Top 10 Things You Should Do To Prepare For Your Own Death

1. Think About Your End-of-Life Wishes

It’s never too early to think about what you’d like to happen if you’re in an accident or diagnosed with a serious illness. Do you want to be in a hospital receiving every treatment available? If you’re diagnosed with an incurable illness, do you still wish to pursue every possible treatment? Would you want to die peacefully at home?

Most people want to die at home. Hospice provides in-home care to those who are terminally ill with a life expectancy of six months or less, yet only about half of people receive this type of care. It’s important to think about your preferences so you can advocate for your wishes when the time comes.

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9. Create a Living Will

A living will is made up of two parts. An Advance Statement, which is not legally binding and the Advance Decision which is.An Advance Statement is a written statement that sets down your preferences, wishes, beliefs, and values in case you later become unwell and need care or medical treatment.An Advance Decision only covers refusals of medical treatment, whereas an Advance State can include any information that you feel is important concerning your health or care.You don’t need to write a living will down unless you are refusing potentially life-sustaining treatment. However, it is good practice to write it down and give a copy to your loved ones and all involved in your care. You should review it regularly and can change it at any time.Here at Pure Cremation, we’re proud to work with MyLivingWill. Together we can help you take care of your future. If you want to know more, please get in touch today.

Long-Term Care Facilities

Hospitals are for sick people and hospital administrators want patients out of their hospital when the patient no longer needs treatment ASAP.

After Jim left ICU and was deemed “stable” the Discharge Nurse started finding a place to send Jim – it came down to two choices: a skilled-nursing facility or my house.

Jim was diagnosed as terminal with six months or less to live – his care was characterized as “end of life” so Medicare would cover hospice services costs. The caveat is that Medicare does not cover “the bed” in a skilled-nursing facility and a “bed” costs $4k-$8k+/month.

Jim had Medicare Part A and was not considered a great candidate for a skilled-nursing facility – couple Jim’s coverage with a shortage of beds at skilled-nursing facilities and suffice it to say the Discharge Nurse was hard-pressed to find a bed for Jim.

The Discharge Nurse found a few facilities that would accept Jim but they were 100’s of miles away; on the Medicare website we found that Medicare rules allowed us to “reject” distant facilities so Jim stayed in the hospital until a closer facility could be found.

Care Facilities Are Expensive

Eventually the Discharge Nurse was able to find a local skilled-nursing facility that would accept Jim – bear in mind that we were not really able to shop for skilled-nursing facilities either on quality or cost considerations, under considerable pressure from the Discharge Nurse (I recall her saying, “This is really your only option”) all we were able to do was a quick internet search on the candidate facility before saying, “ok” and having Jim moved to the facility.

The skilled-nursing facility charged $4,500 per month for a shared room and we were fortunate enough to be able to cover those costs. In the skilled-nursing facility our father had 24 hour care, if we had to move him into my house a nurse would have stopped by for a few hours several times per day and I would have been responsible for the rest of his care.

See: The Cost OF Long-Term Care

9 Create A Master File For Your Loved Ones

One of the worst things to happen to any family is for someone who handles all the finances to die unexpectedly. Not only do their loved ones have to cope with the loss, but they also end up having to scramble to pay the bills and keep your property from being repossessed. There’s an easy solution to this problem, but hardly anyone ever does it. You need to create a master file of all your financial information and keep it in a secure location your family members will have access to after you die.

Because this is your most sensitive information, you should store it in a fire safe in your home, and it wouldn’t hurt to keep a copy in a safety deposit box as well. It should consist of all of your bills, the appropriate account information, a listing of your assets, which should include all bank accounts, pensions, and other income information. You want to make sure you don’t leave your loved ones in need after you die, so this is incredibly important. You should include both a print copy and a digital copy, which you can place on a USB thumb drive or SD card.[2]

3. Consider Funeral Planning in Advance

If you don’t want your family to have to plan your funeral while they’re grieving, consider the gift of planning it in advance. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Do you want a burial? If so, you can buy a plot at a cemetery in advance.
  • Would you prefer to be cremated? A funeral home can help arrange the details with you.
  • Would you like to pay for your funeral arrangements in advance? This helps ensure your loved ones don’t have to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket while they wait for your money to be distributed through your will.
  • Do you want anything specific to happen at your memorial service or wake?

Share your wishes with your loved ones, and add this information to your will if there are specific instructions you want followed.

Do Pre-Need Arrangements Include Pre-Paying?

Sometimes experts are divided on whether you should pre-pay.

“Guaranteed plans” lock in the prices when you buy the plan, no matter how high they might rise in the years between making the arrangements and your death. It’s possible that your plan will predict a rise in cost and price your premiums accordingly.

“Non-guaranteed plans” don’t lock prices, but money put toward them will grow over time through interest, so there may be enough to cover the charges at the time of death. You can read a lengthier explanation here.

3 Ensure Your Spiritual Needs Are Met

This list is mostly about the technical side of life and death, but the spiritual side also needs attending to. This section deals with the way you want your remains treated in death, or shortly before dying. If you are Catholic and need to have a priest organized for the sacrament of Extreme Unction (last rites), you need to make sure that’s known before you become incapacitated. The same goes for how your body is treated. Some faiths require a body to be washed a specific way, and if you don’t indicate your desires toward that end, they may not be fulfilled.

