Having That Family Talk

60% of people say not burdening their family with tough decisions is “extremely important,” but 56% have not talked about their end-of-life wishes*. Last week was National Health Care Decisions Week, (#NHDD) an initiative started by The Conversation Project to encourage conversations about end-of-life care.

Why would a financial planner blog about health care decisions and end-of-life? Because statistics show the last months and years of life are when some of our worst financial decisions are made. Physicians, hospitals, gerontologists, and aging experts all confirm that the more money we throw at heroic end of life measures, the worse we can make someone’s quality of life at the end.

Having a talk in advance about end-of-life wishes can help avoid that kind of chaos.

Unfortunately, the end-of-life talk tends to be the kind we put off until “the right time.” That “right time” often means waiting until some kind of health issue or diagnosis, when emotions are high, which can be exactly the “wrong time.”

Since many people have their affairs assembled for taxes anyway this month – why not take this week to share with loved ones where to find the documents, where to find the passwords, and our wishes should we find ourselves unable to make our own health decisions?

The talk also gets put off because we aren’t sure where to start. What kind of details need to be discussed? Try these resources:

The Conversation Starter Kit

How To Choose a Health Care Proxy

How To Be a Health Care Proxy

Conversations For Families of Those With Dementia

How To Talk To Your Doctor

Once you have the conversation, how do you document those wishes? For information on which legal documents you need to make your wishes clear, see an estate planning or elder law attorney. For more general tips, check out Chapter 4 of The Mindful Money Mentality: How To Find Balance In Your Financial Future, or my article in the March 2017 issue of the Journal of Financial Service Professionals, “Financial Planning at the End of Life: What To Say and How To Say It.”

The longer this talk waits, chances are, the tougher it will get.6

*Source: Centers for Disease Control (2005).

Holly Donaldson

Holly Donaldson, CFP® runs an hourly and fee-for-service financial planning practice virtually from her Tampa Bay, Florida office. She also works with clients throughout the U.S. (except Texas) interested in retirement and tax planning advice without product sales or investment management. Holly is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch."

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