We all know that death is a natural part of life, but end-of-life planning can still be a difficult thing to navigate. It asks us to recognize our own mortality, and then make arrangements that will carry out our wishes when the time comes. Basic estate planning addresses the fundamentals, like drafting a will and appointing the necessary powers of attorney. In truth, that doesn’t go quite far enough. Important health care decisions are often overlooked or put on the back burner, but that doesn’t make them any less important.
If tragedy struck and you were left incapacitated or unable to advocate for yourself, who would be called on to make those choices? Is it someone you trust? And have you shared with them the quality of life you hope to maintain? If not, your life could unfold in a very different way than you’d hoped.
Now is the time to begin thinking about these things if you haven’t already done so. If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that life can change in an instant—and critical decisions might need to be made in a moment’s notice. Here are some important points to get you in the right headspace for critical health care planning.
What Kind of Quality of Life Is Important to You?
This is a personal question that has everything to do with what makes life meaningful for you. If your health is seriously compromised, at what point would you refuse further interventions and let nature run its course? Your answer might look like:
- You have a terminal diagnosis, and the chosen interventions are doing more harm than good with regard to quality of life.
- You are unable to eat or breathe on your own.
- Your cognitive functioning declines to a certain point
We know these things can be difficult to think about, but the alternative may be worse.
Who Will Make Decisions for You?
You may have already appointed a health care power of attorney in your estate plan, but that doesn’t mean they’ll know what to do if they’re called to act on your behalf. Invite them into a conversation sooner rather than later about your wishes. It might set the stage for an open dialogue where you can speak freely about these difficult topics. You can also ask them if they have any specific questions or scenarios they’d like to run by you now.
It’s also wise to choose a backup power of attorney in case your first choice is either unable or unwilling to carry out your instructions. (And be sure to communicate with them as well.) Think of it as a simple extra step to safeguard your wishes.
Planning for these things is crucial, but one 2017 study found that only about one-third of U.S. adults had completed advance directives for end-of-life care.
What Could Happen if You Overlook These Things?
It comes down to clarifying your wishes and spelling them out to your appointed powers of attorney. Failing to do so could create a terrible situation for your loved ones. Without knowing what you really wanted, they’ll be left to make life-changing decisions based on what they think is best—which may not be aligned with your wishes. Alternatively, they may turn to health care professionals to recommend the best course of action. Again, your desires may be overlooked entirely.
How to Adequately Plan for End-of-Life Care
After drafting a living will, naming people you trust to execute your health care wishes, and communicating those desires, you’ll want to make sure your financial life is designed to support your long-term care needs. Even if your loved ones never have to make critical health care decisions for you, you may still require long-term care at some point down the road. This might include nursing home care or needing a health care professional to care for you in your home. Either way, the cost can add up. According to the Long Term Care Group, these expenses can reach more than $50,000 annually. In certain situations, we have even seen expenses exceed $100,000.
An experienced financial advisor can be a great resource. They can help you identify your goals and carry out personalized estate planning. The goal is for you to feel confident in your ability to fund a secure future retirement. At JJ Burns & Company, we understand that these topics cover sensitive territory. We’re here to walk beside you on this path, answer your questions, and provide guidance that’s based on your values and goals. Connect with us today to start the conversation.