We spend a lot of time working with our clients to plan for and, hopefully, achieve future goals. These conversations almost always include estate planning strategies. Many of us have an intense desire to help loved ones when we are gone, yet two important subjects are frequently absent from those conversations:

  • “What are the key steps I should take now, and what does my spouse do at my death?”
  • “What do I want my end of life to look like?”

The simple truth is the finances of death can be very confusing to the surviving spouse. While we spend time on estate planning topics, the conversation on the mechanics of implementing these plans is frequently saved for later. Unfortunately, when later comes, the surviving spouse is understandably overwhelmed at the exact time when much is required.

Along with planning for loved ones, we frequently have discussions with clients surrounding their vision for the aging process. Many express the desire to stay at home as long as possible or have family provide care in the final days. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article titled “Preparing for a Good End of Life.” Continuing with our emphasis on planning for the future now, we want to share key messages author Kay Butler recommends helping further define our final days beyond the general statements of “staying at home” or “family will help.”

  1. Have a Vision: Think about what is most important to you as you visualize your end. Where do you want to be? Do you want to exhaust all possible medical treatments? Perhaps you have a different vision. Share these desires with your loved ones and outline them in your advance directives. Be sure your designated power of attorney agrees to execute your wishes without wavering in a crisis.
  2. Stay in Charge: It is important to stay informed on matters of your health. Make sure you have a doctor who agrees with and supports what is important to you. If you and your doctor do not agree, it is okay to seek out new care providers!
  3. Know the Trajectory of Your Illness: If you find yourself diagnosed with a serious illness, the author suggests that it may be helpful to have your doctor draw a visual image illustrating the diagnosis. This illustration may help you determine the best next step, treatment or possibly an emphasis on comfort.
  4. Find Your Tribe and Arrange Caregivers: While many of us want to stay at home or have family members provide care until the end, it takes a lot of work to stay at home when seriously ill. Don’t wait to explain your desires to your loved ones. Talk about it now and gain their support for your plan.
  5. Take Command of Your Space: No matter where you find yourself at the end, plan for the space you want. Don’t be afraid to ask caregivers for a special room arrangement, décor or even music. Hospitals are becoming more open to helping with these requests.
  6. Think of Death as a Rite of Passage: While no amount of planning can ensure control at the end, the author believes that by contemplating and accepting the reality of death we “can restore dignity, community and yes, even beauty to your final passage.”

Members of the NNP team have personally walked this road with many clients, and we truly understand the importance of making these plans. We hope you find something in this article that is useful to you, and, as always, we are ready to help at any time.

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