Do Your Family A Favor: Update Your Will, Share Your Wishes, and Plan Your Funeral.

Aug 14, 2009

The best thing you can ever give someone you love is peace of mind.  Stress and uncertainty can take a toll on all of us, the comfort and reassurance that comes from a loved one’s hug or kind words can go a long way of relieving the burden.

You may have noticed it has been awhile since my last blog post.  Life and a busy law practice sometimes gets in the way of blogging. For those of you who know me, you know that I spent the last part of July in Colorado with my grandparents.  My grandpa was ill and passed away.  I was there in those final days, and I was there to help my grandma with the arrangements that followed.

While ultimately everything went well (and we had a beautiful funeral service – a great tribute to a wonderful man), there are bound to be some bumps during any emotional crisis, and I could not help but feel (yet again) just how important it is to:

*Update Your Will.  Hire an attorney to draft it, and hire an attorney who will really take the time to explain the documents to you.  Make sure your documents are up to date and make sense to you.

The funeral home had requested my grandpa’s will, and we were told the personal representative would need to sign the papers authorizing cremation.  At one point my grandma did not think she was the personal representative.  She and I were going through the estate documents trying to make sense of them.  For a brief period time, things were feeling rather chaotic.

*Discuss Your End of Life Health Care Preferences.  Spending those last few days with my grandpa in hospice was difficult.  We were all prone to second guess the decisions that had been made.  When those feelings of self-doubt started taking over we were able to remind ourselves of those comments that had been made years ago on how he wished to live his life.

While you still can, share your preferences with your loved ones on how you would like to be treated.  What type of pain management would you want?  Would you want a feeding tube?  What quality of life is important to you?  And then get a Health Care Directive – put those preferences in a legal document and/or give someone else the authority to make decisions for you.

*Plan Your Funeral.  I don’t necessarily mean you have to plan every detail, or do an official pre-plan, but at least talk about what type of services you would like your family to have.  While we knew it was coming, and we had slowly started working on it, there was a “Now what?” moment.  How do you even get started planning a funeral?

Are there any special songs, prayers, poems, or Scripture you would like to have included?  A certain place you would like the services held?  A certain person to perform the service or give a eulogy?  Do you want to be buried or cremated?  If you are cremated, what do you want done with your cremains?  Talk to your loved ones about the funeral may be paid for and your expectations. (Let them know when it may be okay to go with the budget model and when you would expect them to splurge a bit).     

As a lawyer, I have to tell you how important it is to have the legal documents.  Your wishes may not be legally enforceable without the proper legal documents, and it truly is important to go through the proper channels to ensure your wishes will be followed.

But as a granddaughter, daughter, sister, wife, and friend, I cannot stress enough the importance of having these conversations, making the plans, and expressing your wishes.  Don’t think that having ‘The Talk’ once is enough.  “Dad told me once that he wanted ___” is totally different than “Dad always told me he wanted ______.”

That feeling of peace of mind your loved ones will have when they KNOW they are making arrangements and decisions according to your wishes is more valuable than anything else you can leave behind.

And if you know of anyone needing hospice care or funeral services in Colorado, I can not say enough good things about HospiceCare of Boulder and Broomfield Counties and Horan & McConaty.  Everyone we worked with was compassionate, caring, knowledgeable, understanding, and professional.  They did their best to make a difficult time a little bit easier.