End of Life Planning

UCC Keene Stewardship / End of Life Planning

Our purpose: The Stewardship Team made this guideline on actions you might take to prepare for “End of Life” and to improve everyone’s awareness of these important issues. Your circumstances are unique, but some basics apply to all of us.

Action you should take: You should review/discuss these points with family, friends, and trusted advisors and/or an attorney.

While this list may seem daunting, many of these items you already have AND others can be done over time.

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Keene UCC cares for you “cradle to grave.” End of Life Planning is an act of love and an act of responsibility.

Adult Children Discussing End of Life Planning with Their Parents

Most adult children do not like to consider the inevitability of a parent’s death and can often find excuses for not discussing the possibility of serious illness, physical or mental impairment, or death of their mom or dad. And they are not alone in this. The Conversation Project, an organization dedicated to helping people share their wishes for care through the end of life, conducted a national survey in 2018 which found that while 92 percent of Americans say it’s important to discuss their wishes for end-of-life care, only 32 percent have actually had such a conversation.

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When it comes to adult children discussing end-of-life planning with parents, experts recommend the 40/70 rule, a guideline which advises that adult children should bring up the topic as they turn 40 years old, or as their parents near 70 years old. However, it’s never too early or too late to bring up the subject and the timing of the discussion is entirely up to each family. Most children want to honor their parents’ wishes and having the discussion ahead of time allows them to know what their parents want when it comes to their own care as they age or for their funeral and burial at the time of their death.

Having the Family Conversation

Once you decide to take the plunge, the first step in end-of-life planning with your parents is to set up a family meeting to begin the discussion. Choose a time that will be relaxed, and no one will feel rushed. It can be distracting to have a sensitive discussion during a holiday meal, for instance. Try to have other siblings involved as well to make sure everyone is on the same page. If the whole family cannot attend in person, arrange an online video call, so everyone is included. Give your family ample time to prepare or travel and ask your parents and siblings to consider their feelings about end-of-life issues before the meeting. Keep the conversation as positive and proactive as possible. Some areas to discuss are unexpected health issues, financial challenges of long-term care, and end-of-life preferences.

Here are some helpful questions to ask your parents during the conversation:

  1. Do you have a durable power of attorney for both financial and healthcare?
  2. Do you have a will and/or trust?
  3. What are your end of life wishes? Are they documented in a living will or advanced directive?
  4. Where do you keep all your estate documents?
  5. Do you have an attorney and if so, how can we contact him or her?
  6. Do you have long-term health care insurance? If so, what does it cover and where is the policy?
  7. Is your funeral planned? Do you have pre-paid funeral and/or burial arrangements, and if so, where do you store that information?
  8. Do you have a list of your bank accounts and investments?
  9. Who are the doctors that you visit regularly or for specialty care?
  10. What benefits are you currently receiving or will be receiving in the future, including Social Security, pension or veterans benefits?

While it may be difficult to discuss end-of-life issues, it is to everyone’s advantage – children and parents alike – to calmly discuss plans and preferences for end-of-life care and preferences before an emergency hits and emotions run high. In fact, avoiding end-of-life discussions can make the whole experience more difficult and painful in the long run.

Steps for Getting Your Affairs in Order

Put your important papers and copies of legal documents in one place. You can set up a file, put everything in a desk or dresser drawer, or list the information and location of papers in a notebook. If your papers are in a bank safe deposit box, keep copies in a file at home. Check each year to see if there’s anything new to add. 

Tell a trusted family member of friend where you put all your important papers. You don’t need to tell this friend or family member about your personal affairs, but someone should know where you keep your papers in case of an emergency. If you don’t have a relative or friend you trust, ask a lawyer to help. 

Discuss your end-of-life preferences with your doctor. He or she can explain what you could face depending upon the situation. 

Give permission in advance for your doctor or lawyer to talk with your caregiver as needed. There may be questions about your care, a bill, or a health insurance claim. Without your consent, your caregiver may not be able to get needed information. You can give your okay in advance to Medicare, a credit card company, your bank, or your doctor. You may need to sign and return a form. 

Sam has been rushed to the hospital for an emergency situation. His close brother Tom wants to learn about his condition. Without a HIPAA release, the doctor can’t tell Tom anything.

Financial Records

  • Sources of income and assets such as pension from your employer, IRAs, 401(k)s, interest, etc.
  • Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid information
  • Insurance information, such as life, health, long-term care, home, car with policy numbers and agents’ names and phone numbers
  • Copies of insurance policies
  • Names of your banks and account numbers, i.e. checking, savings, credit union
  • Become signatory on financial accounts to insure immediate access when necessary
  • Listing of URLs, username and passwords along with verification phone numbers to financial information
  • Copy of most recent income tax return
  • Location of most up-to-date will with an original signature
  • Liabilities, including property tax—what is owed, to whom and when payments are due. Include copies of bills
  • Mortgages and debts—how and when they are paid
  • Location of original deed of trust for home
  • Car title and registration. Consider signing over the car title in advance
  • Credit and debit card names and numbers
  • Location of safe or safe deposit box and key
  • Consider writing your own obituary. What messages would you like? Would you like donations to go to UCC Keene or a favorite charity or activity?

John has died but his wife Mary knows that he wanted to donate his body to medical schools. This action can’t be done after death. 

