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Preparing for Your End of Life... Because Dying Isn't Just About You

End of Life Preparation... because dying isn't just about you

On this blog about ways to overcome and deal with high blood pressure, the main idea is to conquer that issue.
That remains the goal, but sometimes, whether it's from this issue or from another illness, accident or something out of the blue, the fact remains that at some point, we will all pass away.
Sometimes when I look at all my things in my home, I think, "Wow, if something happened and I died right now, look at all they'd have to go through!" 
Because we rarely know exactly when we're going to pass on, it's definitely worth trying to make it a little easier on your family... and maybe even a more comfortable home for you by donating things you don't want and tossing some others.
But probably just as important, if not way more important is all the legalities as to your wishes along the lines of who will be your power of attorney if you can't make your own decisions, etc.
A few years ago, I took care of my parents' estate as they were in convalescent care and had to deal with many, many issues.
Listed below are different things you may run into where it would be so much easier for you or for your family if preparations were made ahead of time.
Be sure to read to the end for my bonus tip on how to avoid probate and receive beneficiary funds  immediately... or asap. 

What Info Will My Family Need to Know?

What w your family find and have to deal with when that occurs? Do you have one place where your family can find everything they need to take care of your affairs? 
Or are some papers in your closet, some in your notebook, some on your desk - in other words, your family might have a hard time finding all of them?

Do you have a will or a trust? How about life insurance? Does your family know your wishes about organ donation? 
What about a DNR (a Do Not Resuscitate order)? Or an Advanced Directive?(where someone is appointed to have authority over your medical care should you not be able to do so.) This is a form that the lawyer called to my attention that my parents needed to get this filled out SOON...since my father was already in convalescent care at the time. The DNR would not have been enough.
Then there's the POLST form. It just became available in 1994, and is something I'm just learning about as I update this blog post in November 2021! 
The POLST form is designed to accompany advance directives, and is like a prescription in that it tells health care providers what you and your doctor have already decided on as to what treatments you want. The form is for people who are already very ill.
For instance, in a medical emergency, it tells any health care provider things such as you do or don't want CPR, you do or don't want to go to the hospital, etc. It's like a portable prescription for your care instead of for medicine. 

Update on the POLST form as of July 25, 2023

Recently, the site where you could easily find access to POLST forms became unavailable. 

Instead, you can usually find access or information where you can access to the forms by googling the name of the state where you live + POLST forms. 

For instance, since I live in Arizona, what popped up was a link to the Arizona Attorney General's office where a packet was offered of all the life care planning forms. You could also order just the one form you are interested in. 

So you can check out how thorough their information is, here is the link for Arizona:  https://www.azag.gov/seniors/life-care-planning. The POLST form is at the bottom of the list.

By scrolling down the page,  all you need regarding detailed information on forms you have to choose from and what they do, as well as do's and don'ts of using a Notary Public, etc.

You can also find a short, under two-minute video on YouTube telling you how POLST forms differ from DNRs (Do Not Resuscitate). That link is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXJDZrM3mHo

One More Important Piece of Information Your Family Should Know

Does your family know what life insurance company you are using? Do they know where to find the account number? Do you know how much it will cost to bury someone with even the very simplest of ceremonies?
These very issues confronted my family and me this last week when my ex-husband passed away suddenly last weekend from a cause that is still being investigated. While my daughter and I sifted through paperwork looking for the title to his vehicle, we also were finding his bills, etc.

Have the Conversation: Cremation or Burial?

One of the first things you should be looking at in order to have things prepared in case something happens to you is to know how you want to be taken care of and to let people know!
  Do you want to be cremated or buried? The difference in cost is substantial. What are your beliefs about cremation? Does your family know your beliefs? 
As morbid as it sounds, there are ways to preplan your burial and pay for it ahead of time to avoid rising costs your family might encounter down the road.
I can tell you just off hand that at least in Arizona, the cost between a cremation and the least expensive burial is about $7,000. This was from a very reputable funeral home who was working with my Bishop to lower costs.  A cremation runs about $3,000.
If you want to be buried, the casket is an area where you can watch the cost; you can watch it go UP, and you can watch it go down. 
According to some research I did on it, that is an area where a lot of funeral homes jack up the price, since people may think they have no option. 
The fact is, you can buy ahead of time, and you can also buy online. Caskets can be sent to the funeral home and be there in a day, according to one website I looked at.

Emergency Evacuation Grab & Go Info

Have You Prepared Things for Your Family in Case of Your Demise?One way to make it easier for people after your demise is to have a central location to store your personal information.
Suze Orman has a lot of tools that can help you actually set up documents. 

There is actually something called "Suze Orman's Will & Trust Kit-Protection Power Pak to help you set up your will, helps you set up a living-revocable trust, your financial power of attorney, and a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.

