5 Things to Cover with Your Family When Making End-of-Life Decisions

baby boomers opinions on funerals

There will come a time in your life when you will have to make funeral arrangements for a loved one. This task would be easier if he had pre-planned his funeral and shared his final arrangements with the rest of the family. This is something to consider if you decide to pre-plan your own funeral and make other end-of-life decisions. Instead of leaving your loved ones in a lurch, you will want them to know exactly what you want done if you are critically ill and after you’ve passed away.

Here are five things to cover with your family when making end-of-life decisions.

1. Advance Directives

We age and accidents happen. If there’s a chance your loved ones have to make a decision for you on the type of medical care you require, you will want to make sure you have an advance directive in place. Depending on how sick you are, an advance directive outlines the type of treatment you want and don’t want. The laws different from state to state, but here are a few types of advance directives to consider:

  • Living will: Describes the kinds of medical care and life-sustaining treatments you want if you are terminally ill. However, it does not let you select a person to make that decision for you.
  • Durable power of attorney for health care: This legal document allows you to choose a person to make medical decisions for you if you are unconscious or unable to.
  • Do not resuscitate: A DNR is another legal order that requests that you don’t have CPR administered if your heart stops or if you stop breathing.

2. More Legalities

Once you pass away, depending on where you die, you will need a doctor to sign your death certificate. If you are in a care facility, the on-call doctor should sign it. However, if you pass away at home, your loved ones will have to contact your physician, coroner and/or local police department. Make sure you have this contact information readily available. If you are an organ donor, the proper organ procurement organization needs to be contacted immediately. Again, make sure you leave this information with the rest of the paperwork for your arrangements or have it put in your will.

If the deceased did not leave a will, talk to fellow family members and use your best judgment when it comes to making all the final plans. Everyone should be in agreement about how the service should proceed so there will be no hurt feelings or resentment within the family. Remember, everyone will be grieving, so emotions will be running high at that moment.

3. Legacy Drawer Information

Your will and other important documentations should be kept somewhere safe such as a safety deposit box, a safe or even a Legacy Drawer. This concept of a Legacy Drawer encourages everyone to keep important documents such as banking information, wills, insurance policies and such for a loved one to find once he or she passes away. This method keeps all critical information about your life together and the documents should be well labeled so a family member can easily pull necessary information in handling after death affairs.

To create a Legacy Drawer, consider including the following:

  • Cover letter: Introduction to Legacy Drawer’s contents
  • Will or trust: Copies of will or trust including names of power of attorney, executor and legal advisor or attorney
  • Financial and investment documents: Names of credit card, retirement and bank accounts including your name, account number and balances
  • Funeral plans: Instructions for your burial and services including name and address of funeral home and cemetery
  • Insurance folder: All health, auto, home and life insurance policies including policy numbers, contact information and who is covered
  • Vital documents: Birth and marriage certificates, divorce papers, military records, Social Security and pension information, titles to any automobiles or boats, mortgage and property deeds
  • Legacy letters: Personal notes to your loved ones
  • Monthly budget: Regular bills and copy of monthly budget
  • Tax returns: Copies of state and federal tax returns
  • Passwords: All web addresses, email, usernames and passwords for online accounts

4. Funeral Provider and Cemetery

Your loved ones will want to know what funeral provider you have chosen to handle your arrangements, so this is something else you need to talk about with your family. You will probably want to select a parlor that you earlier used or one that is closest to your home, neighborhood or cemetery. Contacting the funeral home is one of the first calls your loved one will make after contacting family and close friends. Funeral providers are on call 24/7, so there’s no need to worry about waiting until morning to make contact.

Your loved ones will need to know that the funeral provider will take care of a variety of needs that you already selected including:

  • Transferring your body from place of death to the funeral.
  • Caring for you by washing, dressing, embalming, cosmetology work, etc. If you are interested in a green burial, make sure the funeral provider and your family understands this ahead of time as it will make a difference in how the body and casket is prepared.
  • Getting whatever casket or urn you may have already picked out. A picture of it with your final papers is suggested.
  • Making arrangements with the place of disposition
  • Arranging for transportation for immediate family and pallbearers
  • Directing funeral procession

5. Funeral Reception

It is common practice to have an informal gathering of friends and family members following a funeral, cremation or memorial service. If you want something like this after your funeral, you need to let your family know ahead of time. These types of gatherings are usually held at:

  • Home of the deceased person
  • Restaurant or catering center
  • Church hall
  • Funeral home (if a room is available for this event)
  • Community center or VFW hall
  • Senior citizens center
  • Park

You can have the event catered, have family members make the food or simply eat out at a restaurant. Make sure the reception is announced in the funeral program or during the service. You can also choose to do nothing at all, but remember, that these types of events are for the living so they can grieve your loss.

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