End of Life Planning Guide: Checklist + Timeline

End of life planning can be difficult to navigate. The emotions involved can make this process seem like a bit of a bumpy ride, but with the right direction, it’s easier than you think.

This guide aims to lead you through the process, providing you with a roadmap to complete your end of life planning without the stress of having to figure it all out yourself. Included is an end of life checklist that will keep you on-task until all your final arrangements are set.

We’re here to shine a light on a process that is often kept in the shadows, so you can get it done and out of the way, giving you and your loved one’s peace of mind.

What is End of Life Planning?

End of life planning is the process of finalizing your personal wishes for your estate, funeral, and remains. You have to think about what will happen to you, your belongings, and your loved ones after you pass, which can make the whole thing uncomfortable to say the least.

This is one of many reasons people put off planning their final arrangements. No one likes to talk or think about death and this can make us avoid our end of life planning.

However, the alternative is to leave loose ends that then fall into the lap of those closest to you at a time when they are grieving your loss. Planning your end of life arrangements is a gift of compassion to those you are leaving behind, enabling them to focus on their grief and healing rather than complicated financial and emotional decisions.

When you plan your end of life arrangements while you’re still alive, all of those details and decisions have been made for your next of kin, taking the burden off of them.

Why is it Important to Plan for End of Life?

When you plan for your end of life arrangements, you’ll achieve peace of mind knowing that you have not left difficult decisions in the lap of your grieving loved ones. Losing a family member is one of the most painful and stressful life events a person can experience. 

If the deceased has not made any end of life plans, the stress for the next of kin is multiplied. They are left to make decisions on behalf of their lost loved one, including complicated financial choices as well as trying to guess their personal preferences. It can cause conflict amongst your friends and family as they try to determine what it is you would have wanted. 

When you are prepared and have made your choices clear, there is no disputing these details. There is no reason for your family to worry or argue about what you would have wanted because you’ve already outlined it and made it official. Your family gets to focus on what is truly important during a time of loss, while you can rest easy knowing your legacy is protected.

End of Life Checklist

It can be hard to know where to start with end of life planning and sometimes, that’s the biggest stumbling block to getting started at all. To help you prepare for your plans, we’ve put together this easy-to-follow checklist. 

Each item in this EOL planning checklist will be expanded on in greater detail below so you know how to get them done. The steps to a thorough end of life plan are:

  1. Ensure all of your relevant documents are in order.
  2. Decide between and create either a trust or a will.
  3. Complete a list of all of your possessions.
  4. Choose your preferences for care at the end of your life.
  5. Plan your burial and funeral arrangements.
  6. Prepare your obituary and death notice.
  7. Secure your plans in a file of life.

1. Prepare Your Documents

This is a lot easier than it sounds and comes down to a quick series of decisions and then legally documenting what you’ve decided. It’s important to get these documents in order so that when the time comes, your end of life plans are easily accessed by those you’ve left behind. 

Your will is not the only document you need to ensure your end of life plans are complete. Here is a handy list of all the documents you may need to finalize your plans:

Living Trust

A living trust is a document that allows you to have control over your estate and all of your belongings from now until after you pass. 

Living Will

Your wishes regarding any medical treatment and end of life care will be detailed in a living will. This is necessary should you be unable, for any reason, to speak for yourself while you are still alive.

Last Will and Testament

This is a legal document that outlines how you wish your property and assets will be handled after you’re gone. 

Password List

This should be a complete list of all important passwords that your family will need to access important accounts. 

For example, you may want to leave the code to unlock your phone. Passwords and login access to credit cards, banking information and social media spaces may also be necessary. 

There are so many passwords that can help your loved ones tie up loose ends when the time comes, and storing them in a secure document or giving them to your attorney will help.

Insurance Policies

If you have life insurance, preneed insurance, burial insurance or any other forms of insurance that your family will need to know about, collect those policies as part of your end of life planning.

Organ or Tissue Donor Preference

Record your wishes pertaining to the donation of organs on a document so there is no question that you’re a donor when the time comes. You can also register here to become an organ donor, which will then be indicated on your identification. This ensures those who can benefit from your organs will have timely access to them.

