Everyone dreads the day when it’s time to have “the talk” on how to handle a loved one’s inevitable passing. As unpleasant as that conversation sounds, it has to happen. Death comes for all of us. However, that reality also provides you with the opportunity to make your preferences known while you still can, and get them all down on paper in a form that ensures they’ll be carried out.
Some people will immediately recognize the opportunity end-of-life legal documents represent, and will get to work on them on their own; others will need some uncomfortable prodding. And is it any wonder? This is a discussion that combines two things no one wants to think about: legal paperwork and death. But we can help with the paperwork side, at least, and maybe even provide some tips on how to open up a dialogue.
Clarify What’s Needed
There are a number of end-of-life legal documents to consider, but not all of them are required for every person. A will is pretty standard for all adults, but something like a living trust is only appropriate in some cases.
Here’s the main list of documents to consider:
- Will – A document that clarifies what should happen to your property and assets after death. Every adult that has property or assets should create a will.
- Living Trust Moves all your property and assets into a trust that determines what happens to them for the remainder of your life, as well as after your death. A living trust is more legally complicated than a will, but popular for families hoping to avoid the probate process.
- Power of Attorney – Specifies the person you want to make important decisions for you if you lose the capacity to do so yourself.
- Advanced Healthcare Directive – Provides advance instructions for what actions to take in the case of specific healthcare situations, so that even if you become unable to communicate your desires, your family and physicians know what to do.
Send along some information on each of these to your loved one, so they understand their options and can start to think through what they want before you talk.
Set Up a Time
If you’re looking for assisted living or in-home care for your loved one, that’s a good indicator it’s time to chat.
This isn’t a conversation you want to spring on anybody. It’s best to have a specific time set aside for it, so everyone can be prepared. Your loved one may never have considered what they want to do with their assets, or how they feel about the kind of end-of-life decisions addressed in a healthcare directive. By making your conversation something planned rather than spontaneous, you give them the chance to clarify their thinking on the subject.
Talk to a Professional
We don’t wake up one day and completely understand all these documents and legalese. It’s can be complicated. Speaking with your doctor can help you understand all the eventualities and details that are important to know when you’re putting together an advanced healthcare directive. A financial professional can guide you through the smartest options for leaving your assets to your family. A lawyer can simplify the paperwork and make sure it’s all legally binding.
Working with a professional who specializes in the type of service you need takes some of the stress off your shoulders and will likely leave you with better, clearer end-of-life documents.
The best thing about finally sitting down and talking is that once it’s done, you can check off that box and not worry about it again (unless someone changes their mind about what they want). You can even reward yourselves with a nice family dinner for getting it done. Once you’ve got all the documents signed, you and your family can rest easy knowing everyone’s wishes will be understood and properly carried out when the time comes.