Those are all documents that I dealt with when I was taking care of my parents' estate, and I know they paid a lawyer a pretty penny to do it all for them. This system helps alleviate that expense for you.

More Tips to Help Ease the Burden Now AND Later

There are other things you can do to make things easier on your loved ones. 
Sometimes you may have payments at a place such as QVC or HSN where you have monthly payments come out of your debit or credit card. 
Unless you have a place written down noting when the payments are coming out and for how long, the person taking care of your estate won't have any idea that it needs taken care of. That could create a problem. 

The system that I used then and still use is to simply have a folder in documents where I write down what I buy, when the next payments are due, when credit cards are due, or anything that will come due in the next few months. 
 For example:
11/01             QVC                 Sleep Number Bed                $348.00                        1 of 5

12/01             QVC                 Sleep Number Bed                $348.00                        2 of 5

By the way, the Sleep Number bed example was definitely just an example. I did buy my bed thru QVC, but how much I paid was a loooong time ago and if they do have them when you read this, the price will probably be changed. 
But I was able to get a good bed because of their payment system! Enough rambling on about them!
So my suggestion to you is if you don't have something similar to that which lists everything that is being paid out monthly, go ahead and make one. Even keep track of the cable bill, Direct TV, electric, etc. with that system. 

Keep it safe and easy to reach in a notebook, and let someone know about it. That makes it soooo much easier for the person who will need to take care of your things if something should happen to you. This could even help if you were just hurt and couldn't get around very easily.

So just offhand, here's a list of things you should make sure to take care of as soon as you possibly can:

  •    DNR (Do Not Resuscitate): This is if you don't want to be kept alive by artificial means if you are that incapacitated.
  • Living Will:   This tells your family and medical people what you want should you become incapacitated. It sounds similar to the DNR, but also includes things such as if you want food & water (intravenous feeding) near the end. When I took care of my parents in Ohio, the doctor required both the DNR and the Living Will documents.
  • Will
  • Power of Attorney (in case you can't take care of your own business for any length of time.
  • Durable Power of Attorney: Basically a Power of Attorney for when you are unable to tell others what you want, or in other words, are mentally impaired. From what I understand, a lot of states combine the Power of Attorney with the Durable Power of Attorney.
  • Title to a vehicle: If your vehicle doesn't automatically go to someone in the will, make sure of where the title to the vehicle is kept. Also all mortgage documents, etc.
  • Cremation or Burial: Let people know your wishes.
  • List of your current bills, credit cards, etc. and when they either need paid or have money coming out of your bank account.
  • Name of where you work
  • Companies where you may have life insurance

Additional Details to Consider:

  •  Password to computer: in case there are any documents needed in your documents. 
  • Passwords to areas on your computer where you may have friends, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, email, etc. where people may want to know what happened to you.
  • List of people you may want to be notified: friends, work associates, gym acquaintances, etc.
I keep all the lists available both on my computer AND in a zippered notebook. In that same notebook, I keep fun things also such as a list of family birthdays and anniversaries. 
There's also a page for computer info such as product codes for computer programs I buy and serial numbers for the actual computer so I don't have to stand on my head to read the numbers to a tech when I need help over the phone. It's just an easy way to know where things are located.

Ok – this is turning into a book, so I'll stop. This whole process is just something that was thrown in my path, so I thought I'd share so it may help someone who sees the need for action and takes it. 
Maybe you could have a family meeting and discuss some of your wishes and the wishes of others in your family. It could make things a WHOLE lot easier for someone down the road to have questions cleared up and in writing now! 

Bear in mind, this is NOT official legal advice as to what documents you need. It's simply here for you to take stock of what you should do so your family does not have an unpleasant surprise when you pass on.

One more bonus tip:

One business/monetary documents such as bank accounts, go into the bank and have your accounts marked to the status: Transfer on Death... also known as TOD. 

What this does is makes it so a beneficiary or beneficiaries receive the money, etc right away without having to go through probate. I learned this from my parents' lawyer and have had it on my account ever since. Your money shouldn't be held up in the legal process because of that simple phrase added to your account.

Because I was sure there are other instances besides bank accounts, I just looked it up and it also pertains to real estate as well. States may have different rules or availability for this benefit, but it's well worth looking into. 

If I remember correctly, we had the TOD on my parents' annuities and other legal documents as well. 

I am NOT a lawyer, and am just going on what I learned on this subject several years ago, but it saved so much aggravation in the end... it was well worth the effort of doing a little research.

Images courtesy of Nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Wikimedia Commons.

P.S. Suze Orman and QVC products on this page are simply recommended. I am NOT an affiliate of these products.