Dying In A Hospital Means More Procedures, Tests And Costs

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When it comes to the end of life, hospital stays are more intensive and more expensive than alternatives.
When it comes to the end of life, hospital stays are more intensive and more expensive than alternatives.

People who die in the hospital undergo more intense tests and procedures than those who die anywhere else.

An analysis by Arcadia Healthcare Solutions also shows that spending on people who die in a hospital is about seven times that on people who die at home.

The work confirms with hard data what most doctors and policymakers already know: Hospital deaths are more expensive and intrusive than deaths at home, in hospice care, or even in nursing homes.

“This intensity of services in the hospital shows a lot of suffering that is not probably in the end going to offer people more quality of life and may not offer them more quantity of life either,” says Dr. Richard Parker, chief medical officer at Arcadia.

Arcadia analyzed all the Medicaid claims data for a private Medicaid insurance company in one Western state and detailed how many billable medical procedures each patient received and where. Patients in hospitals were billed for far more medical interventions in the last days of their lives than people who died in other settings. The company declined to name the state or company.001

The study showed that 42 percent of patients died at home at a cost of about $4,760 for their last month of life, while 40 percent died in a hospital at a cost of $32,379. Dying in a nursing home was the second most expensive locale, inpatient hospice was third and an emergency room was fourth.

“In the end, everyone died. They all died,” Parker tells Shots. “If we look at this retroactively, retrospectively — and we could go back and ask people — I bet most of them would say I’d rather be home with my family.”

Parker says the cost of hospital deaths paid for by Medicare or private insurance are likely even higher because they pay doctors and hospitals more for their services.

Many studies have shown that people, when asked, say they’d prefer to die at home rather than in a hospital. However, those wishes aren’t always realized if a person hasn’t given clear instructions to a doctor or family member.

Parker says hospitals are designed to cure people who are ill rather than to allow people to die peacefully.

“The culture of American medicine today and for the last several decades is to keep treating patients regardless of the quality of life,” he says. “A lot of physicians have been reluctant to admit that the patient’s life is coming to an end.”

The picture is more complicated than the data show, says Dr. Lachlan Forrow, a professor of medicine and medical ethics at Harvard University.

Many patients move from home to hospice to hospitals and back during the last 30 days of life. And some may end up in the hospital because their pain or symptoms weren’t adequately controlled at home.

Still, he says, hospitals are just not good at caring for dying people.

“We do lots of very expensive things in hospitals to people in the last part of life who would rather be home, and we do those in part because in the hospital they get paid for,” he says.

It’s the only way to justify keeping in a hospital the people who need around the clock nursing care but can’t get it at home.

“If we really tried to make sure people at home could have what they needed at home, we could take better care of them, with less medical system-caused suffering, at lower cost, sometimes much lower cost,” he says.

Complete Article HERE!

Prince’s death illustrates importance of having a will

By Gail MarksJarvis

Prince

Pop music star Prince apparently died without writing a will, and it’s likely that his relatives and business contacts will be fighting in a Minnesota court for years over his estate, estimated at $150 million to $300 million.

With no wife or children, first in line, according to estate law, are Prince’s six siblings. Under simple court rules governing inheritances when there is no will, each of the siblings will get an equal share. That will apply whether Prince was fond of each of the siblings or not. And with Prince’s complex estate, massive business dealings, his practice of secrecy and millions in wealth at stake, attorneys don’t expect this case to culminate quickly or simply.

“It’s ironic,” said Avi Kestenbaum, a New York estate planning attorney with Meltzer Lippe. “Prince, at age 57, spent 37 years making his legacy. He fought the music industry for control, and now he has no control.”

It’s a lesson for other people, whether rich or poor, famous or regular. When you die without a will, you get no say. If you hated a relative, your children might end up in that person’s care. If you divorced and forgot to take a previous spouse’s name off an account or insurance policy, your new spouse or children might not benefit. If you have a business, and children with no interest in it and no business savvy get control, the value of your life’s work could be destroyed.

After a death, if there’s no will, a house with both spouses’ names on it will go to the surviving spouse. But in an era of multiple marriages and divorces, inheritances get sloppy. Consider a father with grown children who have sweet memories of the home where they were raised. With no will, a second wife could inherit the house and give it to her own children from her previous marriage, leaving out the children who were raised in that house, notes estate planning attorney Adam Damerow, of McGuireWoods in Chicago.

On the other hand, estate planning attorneys recall instances in which second wives have been left homeless because a husband died without updating an old will to incorporate a second wife. In an old will, he leaves his home and everything else to his children.

“The kids kick the woman out of her own house,” said Kestenbaum.

In situations where everyone gets along, the children might ignore the will and let the woman stay in the home. But in some families not everyone gets along, Damerow said.

The court can’t guess what might have been in a person’s head, but certain rules apply when there is no will: If a person has a spouse and children, the estate is divided half to the spouse and half to the children. If there are only children, the estate is divided equally among them. If there are no children, siblings come next and inherit an equal share of the wealth.

Many people don’t write wills because they assume they are young and have plenty of time. Yet Prince was only 57 years old. Many people also do not want to think about dying, or worry about giving up control, said Kestenbaum. They say: “I’ll be dead anyway. Why should I care?”

