When people think about estate planning, they usually focus on who will receive their money and property when they pass away and how it will be received. However, estate planning can also address your end-of-life wishes—the considerations and expenses involved when it is time to say goodbye to your loved ones. The following are important questions to ask yourself, as the answers are a critical part of creating a comprehensive estate plan.
How Do You Want Your Remains Handled at Death?
Addressing your final wishes for your body may be uncomfortable, but planning ahead can save your loved ones time and give them peace of mind, knowing that they are carrying out your wishes. There are many common options available, such as
- being buried in a casket,
- being cremated, or
- donating your body or organs.
Alternatively, some people choose more unique ways to dispose of their remains, such as by having them turned into a diamond.
Depending on your state’s laws, these wishes may be included in your last will and testament, healthcare power of attorney, advance directive, or a separate document.
Do You Want a Service or Celebration?
When it comes to commemorating your passing, a variety of options are available to achieve your specific wishes.
Some people prefer to plan a more traditional funeral at their place of worship, complete with music, scripture readings, and a meal afterward. A funeral can also include a gathering before the church service or a graveside service. The focus of the funeral is to allow your loved ones the opportunity to mourn your passing.
A memorial service can be like a funeral in terms of formality, but typically the deceased’s remains are not present at a memorial service; usually photos of the deceased are displayed instead. However, a memorial service can also be informal, similar to a celebration of life.
Celebration of Life
“Celebration of life” events are an increasingly popular way to celebrate your life experiences and accomplishments. Pictures and videos can be displayed during the event as your loved
ones tell stories of you. The celebration can be tailored to reflect your personality and highlight what matters most to you.
You may decide that you do not want a funeral, memorial service, or celebration. This could be for any number of reasons: you may not have many friends or family who could attend a local service, you prefer to avoid funeral expenses and would rather have your money pass directly to your loved ones, or you are a private person who does not want the details of your passing shared with the public.
It is important to note that documents with instructions for funerals, celebrations, or the disposition of your remains may not be legally binding in your state. Every state has different rules. However, by letting your loved ones know your wishes, they can use that information when making decisions for your final arrangements.
Do You Have a Final Message?
While you may focus on the official documents that address your money and property such as a last will and testament and a trust when creating your estate plan, you can also include documents with personal messages to help you say goodbye to your loved ones.
If you love to write or find it easier to communicate through writing, leaving a letter to your loved ones can allow you to thoughtfully convey your wishes and last sentiments. You could write one letter addressed to all of your loved ones if the information you want to communicate is the same for each person. Alternatively, you could write a separate letter to each loved one if you have specific things to say to each person.
In these letters, you can talk about your relationship and valuable lessons that you have learned and provide advice and guidance to pass along to future generations. Not only will the information in the letter be meaningful to the recipient but it will also provide them with a tangible gift to help them through the mourning process that can be saved for years to come.
Another way to speak from your heart is through video, which can allow you one last opportunity to speak to your loved ones. Just like writing a letter, you can address friends and family as a group in one video or address each person with individual videos. Videos can convey the same information as a letter and give the recipient the added joy of hearing you speak and seeing your face.
How Will You Pay for Your Final Expenses?
Depending on the extent of your end-of-life wishes and the anticipated cost, there are many ways to allocate money to cover these expenses.
Although a funeral trust is uncommon in some jurisdictions, it may be an option. A funeral trust holds money for funeral costs until you pass away. Then, at your death, the trustee pays the beneficiary (typically the funeral home providing services) with the funds held in the trust. A funeral trust allows you to set aside money to cover the following expenses:
- Casket or urn
- Burial vault
- Cemetery plot
- Embalming or cremation
- Funeral service and accompanying gathering
- Death certificate
Final Expense or Burial Insurance
Final expense or burial insurance is a special type of life insurance policy that is purchased to pay for funeral costs, medical bills, and other end-of-life expenses. It usually pays a small death benefit, such as $5,000 to $25,000, meant to cover funeral expenses rather than provide financial support for loved ones.
Separate Savings Account
Finally, if you have enough financial resources, you could set aside money in a savings account to pay for your end-of-life expenses. The savings account would be in your own name and would have a trusted individual as the payable-on-death beneficiary, who would then use the funds to pay for your final expenses.
We understand that planning for death is not easy. Our attorneys can help ensure that your wishes are carried out and your legacy lives on. Give us a call to begin a thoughtful discussion about your end-of-life wishes and expenses.