Writtten by: Craig Meadows, Guest Writer
There are many decisions to make upon learning you have a terminal illness, not the least of which are your end-of-life arrangements. From how you want end-of-life medical care handled to how you’ll provide for children after you’re gone, there’s a lot to consider as you face your final years or months.
This checklist covers the most important arrangements you need to make when facing a terminal illness.
If you make your wishes known, your family won’t have to wonder if they made the right decisions regarding end-of-life care. That’s the goal of an advance healthcare directive.
Advance healthcare directives have two parts:
- The living will: A living will states what type of life-sustaining care you do or do not want to receive at the end of your life. When you can no longer communicate your own wishes, your living will states the care you want.
- Durable powers of attorney: Even with a living will in place, you need someone to advocate for your wishes and make medical decisions on your behalf. A durable power of attorney, or healthcare proxy, communicates your wishes when you can’t.
If you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness when you’re young, it’s possible you’ve never thought about what you’d like your funeral to look like or how to pay for it. However, it’s important to think about it now.
With costs that can surpass $10,000, a funeral represents a substantial expense to surviving family. Some families feel an obligation to give their loved one a proper farewell and go into debt to finance a funeral. Others, burdened by costs, opt for a direct burial or cremation, and miss the opportunity to say goodbye.
Setting aside funds for a funeral is the best way to spare your family this financial stress. If funding a funeral in cash while also paying medical bills isn’t possible, you may be able to secure an affordable burial insurance policy that covers funeral expenses and other outstanding bills. Burial insurance companies ask basic questions before issuing a policy, but there’s no health exam required.
Financial Power of Attorney
You may choose to appoint a financial power of attorney to manage your financial affairs while living. A financial power of attorney handles finances on your behalf and in your interest; a POA can’t use your money for their own benefit. If appointing a POA, make it a durable POA so it remains in effect even if you lose the ability to communicate.
Do you have a will? If not, now is the time to create one, and those with wills should update them to reflect current assets and beneficiaries. Update beneficiaries on retirement accounts and insurance policies as well, as a will won’t override the beneficiaries named on individual accounts. A will also names an executor, the person responsible for managing the estate after you pass, and guardians for minor children in the event no parents remain to raise them. Without a will, these important decisions are left up to the state.
It may benefit your children to set up a trust before you are unable to make financial decisions. A trust may be used in place of a will to ensure that your family has faster access to money in a time when they will need it most. Since trusts bypass probate, which is often a drawn-out and unpleasant process — probate cases are also public so your family will lose privacy.
Many people would prefer to pass away at home but still pass in a hospital. The result is a more expensive, more traumatic experience for all involved. Rather than leaving your final moments up to chance, consider entering hospice as you near the end of life.
Hospice care focuses on improving your comfort and quality of life, and allows you to pass away in the place you feel most comfortable, surrounded by family and friends. Hospice services are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and many private insurance plans.
When you’re terminally ill, avoiding end-of-life discussions doesn’t do you or your loved ones any favors. As difficult as it is to think about life after you’re gone, making final arrangements is the kindest gift you can give your loved ones. With these matters out of the way, you and your family can focus on enjoying your remaining time together.
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