Important Legal Documents You May Need as You Age and Should Complete Before You Die

  • Last Will and Testament
  • Trust: Wills and trust let you name the person you want your money and property to go to after you die.
  • Power of Attorney: Lets you give someone else the authority to act on your behalf and can be used if you are incapacitated. If a financial power of attorney is not in place, a conservatorship or guardianship will be required to handle someone’s financial affairs.
  • Advance Directives: Lets you make arrangements for your care if you become sick. Two common types of advance directives are:
    • A living will gives you a say in your health care if you become too sick to make your wishes known. In a living will, you can state what kind of care you do or don’t want. This can make it easier for family members to make tough healthcare decisions for you.
    • A durable power of attorney for health care lets you name the person you want to make medical decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself. Make sure the person you name is willing to make those decisions for you.

      A durable power of attorney allows you to name someone to act on your behalf

      for any legal task, but it stays in place if you become unable to make your own decisions.

  • Help for Getting Your Legal and Financial Papers in Order: You may want to talk with a lawyer about setting a general power of attorney, durable power of attorney, join account, trust, or advance directive. Be sure to ask about the lawyer’s fees before you make an appointment. OR you can use a template and create the document yourself.

  • HIPAA Release: Be certain to provide the names of those who can receive your medical condition status.

Tim had no will and no trust governing the disposition of his estate after he died. The state will need to adjudicate through probate with lawyer’s fees and a lengthy legal process that will override any of Tim’s unwritten preferences.

Planning Your Funeral / Considering Cremation?

  • Fletcher Funeral Home and Cremation Services has served Cheshire County, New Hampshire, for over 100 years. They provide thoughtful funeral and cremation services to the Upper Ashuelot River area and are proud of their rich heritage. The address of the funeral home is 33 Marlboro St, Keene, NH, 03431. You can reach them at (603) 352-4541
  • Foley Funeral Home in Keene, New Hampshire, at 49 Court St. They offer compassionate funeral and event planning services for families in the area. (603) 352-0341
  • Cheshire Family Funeral Home in Keene, New Hampshire, at 44 Maple Ave. They are a local, privately owned firm that provides funeral services with the utmost respect and dignity. (603) 357-2980
  • The Cremation Society of New Hampshire is a membership-driven organization that helps individuals and their families make plans for their end-of-life arrangements. They offer compassionate, professional cremation services for every stage of your life. Whether you want to plan ahead so your family doesn’t have to make those hard decisions after you are gone, or you’re a family member who’s just lost a loved one and you’re looking at your options. The Cremation Society of New Hampshire has multiple locations. The address for the Manchester location is 243 Hanover Street Manchester, NH 031041. (603) 622-1800

What would Mike like his obituary to be? Does Mike even want an obituary? Where does he want donations to go? Tom’s wife knew Tom wanted to donate money to the UCC, but his last writing on donations was not clear.

Preparing and Organizing Legal Documents for the Future. What exactly is an “Important Paper”?

  • Full Legal Name
  • Social Security Number
  • Legal Residence
  • Date and Place of Birth
  • Names and addresses of spouse and children
  • Location of birth and death certificates and certificates of marriage, divorce, citizenship and adoption
  • Copy Medicare card
  • Copy Health insurance card
  • Employers and dates of employment
  • Education and military records
  • Names and phone numbers of religious contacts
  • Membership in groups and awards received
  • Names and phone numbers of close friends, relatives, doctors, lawyers and financial advisors
  • Medications taken regularly (be sure to update this regularly)
  • Location of living will and legal documents

Mary had done a wonderful job preparing the required documents, but because she did not put them all together in one place, so some of her wishes / intent were not identified until after the funeral and estate disposition. For example, Mary had a life partner whom she’d never married, but she had wanted her coin collection to go to him. Since that request was not written down, the collection went to her sister.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Getting Your Affairs in Order

Getting your affairs in order can be difficult, but it is an important part of preparing for the future. Gathering as much information as possible eases the process.

Who Should You Choose to be Your Health Care Proxy?

If you decide to choose a proxy, think about people you know who share your views and values about life and medical decisions. Your proxy might be a family member, a friend, your lawyer, or someone with whom you worship.

My Aging Parents Can No Longer Make Their Own Health Decisions. How Do I Decide What Type of Care is Right for Them?

It can be overwhelming to be asked to make healthcare decisions for someone who is no longer able to make his or her own decisions. Having the conversation in advance and providing written instruction is important preparation.

Jim and Jane were in their early 40s with two young children, i.e. less than 3 years old. Jim died unexpectedly in an auto accident. No plans were documented. What now?

How Do You Help Someone with Alzheimer’s or Dementia get Their Affairs in Order?

Sooner than later. A complication of such diseases is that person may lack or gradually lose the ability to think clearly.  This change affects his or her ability to participate meaningfully in decision making and makes early planning even more important. If decisions are contested by family members, it is important to be able to show that decisions were made in advance of decline.

Establishing a Health Care Proxy is critical to avoiding the requirement to go to court to establish a Conservatorship.

Jim completed all of his documents in NH but took an extended trip to Florida which has reciprocity with New Hampshire. He died in Florida. The reciprocity might take 2 weeks to transfer the documents even if the death certificate states his residence as New Hampshire. He should have brought copies of key health documents with him on his trip if there are time sensitive directives. 

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