2. Create a Trust or a Will

A trust is useful for anyone with assets that, in total, are valued at more than $160,000 and wishes to make access to their finances easier for beneficiaries after they’ve passed.  

A will on the other hand encompasses decisions pertaining to more than just finances and will have to go through the probate process. 

A will can be completed easily online without an attorney. A trust is also easily created online using web-based legal tools. Alternatively, you can seek the assistance of an estate planning attorney, but this route can be pricey.  

Deciding between a will or a trust, or making use of both, is going to be dependent on your life situation, assets and more. However, knowing the difference between these two end of life planning documents is the first step.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a method of estate transfer in which you hand over authority to a trustee so they can ensure your beneficiaries receive the assets when the time comes. 

This can be created and managed while you are still living and comes in handy when you have minor children for whom the assets will not be of any use until adulthood.

What is Will?

A will is a legal document that outlines your final wishes when it comes to the guardianship of your dependents, pets, and where and to which beneficiaries your various assets will be given. 

The main difference between a will and a trust is when it comes into effect. A will is triggered once you have passed while a trust can be used in life to disperse parts of your estate.

3. List Your Possessions

Create a list of anything that you own and where you would like it to go after you have passed. Your home, vehicles and money are the first things we think of when listing our possessions but don’t forget to include family heirlooms, bank accounts and finances, investments, pensions, insurance policies, collectables, pets, jewelry and more. 

Anything that has any monetary or sentimental value should be listed. It’s important to be clear about where you want these assets to go so you can help your family avoid any disputes after you pass.

4. End of Life Care

Take the time to outline your wishes when it comes to end of life care. If you have to change your housing situation or enter palliative care at some point in the future, what is important to you when looking for a nursing home or an assisted living facility? Would you prefer to have in-home care? 

It’s okay to ask to tour facilities and speak to the staff before you make any finalized decisions. 

Assisted living will offer you more freedom and independence while a nursing home is better suited for those who need more frequent medical care. In-home care will allow you to stay in your home while receiving the care you need. 

Whatever your preferences are, documenting them will help ensure you get the care and treatment you need in an environment you prefer.

5. Burial and Funeral Arrangements

Planning your own funeral and burial is an important step in your end of life planning. By taking the time now to decide how you would like to be remembered, you’re making sure your loved ones don’t have to do it during a stressful time when emotions are running high. 

You’ll have to choose what sort of memorial experience you want loved ones to participate in, the funeral home that will serve your family, and determine what type of disposition you prefer for your body.  Let’s jump into some of your choices.

Types of Funerals

There are many different ways to provide an experience to support loved ones and friends in the wake of your passing.  Whether you’d like a traditional ceremony, an informal service, or another type of gathering all together, the way in which you choose to be remembered is a personal choice. Here are some of your options:

  • Celebration of Life: This is a very personal gathering, centered around remembering and celebrating all of the good things about your life. These tend to be less formal and can be uniquely themed or planned to reflect your passions and interests.
  • Graveside Service: Also known as a committal, a graveside service can follow a funeral or other ceremony and is conducted as the casket is interred into the grave.
  • Memorial Service: This is a service for friends and loved ones without the body present. In the case that you’ve selected cremation, the memorial service is held after the cremation has taken place and may have your ashes present in an urn. In the event that you’ve chosen burial, the service would follow the burial.
  • Religious Funeral: This is the perfect choice for those to whom faith means a great deal. These differ depending on which religion you adhere to but are often formal and more traditional.
  • Visitation: This is an event where friends and family pay their respects to the family of the deceased without the body present, and often precedes the funeral or memorial service.
  • Viewing: A gathering that allows loved ones to visit your open casket and pay their respects.
  • Wake: Wakes are usually held in someone’s home and can precede another type of ceremony.

Prepaid funeral plans are a great option to plan for your final wishes as well as prepay for them, saving your family from the stress and uncertainty that comes with having to make difficult decisions and handle unexpected finances during a time of grief and sadness.

