Steps You Can Take Right Now, By Yourself, Without The Help Of A Lawyer, To Help You And Your Family Be More Prepared For The Worst-Case Scenario 

In this continuing series, you’ll get more simple steps you can take RIGHT NOW, by yourself, without the help of a lawyer, to help you get more prepared to face the worst-case scenario of becoming sick, incapacitated, or passing away. 

In Step 1 you received a guide to creating an asset inventory so your loved ones can easily access everything you own if you become incapacitated or die. While simple, and free, it does take a little time and effort. But Step 2 may be the easiest step of all: TALK!   

I started this series by explaining some of the big misconceptions about what the phrase “estate planning” means and how it impacts the people you love. At a minimum, estate planning should include preparing for end-of-life care decisions.  

Having conversations about end-of-life care should be a priority for everyone, not just the elderly or sick. No matter your age, discussing end-of-life choices prepares you and your loved ones for unexpected events. 

According to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, 92 percent of people agree that discussing end-of-life care with loved ones is important, but only 32 percent of people actually have those conversations.  

Starting a conversation around death can seem difficult. But once you begin, you’ll see that these are important topics to discuss. It’s free. You don’t need a lawyer or other advisers. All you need to do is have an open, honest, and realistic conversation with your loved ones.  

When having end-of-life care conversations, I challenge you to be practical, rational, and not use hyperbolic language like, “just put me out of my misery,” or “just keep me alive.” 

Reality check: That type of hyperbolic speak is an avoidance technique and isn’t worthy of serious attention. It minimizes the seriousness of having these important conversations, and it could cause problems for your loved ones down the road. Hypothetically, what would happen if your loved ones had to interpret that type of language to make important health care decisions for you under serious pressure? Worse yet, what if a Judge had to interpret those comments? You get the picture. Take this seriously. This is not a situation for you to just cross your fingers and hope for the “best” outcome. 

You should have end-of-life care conversations with the people you think would make the decisions on your behalf. But also, with others that could be involved in some way.  By sharing this information with them jointly, you’ll reduce the likelihood of conflict among them.  

Here are a few guiding questions to get the discussion going. 

 5 Questions to Help You Get the Conversation Started

  1.     Do you have any specific concerns you want to make sure we talk about? 

Starting with this question will help you pinpoint the end-of-life issues that most concern you. Discussing those topics right away will provide peace of mind. At a minimum, you’ll know you’ve discussed the issues that are most important to you.  

  1.   What kind of medical treatment do you (or don’t you) want to have?

Think about some of the worst-case medical scenarios you’ve heard about and determine what you’d want to be done if you were in that situation. You’ve likely heard stories about unexpected accidents or sudden illnesses striking people’s loved ones. If you were in a similar situation, how would you want it to be handled? 

  1.   Who do you want to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to make them? 

This is a really tough question to ask. It’s a big responsibility to give someone, but it’s better to have the discussion now instead of waiting for that responsibility to unexpectedly fall onto someone’s shoulders. You also need to make sure that person is fully aware of your views on end-of-life treatment. 

  1.   What outcomes are unacceptable to you? 

Think of this question in terms of quality of life. Medical advancements have made it possible to keep people alive, even when the body is irreparably damaged. By determining what outcomes are unacceptable to you, you can outline at what point you would want medical care to stop.  

  1.   When you think about the last phase of your life, what’s most important to you? 

An ideal end-of-life scenario looks different for everyone. Some people want to pass away in the comfort of their own homes, others want to be surrounded by family, and some just want to know all of their affairs are left in order. Whatever your desire, make sure your wishes are known. Talk through the practicality and logistics of what those scenarios might look like for you and your loved ones.

You don’t have to cover every single end-of-life detail in one conversation. Start with a few of these questions and take things from there. It’s better to face these questions now so you can think and talk through scenarios rationally, rather than wait for an illness or accident to occur and be overwhelmed. Remember, you can always change your mind later. Just get the conversation started. 

Even if you never develop an estate plan, having these conversations with your loved ones is critical— regardless of your age or current health. Putting this off can leave your loved ones with the responsibility of making life-altering decisions on your behalf without your input.  Spare your family the anguish and Just Talk!  

If you want to work with a trusted legal advisor to walk you through these conversations, we’ll guide you as part of our Planning Process. Give us a call or book your Life & Legacy Planning Session to get started working with us today. 

Jeneva A. Vazquez, Principal Attorney