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End of Life Planning: Does Your Family Know Your Wishes?

by Miranda Marquit

No matter your age, it’s important to put some thought into end of life planning. While few of us like to think of something as unpleasant as death, you need to have a way for your wishes to be carried out, whether they are financial wishes or other wishes related to your end of life.

End of life planning

A living will helps your family understand your wishes.

This issues was brought to mind with the recent story of the nurse who stood by, refusing to give CPR, as an elderly resident in a senior home died. Luckily for the nurse (and the senior home), so far the deceased woman’s family insists that she wouldn’t have wanted efforts made on her behalf. So that means that the nurse isn’t likely to face the financial consequences that might come with a legal action against her.

Even though the elderly woman didn’t have an “official” statement filed somewhere, her family seemed to know her wishes. Does your family know your wishes? And do you know how you want things to play out in your end of life planning.

End of Life Planning

One of the basic items that you need is a will. Your will can provide your survivors with information about how you want your financial assets distributed, as well as instruct them about other matters. You also need to consider other estate planning basics, including:

  • Living will
  • Health care proxy
  • Power of attorney
  • Statement of your position on resuscitation or other efforts to extend your life

You also want to make sure that you have adequate life insurance for your family, so that they are able to make up for the lost income after your demise.

It’s never fun to sit down and think about what might happen, or to face the possibility of your own death (or the possibility of your life partner’s death). However, you do need to make those efforts. You and your life partner need to sit down and figure out what you want to have happen.

Make it Official

In many cases, it’s not enough to simply let others know what you want to happen. You need to make it official, with the proper documents and signed statements. This is something that my husband and I need to take as a step. My husband, parents, and in-laws all know that I am an organ donor (that’s official) and that I am fine with my body being donated to science (no one else is comfortable with that last condition). Additionally, we have made it known to all involved that if something happens to us, Josh’s sister and her husband should be the guardians of our son.

However, we haven’t made these wishes “official” through a will and other documentation. We’ve written a few things down, but it’s not exactly the same thing. We have life insurance, but that’s about it in terms of “official” arrangements. There’s no excuse for this. With legal web sites like Legal Zoom available to make things simple and inexpensive, these are things we can do ourselves. And even if we want a lawyer, there are three lawyers, and one in training, in our extended family. I see absolutely no reason for us not to have made these arrangements.

So it’s time for us to sit down, have an official talk about end of life (and the possibility that it might come suddenly, at any time, even though we’re still young), and then draw up some documents that make it clear to everyone around us what should happen if we become incapacitated, or if we die.

What about you? Have you done any end of life planning? Do those closest to you know your wishes, and how you want your assets divided?


Published or updated March 12, 2013.
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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Brian @ Luke1428

One of the best things my father in-law did before he passed was to create a Word document that provided details about his personal belongings – some of which we didn’t know he had. This was a great supplemental document to have along with his will.

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