They try DIY planning
While an attorney could help you prepare these healthcare documents, there are other options, says Radulovic. Each state has their own forms (some states combine them into one document), and you can get a copy yourself by going to sites like the NHPCO’s CaringInfo.org, selecting your state, and downloading the file. Another alternative is logging onto AgingWithDignity.org to purchase a copy of the Five Wishes document, which uses a more conversational tone to explain end-of-life planning and helps you express additional wishes, such as whether you want music played or a massage. But if such official documents feel overwhelming, Radulovic suggests simply sitting down at the computer and writing your wishes out yourself. “What your doctors want is some guidance, so even just a document you’ve typed on your own would be better than nothing at all,” he says, adding that it’s best to have your write-up witnessed and notarized. This choir sings to people who are dying and it’s just beautiful.
They cover estate planning basics
For young people without many assets, a simple will could be created with the help of an online tool, such as LegacyWriter or LegalZoom (which could also include your healthcare advance directive and proxy). However, more complex arrangements for preparing for death that include naming guardians for young children, setting up trusts, and multi-generational planning need to be done with an estate planning attorney, says Pamela Sandy, CFP, 2016 president of the Financial Planning Association. Either way, experts agree that anyone over the age of 18 should have at least the basics of a death plan in place. “Think to yourself, if I don’t wake up in the morning, can my family continue to operate without me?” says Bob Arrington, president of Arrington Funeral Directors in Jackson, Tennessee, and the immediate past president of the National Funeral Directors Association. “I’ve seen many situations where all the household finances were only in the head of one family member, then an unexpected death occurs and the next of kin is left trying to put a puzzle together.”
They know when to make these arrangements
The best advance care and estate planning happens well before it’s actually needed. “I tell my clients to review their estate plan when major life events happen, such as marriage or co-habitation, the birth of a child, or divorce,” says Sandy. However, she adds, there are plenty of other times to make updates to your death plan, such as after changes in laws, the death or illness of someone you’ve named as a beneficiary or executor, or a sudden influx of money such as an inheritance of your own. “I see people forgetting what’s in their estate plans all the time,” says Sandy. “So every year, sit down with your financial planner to review your arrangements.” Failing that, the next best time to plan is immediately following a serious medical diagnosis, especially in cases of cognitive impairment. “I’ve had families of patients with advanced dementia say, ‘We’re ready to do a power of attorney for healthcare,’” says McMenamin. “And we have to say it’s too late because it can’t be done by a family member, it has to be done by the person themselves.”