Attorney at Law

Important End of Life Questions to Ask Yourself and Your Loved Ones

Lia Kopin-Green
November 6, 2023

Making decisions about end of life plans and care can be difficult. However, it is crucial to have open and honest conversations with your loved ones - and yourself - to ensure that your wishes are respected. In this informative legal guide, we will explore some of the most critical questions to ask yourself and your loved ones as you navigate the closing chapters of life’s journey.

Is my living will up to date?

A living will, also known as an Advance Healthcare Directive, is a document that allows you to express your desires regarding medical treatment in the event that you are no longer able to express your own wishes due to incapacitation or severe illness. This essential document will serve as a legally binding guide to ensure that your healthcare preferences are respected, even if you are unable to clearly communicate them. Since life circumstances and health preferences can change over time, it is advisable to review your living will regularly. Consider recent significant life events such as a marriage, divorce, birth of a child or death of a spouse. Any new medical diagnoses or changes in health may also lead to changes in your living will. By keeping your living will up to date, you can have peace of mind knowing that your healthcare preferences will be respected and that you've taken steps to alleviate the decision-making burden from your loved ones during potentially stressful times.

Have I made my estate distribution plans clear?

While estate distribution plans can be complex, it is crucial to address how you would like your assets to be handled upon your passing. Ensuring that your estate plan is up to date can prevent unnecessary stress and conflict among family members during a time of grief. Estate planning typically begins by compiling a list of assets, including real estate, bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, and insurance policies. This will help provide a clear picture of what your estate consists of. Next, it is advised to establish a last will and testament. This document, which differentiates from a living will, specifies where your assets will go upon your death. In other words, it offers clear instructions regarding who will inherit your money, possessions and property.  Additionally, your will can address how any outstanding debts, taxes or liabilities will be settled in the event of your death. In most jurisdictions, for a last will and testament to be legally binding, it must be witnessed and notarized. Be sure to tackle this issue during end of life planning to prevent any misunderstandings and conflict amongst your loved ones.

How do I envision my final days?

Picturing the final days of your life is a deeply personal reflection that can significantly influence your end of life planning. It encompasses not just where you want to be and who you want to be with, but also what kind of care you wish to receive, how you want to manage pain or discomfort, and what you want your loved ones to know. Decide on your location of care where you would prefer to spend your last days. This could be in the comfort of your own home, or a hospice or hospital where you can receive specialized care. Moreover, this is the right time to reflect on the level of medical intervention you wish to receive. This could range from full curative attempts to comfort care, which focuses on managing symptoms and maintaining quality of life without aggressive treatments.

If spirituality and religion is an important value for you, outline any practices you wish to observe during your final days. Communicate these wishes to your family members to guarantee that they will be honored.

What are my funeral and burial wishes?

Specifying your funeral and burial wishes is an emotional endeavor, but it can provide immense comfort and relief to loved ones after you pass away. Think through details such as whether you prefer a somber funeral service or more celebratory memorial event, cremation versus traditional burial in a casket, and other critical preferences. Further, you should choose a location for your service, whether it’s a place of worship, a funeral home, a family home, or outdoors. Detail any cultural or religious customs you want to be included in your service, which could range from specific readings to traditional rituals. If you have a list of individuals you would like to be involved in the services, such as those giving eulogies or performing music, communicate these preferences to your loved ones.

Who will care for my dependents?

This vital step involves making legal arrangements for the care and responsibility of minors or dependents who rely on you, in the event of your incapacity or death. Who will take care of your dependents, including minor children, elderly parents or pets, in the event of your passing? Have you legally documented your choices for their guardianship? When choosing a guardian for dependents, carefully assess the unique needs of each child or dependent family member. Consider their emotional, educational, and physical requirements. Evaluate whether potential guardians would be able to provide the care necessary to meet those needs. Important factors to weigh are the guardian's proximity, lifestyle, and existing family obligations or other children at home. Moreover, it is highly advised to work with an experienced attorney to prepare documentation that clearly outlines any wishes or instructions you have regarding the upbringing, education, and care of your dependents.

What are my thoughts on organ and tissue donation?

As you approach your final days, consider whether you would like to be an organ and tissue donor and communicate this decision to your family members and healthcare providers. Organ and tissue donation allows something positive to come from the end of life by saving or improving others' lives. Decisions regarding organ and tissue donation are extremely personal, and they may bring up difficult feelings and conversations. Nonetheless, it requires specifying your wishes ahead of time in an advance directive or donor registry. When weighing organ donation, consider your beliefs, culture, and faith. Address common concerns like whether it will interfere with funeral plans or medical care. 

Seeking Legal Support

End of life planning can be incredibly stressful on yourself and your loved ones. Working alongside a specialized elder law attorney is the right way to ensure a smooth process as you address the important questions that arise during your final days. Connect with a seasoned elder law attorney today with Attorney At Law.

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