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Developing an End-of-Life Plan

Senior couple overlooks water while discussing end-of-life planning

4 Key Elements to Consider

Inevitably, we’ll all reach the end of our lives. While it may be an uncomfortable topic to think about, it’s important to have a comprehensive plan in place to ease the burden on our loved ones. Here are four important elements to consider when creating your end-of-life plan.

1. Funeral Planning

The funeral planning process can be overwhelming for loved ones who are already grieving. By pre-planning your funeral, you can ensure your final wishes are carried out and that your loved ones are given time to celebrate your life. A study conducted by the National Funeral Directors Association found that while 62.5% of people believe it’s important to communicate their funeral plans and wishes to their families, only 21.4% have done so. Pre-planning your funeral can greatly reduce the emotional and financial toll on your family.

2. Professional Contacts

As we age and our lives become more complex, we often rely on the assistance of professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants and financial planners. It’s important to make sure your family knows who these professionals are and how to contact them. You may want to create a digital or hard copy document that includes their names, titles and contact information, as well as any relevant details on your relationship. It’s also a good idea to have a conversation with your professional contacts about what will happen when you pass away (and introduce your family to them).

3. Financial records and personal credentials

When you pass away, it can be a lengthy and difficult process for your loved ones to gather and account for all assets, liabilities and insurance policies. You can make this process easier by creating a detailed list of your accounts, including the account type, policy/account number, approximate value and any terms or conditions. You should also communicate to your family where any original documents are located and how to contact relevant account custodians, insurance companies, banks, etc.

Some examples include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Insurance policies (home, auto, umbrella, life, long-term care)
  • Tax returns
  • Non-retirement investment holdings (individual, joint, trusts)
  • Retirement accounts (IRAs, employer plans, pensions)
  • Banks (checking, savings, safe deposit boxes)
  • Outstanding debt and obligations (mortgage, car, other loans)

Tip: Given that the typical probate process can take at least 6-12 months, it may be beneficial to reevaluate your current beneficiary elections on your accounts and update these where applicable. In many cases, accounts with designated beneficiaries will avoid probate altogether.

It’s probable that many of us have a little book of passwords hiding somewhere that contains our login information to our personal and financial accounts. Even though 59% of people use the same password for all their accounts, it’s quite likely your family doesn’t have that information — in fact, they may not even know about all the accounts you have!

Additionally, it’s important to consider adding a legacy contact for personal and social media accounts, allowing your loved ones to properly update these accounts and gather any messages received in remembrance.

4. Last will and wishes

Having an up-to-date last will and testament is crucial to ensuring your wishes are carried out after your passing. According to a survey, while most people believe having a will is important, only one-third actually have one. An updated will, coupled with any final written requests you leave behind, will help your executor, family and all parties involved to gain a clear understanding of your wishes — and help minimize conflicts among your loved ones.

While discussing end-of-life planning may be difficult, taking the time to develop a comprehensive plan can provide peace of mind and ease the burden on your family during an already challenging time. If you need guidance or support in creating your end-of-life plan, please consider reaching out to us for assistance.

This commentary is provided for general information purposes only, should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice, and does not constitute an attorney/client relationship. Past performance of any market results is no assurance of future performance. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources deemed reliable but is not guaranteed.


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