Friday, April 21, 2023

Make Sure EOL Wishes Are Known!

I am currently a party to a situation where a relative has died and left no instructions, will or trust. It's sad because no one knows if the person wants to be cremated or buried. We don't know if there's a paid plot or cremation service, and even moving his remains from the county morgue has been an ordeal. 

This person was found dead in a wellness check that a neighbor called for and the coroner was called. So fortunately, there was  no need for medical advice or attempts at resuscitation. But had s/he been found alive, apparently not having a Power of Attorney for Healthcare would have been an issues had s/he not been able to voice choices at the time. 

Missed Opportunities- Don't Delay Decisions

In this situation, the person had begun vague discussions about EOL wishes, but was only seeking preliminary information. No discussion happened regarding a health care power of attorney, burial wishes or any plans already in place, and certainly not wishes for division of the estate. S/he became totally overwhelmed with the little information provided and wasn't able to complete even the simplest of tasks. So now, we're caught starting from scratch. Of course there is some money involved and that will bring out the worst in some of the relatives no doubt. 

This matter has been, and will continue to be very sticky. It will be a long, drawn out process. Just hoping for no objections and in-fighting about what actually happens now. It has already taken significant time and that will impact some of the first decisions. These situations are not rare and my hope is that you will each resolve these items before it become a sticky mess for you.

In my experience as a home health and hospice nurse for years, I have had to initiate the uncomfortable discussions all too often when time was of the essence. Death and dying is not a comfortable subject for everyday conversation, but the truth is we will all die at some point. Most of us may have strong feelings about burial vs cremation and whether or not to have a simple service, or a huge event. Some decisions are influenced by cultural beliefs and customs. No matter what the decisions, they will incur expenses that aren't always planned for or paid in advance. 

In this case, we have no idea if there were any plans and if any were prepaid. It will be a real shame if there were prepaid plans and we are unable to discover them. End-of-Life (EOL) Estate planning does not have to be complicated. 

Start with Simple EOL Decisions

If only the bare minimum of decisions are made and made known to multiple family members, it can be a great start and very helpful for navigating the more complex EOL issues. There are numerous EOL related legal forms and software on to help you understand and expedite the process. They also have books to guide the process, and a network of attorneys if you so choose. 

Probate attorneys can be your best friend, but be aware that they are expensive. Finding a probate attorney can be a long process as well. Probates can take 18 months to 2 years on average to complete and that's a big commitment for the legal team as well as the administrator or executor. 

I encourage you to begin the conversation in casual, comfortable situation. Ask simple questions about whether your loved one has even thought about what they would like done. 

  • Do they want to be cremated or buried? Or have other ideas? Have they made any arrangements? Do the research. There are many affordable options that get overlooked when decisions have to be made on the spot. Or perhaps your loved one wants something lavish. Is there money set aside, or an insurance policy to cover these costs? 
  • Have they considered how to disperse assets and any property or other  items? Having a living trust can make this all much easier than going to probate.
  • Have they considered appointing a Power of Attorney for Health Care? 
  • Have they thought about their EOL health care decisions? 

Other Things to Make this Easier

Other issues to get in order will include things like making a list of their bank account numbers and information, any investments, a list of property, and any wishes regarding who should inherit what. They don't have to share this, but put the information in a spot where it can be found when needed. 

There are procedures that can make things easier should they become incapacitated or pass away such as adding your name to their accounts so that a smooth transition can be made. For instance, adding your name to your loved one's utility accounts can make it easier to make changes such as shutting service off or transferring it to your name, Also have them make sure beneficiary information is up to date on policies such as insurance policies, retirement accounts like 401k's and any stocks or bonds and other assets.Consult an attorney for any questions you have to ensure it all gets done the way you want it.

While you're helping your loved ones make these decisions and completing forms, check out the forms and processes you need for your estate as well. 



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