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 end-of-life planning checklist and 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 a comprehensive end-of-life planning checklist that will keep you on-task and guide you 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.
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What is an end-of-life plan and what does end-of-life plan mean? An end-of-life plan is a result 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 use an end-of-life planning checklist to plan your end-of-life arrangements while you’re still alive, you can trust and know that all of those details and decisions have been made for your next of kin, taking the burden off of them.
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 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 completely prepared by using an end-of-life planning checklist that covers all the details, 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 taken the time to write it down 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.
It’s also never too early for end-of-life planning if you’re an adult. Parents can achieve peace of mind with a solid plan in place, knowing that their children will be taken care of. For people at any age with a chronic illness or health struggles, end-of-life planning can be one final gift you are able to give your family. Retirees and seniors often find themselves planning out their financial future, which makes it a great time to include your end-of-life planning as the two types of planning tend to influence each other. Every person in every stage of adulthood benefits from having an end-of-life plan as a compassionate and thoughtful way of preventing further stress and worry in the people we love the most.
It can be hard to know how to plan for end-of-life 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 end-of-life planning checklist will be expanded on in greater detail below so you know how to get them done. It’s important to note that end-of-life planning is not just restricted to your funeral and burial plan. End-of-life planning should also include financial planning such as health insurance, long-term care insurance, retirement planning and budgeting, your last will and testament, living trusts and your advance directive. You might also want to consider your housing situation and quality of life decisions in your later years.
Here is an easy end-of-life planning checklist that will be covered in more detail below:
Gathering all of your end-of-life planning documents is a lot easier than it sounds and comes down to a quick series of decisions and legally documenting what you’ve decided. It’s important to use an end-of-life planning checklist 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 papers and documents needed for end-of-life planning:
Gather together all relevant contact information that your loved ones may need in the final days of your life and afterwards. Contacts can include:
When your executor or power of attorney needs to finalize plans, settle debts or needs more information, these contact details will make that job infinitely easier.
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.
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.
This is a legal document that outlines how you wish your property and assets will be handled after you’re gone.
A designation of guardian is a document that appoints someone of your choice as the guardian of your children in the event you die or are incapacitated. Often, this designation is included in your last will and testament.
Additionally, a power of attorney can also be included in your will and serves to appoint a trusted friend, attorney or loved one as the person who can represent you and be your voice when you are unable to. This person will be trusted to make medical decisions on your behalf that you may not already have decided. Alternatively, you can include a POLST or a MOLST. A POLST or portable medical orders is a document that declares your decisions on various medical situations in and out of a medical setting. A MOLST, or Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment is a document outlining your wishes when it comes to life-sustaining treatment, such as CPR, intubation, artificial nutrition and more.
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.
Some passwords you may want to include:
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 checklist.
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.
A domestic partnership is a relationship between two people who live together as a couple but who are not legally married. A domestic partnership agreement serves as protection for each party in the relationship in the event something happens to the other person. For instance, in the event you find yourself hospitalized, a domestic partnership agreement can notify the hospital that, despite family-only visiting rules, your partner should be allowed to see you. You can also ensure that your partner is the beneficiary of your estate and anything that you technically own but that you enjoyed together. Your car and your home for example.
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.
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.
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.
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. A comprehensive portfolio of your finances will be helpful in order for your executor or power of attorney to settle your estate. This portfolio should include debts that you may still owe as well. Credit card balances, mortgages, loans and taxes you may still owe should be listed, and any form of income you may have including Social Security, annuities, insurance benefits and more. Beyond money, 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.
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.
Additionally, consider your standard for quality of life and include an advance directive package. This can include your power of attorney to appoint a trusted loved one to make your medical decisions for you in line with your wishes. You can also include your preferences with regards to medical treatments that may be invasive or unnecessarily prolong a life you’re unable to appreciate any longer. Your quality of life should be seen as just as important as your preferences for end-of-life care.
Whatever your preferences are, documenting them with an end-of-life care plan checklist will help ensure you get the care and treatment you need in an environment you prefer.
Consider how you feel about where you will live out your last days. Do you want to be in the home you’ve built for yourself or do you want to be in the capable care of medical professionals? If you’ve selected an assisted living facility or palliative care provider, outline this in your end-of-life planning. You might choose to have an in-home care aid or you may have an agreement with a loved one to move in and care for you. Don’t wait until you can no longer speak for yourself to try to make your wishes about these important decisions known. Include them in your end-of-life planning and provide contact information for your choices, if needed. You may also want to include information about your long-term care insurance policy.
It’s important to plan for end-of-life medical care and the costs that are associated with it. You can start setting money aside for this purpose or you can look into purchasing supplemental health care insurance policies to help pay these costs. In your end-of-life plan, include any information about your health insurance or supplemental coverage you may have so that your power of attorney or health surrogate can ensure that everything is paid for and doesn’t deplete the resources in your estate. An end-of-life care plan can make transitions easier and help your loved ones respect your wishes.
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.
An obituary or death notice is a write-up that sums up who you are and lets readers know you are no longer with us. An obituary serves to let the community know you have passed so that they can attend the funeral and pay their respects. It’s a public record of your life that will be read by generations of your family and could be used in the future to help trace your descendants' lineage. It can also be a final, heartfelt goodbye from your family and if you help write it in advance, it will truly represent you.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 them 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.
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 used an end-of-life planning checklist to ensure you have planned everything carefully and that you fully understand your choices.
While facing end-of-life 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 checklist and 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.
Our content is created for educational purposes only. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Everdays encourages individuals to seek advice from their own investment or tax advisor or legal counsel.