There are costs to you and your loved ones if you fail to complete important life and death planning documents until it is too late – emotional costs and financial costs.
- Have you named a guardian for your children in case something happens to you and someone else has to raise your children?
- Have you identified who should make health care decisions for you if you are sick or disabled and can’t advocate for yourself?
- Have you identified who should take over your financial affairs if you can’t handle then for yourself?
- Have you written down what you want doctors to do and not to you if you can no longer communicate your wishes?
- Do your family members know how you want your property and assets divided up after you pass?
Most people are not well prepared for expected changes that aging brings to them. Taking the time to create your Last Will and Testament, Health Care Power of Attorney, Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney now can result in greater peace of mind for you and your family members, and may also save money for your family.
For you, the emotional cost of failing to complete these important documents means that you lose control of your life and others have to guess what you would want them to do. If you don’t write down what you want to happen to you and to your property when you are incapacitated or after you pass away, you give up having your wishes fulfilled by those you care about. Without these forms, someone, maybe not even a relative, will make decisions about your health care, your quality of life when you are incapacitated, and what happens to assets and possessions you acquired over your lifetime. If you don’t have health care directives, doctors will make decisions for you, without knowing you or your family situation. The financial cost of failing to complete a durable power of attorney may mean that your bills will not be paid in a timely way if you are incapacitated, which could result in debt collectors contacting you and your family members.
For your family members, not having important life and death documents to guide decisions creates anxiety and confusion. When you are sick, incapacitated, or pass away, your family and friends are not in the best emotional condition to make good choices and carry out your wishes. They are stressed, tired, and sad. It is so helpful to them if you have already completed your life and death planning documents. It is even more of a gift if you have talked to them about what the documents mean to you. It is much better if they don’t have to guess what your wishes and intentions are at a time when their judgment may be influenced by a stressful situation. It is much better for them if they understand their responsibilities before they actually have to carry out these duties. And, if you go the extra step and have made arrangements for your burial or cremation, they don’t have to go through that emotional experience at such a difficult time. For your family members, there may be lower financial costs if you have documented decisions about how your property and assets should be divided. Without a Last Will and Testament, state law determines how your assets are divided.
Why do we put off completing these important life and death documents? It is normal to resist talking about and doing something about issues related to our own aging, potential loss of independence, and death. However, it is also costly to you and to your family not to, emotionally and financially. Being proactive and getting the forms done means you can put them on a shelf and not think about them again until you need to. Save you and your family the emotional and financial costs of not being prepared for the future. Doing so will increase your peace of mind and that of your family and friends.