, then the landscape changes drastically. Perhaps now it is important to ponder what you want to happen in order to protect your children. Write it down.
If you are heading into middle age or even pre-retirement, then the focus might be more on to what extent you want certain measures to take place. To what extent do you want to have your life extended? This may be the same or it may have shifted. Take a look. Discuss it with people you love and who may be in a position to make your wishes known. Write it down.
When you are a senior and looking at the horizon with a different perspective, then it’s a good time to check in on those wishes. To what extent do you want to stay in your home? To what extent do you want your family to care for you? To what extent do you want your financial resources to go to keep you in your home? What’s your greatest concern about the end of life? What sorts of measures do you want to happen to extend your life? What is acceptable to you and what is not acceptable? What’s most important? Write it down.
If you are married or in a partnership, make sure the two of you do this together.
Best to do this in the form of a will and if you haven’t done it yet. A will is essential to avoid the cost of probate. While probate is not always horrible, it means the “state” will determine how your assets are distributed. Even if you think you have nothing, you likely have something. Do you want to have a say in where it goes? Write it down.
Forming a trust for your money and any assets also protects those assets.
Next – if you want your children to care for you rather than going into Assisted Living or Nursing home, you need to plan for that financially. Make this a savings priority. That is the greatest gift you can give your children. Talk to them about this. And of course, Write it down.
I cannot stress enough how important it is for families to talk, talk, talk and talk some more about their end of life wishes, to communicate them and to write them down. The time to make these types of decisions is well before the crisis hits. The time to save money is not at the end.
My children are adults now – young adults – and they have created legal documents detailing their wishes for the end of their lives. They’ve named people who they want to help make sure those wishes are carried out. They used a document anyone can use. It’s called “Five Wishes”.
Finally, if you want your family or others to be involved in your care at the end of your life, then the best you can do is build a good relationship with your children and others such that they WANT to care for you, you take care of your finances such that your children have the funds necessary to carry out your wishes, and you make your wishes known.
Write it down.