This is something that could be included in your last will & testament, but it’s important, so you want to make sure you go into detail. The instructions for how your remains will be handled can be extensive, so make sure they were written down and available for someone to access once you’re gone. Just because you’re dead or dying, that doesn’t mean you no longer have a voice; it just means that your recorded words will need to speak for you.[8]

Review Your Life

One of the most important things you will do as you prepare for death is review your life. This is the step most people talk about when they discuss regrets, accomplishments, hopes, and dreams. Doing a life review is a way to bring closure to a dying individual. It can also serve as a legacy of life to the dying individual's loved ones. 

Whether you decide to do an internal life review or record your life story for loved ones, reviewing your life is an important and fulfilling step to take as you prepare for death.

Funeral Arrangements

I had just left the skilled-nursing facility when a nurse from the facility called to tell me our Jim had passed away. It was about 4PM on Sunday. It hit me like a ton of bricks. The nurse informed me I had four hours to move Jim’s body.

I had no idea what to do and the nurse offered to call a local mortuary on my behalf and have Jim moved, I agreed without question or protest.

Jim had purchased a plot where he wanted to be buried – when I reviewed plot documents and Jim’s burial instructions I figured it was all pretty complete. Wrong.

The mortuary charged $500 to move Jim’s body from the skilled-nursing facility to the mortuary – a hefty fee for a 5-mile trip. The charges to prepare the body for burial, a casket and then transport to the burial site added up to about $3,000. Again, we really weren’t in a position to shop based on quality or cost considerations, so we just went along.

Related:

Even though Jim had bought his plot, the cemetery charged approximately $1,500 for the burial, casket liner and headstone, so again we just went along.

We did not have a service as per our Jim’s instructions. A co-worker told me that he recently planned a service for his father-in-law that cost $20k+ – he likened it to throwing a big wedding with two days advanced notice. Preparing for death earlier would have been helpful.

5. Choosing to donate your organs or full body to science

An advance care directive tells people what you want while you're still alive.

You can still have a say in what happens to your bits and bodily bobs when you're dead by talking to your family and loved ones — again.

If you want to donate your organs, head to DonateLife.gov.au and register. Just don't forget to tell those who need to know that you've done so. This way if the doctors ask about it, they know what you want.

You can also gift your whole body to a university for use in teaching and research. To do that, you'll need to contact the uni (usually the closest to you, save on shipping) and fill in their forms.

There's a list of universities that take bodies on the gatheredhere website.

Hospice Care and End-of-Life Decisions

As the end of life approaches, particularly when caused by an intractable progressive illness, hospice care may be necessary. Hospice care may be welcomed because of its philosophy of providing compassionate care to individuals in the final phase of life when death is inevitable, and when no active treatment is given for the serious illness leading to death. Hospice care generally accepts the inevitability of death, and care rendered through this model will neither accelerate nor postpone death but will allow a person’s symptoms to be treated to a level of comfort while not treating the underlying illness. Hospice care focuses on the patient and the family with respect decision-making while hospice professionals work diligently to ensure the patient’s final days pass with dignity. Family updates and open communication, often in the form of regularly scheduled family meetings with the hospice care team, can help manage expectations about the final days of life and the process of death, and provide a network of support for the family. Of course, it is your decision as to whether hospice care is appropriate. Yet, if you are unable to communicate or lack the capacity to understand, be sure your agents under your healthcare power of attorney and living will understand your desires with respect to end-of-life care and that your documents confer upon them the authority to obtain hospice care if it is desired.

5. Plan your legacy

Your legacy encompasses many things – financial, emotional and practical. This exercise will give you a sense of peace from knowing things are sorted and you’ve reduced future stress for the people you care about.Here are some of the things you should consider:

Write your will

For parents of young children appointing guardians is the most important function of a will. A will states your wishes about dividing your property and becomes even more important when ‘ordinary’ family dynamics now include divorce, second-marriages, step-children and lifelong partnerships that won’t be recognised by law.Many people mistakenly assume that the law will automatically distribute assets in a way that makes sense e.g. a second spouse could inherit the whole estate and has no obligation to share that legacy with the children from your first marriage.Remember too that the law only recognises life partnerships formalised via marriage or civil partnership. This means that your partner will not be entitled to any of your assets after your death.

Decide on your funeral

You can have the funeral you want by planning your funeral and making your wishes known. You may already know what type of funeral service you want, but if you plan ahead, it saves your family and friends the stress of trying to guess what you would have liked.

Protecting your quality of life before death

What happens if you become too ill to make decisions for yourself? A Lasting Power of Attorney will ensure that your wishes are known and you’ve nominated trusted representatives to look after your interests, dependents and assets in the way that you have specified.

How to prepare for death digitally

You know where you want your money and other physical possessions to go, but what about your digital assets? How do you want them to be passed on?Start by making a list of your digital assets such as financial accounts, photos and videos stored online, digital notebooks, email, social media accounts, your phone, and contact list. Some services have built-in features that let you pass data off to surviving members of your family. You identify your trusted loved ones, and the digital services give them access to your account.

Can I Pre-Pay Without Working With a Funeral Home?

The easiest way to set money aside for people who are not facing a Medicaid spend-down is a simple savings account. If you have the discipline to leave that money alone, you can make sure it is available to whomever is most likely to be paying for your funeral.

You could open a joint savings account with your child or other relative whom you expect to be left with that responsibility, or, if a joint account is too complicated, the bank will allow you to appoint someone to be your beneficiary at death.

“The money stays in your control, and if your roof springs a leak, and you decide you need a working roof before you need a casket, you can take that money out with no penalties or revocation fees,” Mr. Slocum said.

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