The importance of end-of-life planning

Unfortunately, you won’t be around forever. Here’s how to prep for the inevitable.

Imagine this: life is going well, everything is sailing smoothly, and then one day, out of the blue, your only living parent gets sick and goes into a coma (we’re going somewhere with this, promise). So, the doc is asking what to do next. Do they want life support? Who is their medical proxy? Do they have a will? So many q’s with no answers. Scary situations like this can be avoided by having those rough conversations about end-of-life planning early. But what even is end-of-life planning? And how the heck you do it? Well, we’ll tell ya. Read on to learn how to prep yourself to tackle this not-so-fun but crucial part of adulting. 

The Wyshbox Blog

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When should you start end-of-life planning?

The answer is the sooner, the better. Realistically, end-of-life planning should happen when you’re most stable and secure (e.g., have a job, family, and a home). But, what if you don’t have anything to protect? Well, slow down a min, because you probably do. Did a parent co-sign a student loan? What about unexpected hospital bills? Think about it because there’s usually always a good reason to have some sort of end-of-life plan in place. Also, this planning isn’t just for “after you die.” As mentioned above, part of it is making a plan for healthcare preferences if you or your loved one gets into a serious accident and can’t make decisions for yourself. Also, heads up, getting the right insurance to cover you for unexpected end of life is cheaper when you’re young, so yeah, the sooner you start planning, the better. Still unsure? Let’s break down the reasons for end-of-life planning by life stage.

Life stages to consider

Becoming a parent

If you’ve got kids, you need to be having that death chat. As in discussing, if you died, who would take care of your stuff? Would they know what to do with your cat Tony? or know who would inherit your car? Yeah, it’s a little creepy, but an uncomfortable chat today will save your fam from an even more awkward scenario if the worst were to happen.

And on the topic of parents, If yours are around, you should probably have the same chat with them too. No matter how young, old, healthy, or unhealthy they are, you could be responsible for everything if something happened to them. But would you know how to handle their affairs and wishes? Having this convo might be super awk, but think of the alternative. Without doing so, you can’t guarantee the choices you made for them are the ones they would’ve wanted. 

Getting married

Even though you know your bae inside and out, having their wishes in writing ensures you can carry them out for them without any legal hiccups. So, if you are in a marriage or about to get married, considering drawing up an air-tight end-of-life legal doc. People do it all the time for prenup agreements, so why not do it for this scenario? Obvs, knowing whether or not to resuscitate a partner should be as important—if not more important—than agreeing on who gets the blender. 

Being single

And what if you’re riding solo? You still may want to put together a plan. Taking the time to identify who your next of kin is will only help in the long run. Especially if you don’t have a partner who’d know how you’d want to be treated if you become ill and were unable to make your own decisions. 

So, it seems like it makes a whole lot of sense to plan for all of life’s moments, right? Well, it looks like not everyone would agree since the majority of adults under 54 don’t have a will. In fact, only 26% of people aged 18-34 and only 22.5% of people aged 35-54 have a will—yikes. And all in all, 2 out of 3 Americans don’t have a will. So yeah, it might be time to get those conversations started.

Bar graph for percentage of people with estate planning documentation.

Your go-to end-of-life plan

So now that you know why end-of-life planning is so essential, it’s time to actually make some moves. Here are a few things you should be thinking about to ensure that you have a plan that’s on point.

Create your living will

You should create a living will so that doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals know how you want to be cared for if you can’t make choices for yourself. I.e., if you are in a coma or in surgery. Some of those choices will include whether or not you want to be resuscitated, what types of medications you want, if you want to be put on a ventilator, etc.

Name your medical power of attorney, aka health care proxy

A medical power of attorney (MPoA) is the person who will make medical decisions on your behalf. With that said, a living will always override a medical power of attorney. But, what if after you wrote a living will, a new surgery or drug was developed that could save your life? As personal finance advisor Dave Ramsey points out, “It’s likely your family would know all about your living will and agree with what it says. But without a medical MPoA, they wouldn’t be able to make the best possible choice that included new treatments or medical breakthroughs”. So, name your MPoA as it’s a more flexible option for choosing your medical course of action compared to a living will. 

Create a last will and testament and an executor of your estate

A will explains how you want your belongings divided up—it’s as simple as that. But don’t confuse it with a living will, even though they practically have the same name. A will includes choices such as who gets your house, or your favorite sweater. Also, where your dog goes, and who’ll be the guardian of your kids once you die. So choose wisely. You can make a will yourself (using online software) or hire an expert (an attorney) to help you.  

An executor is someone who manages the affairs of your estate once you pass away. Basically, their job is to carry out the wishes of your will. This includes finding everyone you named and communicating to them what you left behind. If that sounds like a lot of work, know that it is! This person can be an individual you trust, such as a family member, friend, your bank, or your attorney. Keep in mind, that this can become a huge task, so unless it’s your best friend who owes you one, you may want to check that whoever you choose to be your executor is willing to take on the responsibility.

Consider life insurance

But what if you have a will, but a lot of what you are leaving behind is debt? That’s when you may want to consider life insurance. This kind of insurance covers your debts in case you die. This means your loved ones do not need to worry about your debts! So instead of leaving your brother a whole bunch of bills to pay off, you can give him your cat, Tony! You can also throw yourself a funeral party, pay for your sister’s wedding and/or donate some money to charity; the options are limitless! Also, life insurance isn’t all that expensive. In fact, 44% of Millennials overestimate the cost of term life insurance by 5x. And if you’re still not sure if life insurance is a smart choice, you can check out the pros and cons here.

In conclusion

So what did we learn? Whether you’re single and mingling, starting a family, or looking after your parents, it is important to discuss end-of-life planning and get both your affairs and the affairs of your loved ones in order. Because although you may be young and full of life, and end-of-life planning seems like something you don’t have to worry about right now, the grim reality is that no one knows when they’re gonna die.

And, what if your affairs have a whole bunch of minus signs in front of them? That’s what life insurance is for. Life insurance allows you to plan for your life, knowing that your loved ones’ financial lives won’t change if you die. And the best part is if you plan right, you’ll be able to give some of that away to things you care about or family that might need it.

Image of the end-of-life planning checklist.
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