If nothing else, recent events have brought us face-to-face with mortality. Although none of us knows when death will overtake us or a loved one, we know that someday it is going to do exactly that. We can deny the inevitable, or we can prepare for it. By preparing for death, we can make that transition much easier on ourselves and our loved ones.
Talk with your family members about what you want done with your body after you pass, and find out what their wishes are for theirs. Keep notes of those conversations, since “the dullest pencil is sharper than the sharpest memory.”
If you have specific wishes about who will be in charge of your funeral arrangements and what will be done, you can put these directives into a legally enforceable document. As long as the document is notarized, your wishes are lawful and your estate can pay the bill, your instructions will be carried out. Most estate planning attorneys can advise you about preparing your written “Directions for Disposition of Remains.” Let your loved ones know about your directions and keep a copy with your estate planning documents.
Review your estate planning documents to make sure they reflect your current wishes. Your Advance Health-Care Directive sets out who can make what kinds of medical decisions (including end-of-life decisions) for you if you cannot speak for yourself, so it is particularly valuable for your peace of mind and your family’s harmony. Having a clear line of authority and clear instructions can alleviate family stress and conflict.
You also need to make sure that the documents that dispose of your assets are clear and state your precise wishes. If there is a conflict between your documents and the words you say to your loved ones, the documents will control what happens. So it is important for you to understand what your documents say and update them if your wishes have changed.
Doing these things can be uncomfortable, but they can also go a long way toward giving you peace of mind and helping your loved ones move forward in harmony and with sweet memories of you and your life.