Getting Your Affairs in Order; Planning Ahead

Senior resident holding hands of caregiver

Give your family the gift of knowing what you want at the end of your life. 

By Kim Chernecky

No-one wants to think about their mortality but the fact is everyone will die someday. The problem is we don’t know when. It could be tomorrow or 40 years from now, but without taking the time to plan ahead, it’s the surviving family members that suffer. The pain of losing a loved one is hard enough without having to scramble for pertinent documents or second-guessing your loved one’s end of life wishes.

By documenting your wishes and making sure important paperwork can be found when the time comes you can help save your surviving family members endless amounts of grief, stress, and pain. Even if the thought has crossed our minds, many of us simply procrastinate, never actually writing the will or expressing our wishes to our children, leaving many things unsaid and undecided.

In the event of an accident or sudden death, family members may not agree on a course of action and fighting ensues, adding more stress to an already tragic situation. With clear instructions about one’s wishes, family members are not forced to make the decision to end life support or scramble to find a way to pay for funeral arrangements because they don’t know if there’s a life insurance policy. In the midst of a tragedy, this only pours salt on the wounds.

Most funeral homes can even assist you with pre-planning your own funeral. You can pre-purchase a plot, pick out the casket, music, readings, and anything else you might like. It can be as simple or as fancy as you desire. You can even write your own obituary. Making the plans yourself saves your loved ones from having to make any decisions during a difficult time. You may even be able to negotiate a discount by pre-planning.

The National Institute of Health has a great article with tips on this subject which can be found at the following link: http://www.nia.nih.gov/healthinformation/publications/affairs.htm

Penn State University offers a free 36-page guide entitled “Getting your Affairs in Order” that I highly recommend. The document was “prepared by Marilyn M. Furry, PhD, Associate professor, financial education, and Nadezhda N. Mamontova, graduate research assistant.”

 You can download a copy at: http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/freepubs/pdfs/UI300.pdf