End-of-Life Discussions & Decisions

The subject of this article comes from my personal experience this past fall with the death of my husband, Cliff. Cliff was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2014. Life took on a new normal, and we had nearly two years after his diagnosis to take care of planning, completing paperwork, and discussing his wishes.

Not everyone gets an advance notice like this. Accidents do happen, so I urge you to make a New Year’s resolution to take the following steps, no matter your situation:

1. Make sure you review and complete all your life insurance policies, retirement accounts, annuities, and any other assets in which beneficiaries can be named. It is much easier and faster for an estate to pass directly to the intended beneficiaries when they are named, as compared to having an estate go through a probate court. 

2. Make sure you complete and sign all forms regarding your wishes for continued medical intervention and your instructions as to who will step in to make medical decisions for you in case you are no longer able to do this yourself. Each state has their own forms, and some require notarization.

3. Make sure that someone knows the location of your original will. And if you do not have a will, make one!

4. Have a conversation with your loved ones about the kind of care you would like when you are no longer able to care for yourself. This is extremely important, because this stage of care has the potential to be very costly in terms of direct medical expenses for the equipment, housing, and professional care, as well as time—meaning this can go on for days, weeks, months, or years. If you or your loved one is enrolled in hospice care, it can be in-home or at a hospice facility. Hospice for those on Medicare is, for the most part, without cost—but if you are unable to care for yourself, and you are not hospice-eligible, how will your care be funded? Will someone need to leave the workforce in order to provide care?

5. Make sure your wishes for your funeral arrangements are known by those who will be asked for this information. This could include whether you want to be buried or cremated; what type of service, if any, you want; and whether donations to charities are to be mentioned in your obituary.

The final resolution is to be kinder and gentler to the people you will be leaving behind. When things like this are not addressed while you are alive, it adds burden and stress to people who are already going through something very hard. If your wishes are being carried out by those who already know the role they must play, your legacy will be more sweet than bitter.

Susan A. Moussi, CPA, CFP®, CDFA SMD Tax & Divorce Financial Planning Consultants, Inc. Phone: 614.429.4172 susan@smdtaxanddivorce.com