60% of Californians say that not burdening their family with tough decisions about their care is extremely important to them.
Only 42% have communicated their end-of-life wishes and just 23% have put them in writing.*
If you're new to end-of-life planning, you're not alone.
Death is a universal human experience, but most of us avoid thinking about it until it’s right in front of us. We put off making our end-of-life plans and trust that we’ll always be able to settle our affairs later.
Better Place Forests invites you to think about end-of-life planning differently. End-of-life planning is an opportunity to shape your last chapter and continue to take care of your family when you pass. By taking the time to make tough decisions now, you prevent your loved ones from having to make them down the line.
Think about what matters to you. Do you want to spend your final moments at home or in the hospital? What kind of funeral do you want to have? Where do you want your final resting place to be?
With proper planning, you can design an end-of-life experience that reflects your values and puts your family on a path to healing. There’s a lot to be gained from thinking ahead, so let's review the basics of end-of-life planning. .
Communicate your final health care wishes in advance
More than half of all people over 65 who are admitted to a hospital are unable to make decisions for themselves. A few simple steps can ensure that your loved ones understand your health care preferences and have the legal rights to help you make crucial decisions.
To start off, consider the following questions:
- Do you wish to refuse certain extraordinary measures to prolong your life, such as resuscitation, feeding tubes, or other forms of life support?
- Do you wish to spend your final moments in the hospital or at home?
Once you've determined your end-of-life wishes, it's important to document them legally in a living will.
For situations not covered in your living will, you’ll need to designate a health care proxy. A health care proxy is a person who’s authorized to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to speak for yourself. You should take time to sit down with your chosen proxy and discuss your end-of-life wishes in detail. To ensure your proxy has the legal rights to make decisions regarding your care, you’ll need to fill out your state'sHealth Care Proxy Form.
Provide instructions for distributing your assets and possessions
A last will & testament (also called simply a will) is the legal document in which you name the executor of your estate, designate beneficiaries for your assets and possessions, and assign guardianship for any dependents. A will goes into effect after your death.
Before writing your will, here are a few questions to consider:
- What are all of your assets (e.g. bank accounts, retirement accounts, car and property titles, etc.)?
- What are all of your liabilities (e.g. credit cards, mortgages, etc.)?
- Is there anyone that depends on your income? Do you have life insurance to continue to provide for them after your death?
- Who do you want to receive your assets (minus what is required to pay off liabilities)?.
Plan your funeral arrangements
Your funeral is likely the last time that all of your loved ones will come together for a celebration in your honor.
These questions can help you think through how you’d like to be remembered:
- Do you want to be buried or cremated?
- What do you want out of your final resting place? Is it important that it's in nature? Close to family?
- Do you want a big party or a small, intimate celebration?
- Who should be invited?
- Is there a certain soundtrack that you would want to be played? Food to be served?
- Where do you want your funeral to be held?
- Will you leave behind money to help pay for your funeral? Pre-paying for your funeral through funeral insurance options will help ease the mental burden on your family when you pass.
Discuss your wishes with your loved ones
Discussing your end-of-life plans with your loved ones can be difficult, but also rewarding. By sharing your plans with your family, you’re giving them an incredible gift. When you pass on, they’ll be able to mourn without the added stress of scrambling to settle your affairs.
Be sure to speak with your loved ones in a setting where you feel relaxed. We recommend having the conversation over food — it can be something as simple as tea or snacks. It’s natural to feel a bit uncomfortable discussing death, but you should also take pride in owning the ending to your story.
Once you have finalized your arrangements, make sure your family has access to all important documents such as your living will, last will and testament, and all account numbers.
If you need help with this conversation, Better Place Forests offers a short, interactive worksheet to help you start talking with your family.
Write the ending to your story
There are no right answers when it comes to making end-of-life plans, but it’s important to start early. Only you can determine what’s right for you, and we’re here to help.
If you’d like to learn more about pre-planning and your memorial options please call 888‑958‑7674 or click here to make an appointment to speak with a Better Place Forest advisor today.
Founded in 2015, Better Place Forests was born from the desire to create a final resting place as beautiful as the memories of our loved ones. Better Place Forests is a natural alternative to cemeteries and offers permanently protected memorial trees where a family’s ashes can be returned to the earth together. Once you select a tree, it’s yours, and your loved ones can come visit anytime.
*Survey of Californians by the California HealthCare Foundation, 2012. https://www.chcf.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/PDF-FinalChapterDeathDying.pdf
Written by Brad Milne
Co-founder & COO of Better Place Forests