At Everdays, our pleasant planning experience helps you plan your funeral now, so loved ones have everything they’ll need when the time comes. You can save and store your free, digital funeral plan in your secure Everdays account and give your family access to all of your decisions so they know what to do and who to call – saving loved ones from stressful decisions during an already difficult time.

Funeral planning in 3 simple steps

  1. Tell us about yourself – Answer a few easy questions about your preferences and we’ll help you find the services and support you want to put in place.
  2. Get a personal, actionable plan – We’ll turn your decisions into a complete, printable, digital plan that is saved & accessible so your family knows just what to do when the time comes.
  3. Share everything with your family – Give loved ones instant access to your decisions. Whenever you’re ready, you can provide for your family by securing your plan to save them from an unexpected financial burden in the future.

Types of Burials

Like a funeral, burials come in all shapes and sizes, too. If you’ve chosen burial instead of cremation as your preferred disposition type, making the choice between the various burial options will lift the burden from your loved ones. Let’s take a look at some of the most common choices:

  • Above-Ground Burial: An above-ground burial is perfect for those wishing to be buried in areas closer to sea level and prone to floods. It is a small plot of land with a crypt or a niche in which the deceased is entombed. 
  • In-Ground Burial: The most common type of grave, an in-ground burial sees the casket buried below the earth and marked with a grave marker or headstone.
  • Mausoleum (Public or Private): A mausoleum is a building constructed specifically to house the remains of people. They can be public or private.
  • Natural Burial: A natural burial is one in which the body is buried without anything that will prevent natural decay and decomposition, allowing the body to be recycled into the earth.

If you haven’t decided on burial yet, cremation is another great option to consider. You can explore more about prepaid cremation as a way to pay for your cremation ahead of time so your family won’t have to navigate these decisions and expenses during a difficult time.

6. Document Your Legacy

Documenting your legacy includes writing an obituary and death notice. This can be a difficult task but it saves your loved ones time and energy, and from having to think about it after you pass. An obituary is a brief biography and notice of death typically published in a newspaper or in an online Digital Memorial to let people know that you have passed. 

Your obituary can include as little or as much information as you choose. You can describe your life’s accomplishments in a few sentences while mentioning those loved ones you’ve left behind. You may also leave space for your loved ones to note the date and location of death. 

Optionally, you can refer to your favorite nonprofit organization as a place to send donations in lieu of flowers or gifts.

7. Secure Your End of Life Plans in a “Life File”

Now it’s time to ensure your beneficiaries know how to access all of your end of life planning. It’s important that you keep all of your planning files in one place and secure so that, no matter what happens, your plans remain intact. 

You can store your files digitally on a secure cloud platform like Google Drive or DropBox and share it with your next of kin or attorney. Alternatively, use a thumb drive and keep it in a safe. If you’re working with paper, make sure you make copies and leave them with loved ones.

How to Talk with Your Family About Your End of Life Decisions

One of the more difficult steps in this planning process is handing over your plans to loved ones. This will require discussion and the topic can become quite emotional.

We recommend sticking to the facts without sacrificing compassion. 

Recognize that this can be a troublesome topic for your loved ones to digest, so give them some time to absorb it. 

Finally, make sure your loved one recognizes that you are of sound mind and that you have planned everything carefully and fully understand your choices.

Looking for Help to Pre-Plan Your Funeral? Let’s Talk

While facing EOL plans may be difficult, this is a kind and compassionate way to think of your grieving loved ones. We hope this end of life planning worksheet makes the process a little easier and provides you with a road map to finalize your arrangements. When you’re done, you’ll have peace of mind knowing it’s all taken care of.   If you’re stuck or need help pre-planning your funeral, be sure to get in touch with the Everdays care team for knowledgeable and compassionate guidance on end of life decisions.

Have a Funeral Plan Ready for When That Difficult Time Comes

Planning your own funeral or memorial service is the most compassionate way to make sure that your family and loved ones are cared for and supported after your death. Planning your funeral or memorial service and securing it with Everdays unlocks everything you need to make your final send off as easy as possible on your family and friends, so they can focus on comforting each other as they gather together to say goodbye.

Get started today and make your free plan in a matter of minutes.

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