But the Prince case illustrates one reason to care: His siblings now could be targets of people trying to exercise business interests that are not favorable to them, and even if the siblings got along well the pressures can divide them.

Estate attorneys say that they often see families torn apart as they deal with the division of property and control after a death. “The most fights occur where there is a business or real estate that is given to children equally,” said Kestenbaum. “How do you run a restaurant with four chefs in the kitchen?” he said. “So maybe you leave a business to one child and insurance to another.”

Families should revisit the will every few years because as time passes, one asset can gain value a lot while another loses.

Les Kotzer, a Toronto attorney, takes preparations for the family even further in his book: “The Family Fight: Planning to Avoid It.”

During years of working with wills, Kotzer noted that many grown children end up in feuds because parents failed to talk with their children about wills while still alive. Conversations can suggest better ways of dividing possessions. One problem Kotzer noted was that one grown child might have memories of playing a piano in the family home, while the child who is to be given the piano in a will might have a spouse that doesn’t want the instrument cluttering their house.

Complete Article HERE!

Why You Need A Death Certificate When Someone Dies

by Davis Grey

A Death Certificate

Do you think that a death certificate is just another piece of bureaucratic paperwork you have to take care of? Think again. While it might seem like it’s just one more hassle during an incredibly difficult time for you and your family, the reality is a death certificate is a crucial document to have, especially if you’re an estate executor. Let’s find out why, and how to go about getting one.

The Link Between A Death Certificate And Proof of Death

Put quite simply, a death certificate proves that someone has died. While it might seem crazy that you need to prove that a loved one has passed away, think about all of the ways people could use their death to get out of obligations. Between tax and debt evasion alone, there are a whole host of reasons why someone might want to pass off as dead. Or, on the flip side, ill-meaning individuals can take advantage of someone’s estate if all they have to do is claim a person has died.

Thanks to death certificates, authorities can be reasonably assured that an individual has truly passed and steps can be taken to liquidate an estate.

The Link Between A Death Certificate And Estate Execution

On a more day-to-day level, there is a standard reason that death certificates are issued: they are necessary for someone to be appointed as your estate executor.

Estate executors are intrusted with dispersing your estate and following your last will’s wishes, which means making sure your debts are paid off and your beneficiaries receive their inheritance. A big piece of this is getting in touch with assorted parties like financial institutions, insurance companies, the social security administration, and the Veterans Administration (if applicable) and closing your accounts, paying outstanding bills, and accessing your assets. These institutions will not speak with you unless they have proof that the individual has died and that you are entrusted with their estate. As you can guess, the death certificate is the vital proof you need that your loved one has died, and opens the door for executors to complete their responsibilities.

The Link Between A Death Certificate And Digital Accounts

Many people today have digital accounts with a whole host of providers. Think Facebook, Google, Amazon, and even online dating sites. When a loved one dies you’ll likely want to close these accounts. Sometimes it’s to stop digital notices, other times it’s to ensure no future charges are made to your loved one’s bank or credit card accounts.

Just like financial institutions, many of these digital institutions require a death certificate to prove the account holder has died. Don’t believe us? Just read these past articles on closing a Facebook or a Google account. Sure enough, these major sites want to see a death certificate before they even speak with you.

How To Get The Death Certificate

As we wrote about in more detail, the actual responsibility of filing for a death certificate is generally in the hands of the person preparing the body like a funeral director or crematory. It is just as easy to request one death certificate as it is to request twenty. Or, you can always try VitalChek and have them get it for you. Now that you see how many different institutions will want to see one, you can understand why you’re better off asking for more right off the bat. With a whole bunch handy, you can more easily cross of your estate executor to-do list.

Complete Article HERE!

Debt Collectors Make a Killing on the Debts of the Dead

By Arielle Pardes

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It was five days after Teresa Van Deusen’s sister died when the letter from American Express arrived, offering condolences. How they knew her sister had died was a mystery—Van Deusen never called to inform them, and they hadn’t made any changes on her account. But there it was, a letter expressing sympathies, and also reminding her of the $16,000 in credit card debt her sister owed.

When someone dies, his or her debt doesn’t disappear. His or her remaining assets get pooled together, and then a probate court doles out payments to cover any remaining debts: First the mortgage; then other secured debts, like car loans; and then, if there’s any money left, unsecured debt, like credit cards. If, say, you’re set to inherit the family house but your parents die with debt that their other assets couldn’t cover, a court can force you to sell the house in order to pay off the debts. Most Americans who have debt don’t die with a ton of money or assets leftover, and credit card companies clamber to get to the estate first, since when that money gets paid off to other agencies, the debt goes away.

Credit card companies have two options: Pursue the debt, or chalk it up as a loss to get a tax credit. For example, Van Deusen’s sister had about $5,000 outstanding on her credit card with Wells Fargo, but the bank chose not to chase it down. “They sent a letter that said, ‘We’re declaring this as a loss, and we’re sorry for your loss,’ and [sent us] a 1099-C”—a form Van Deusen would need to pay taxes on the canceled debt. But plenty of other collectors take other strategies.

“Collecting the debts of the dead—particularly the unsecured debt, like credit card debt—is a pretty good racket,” said Oliver Bateman, a former debt collector who wrote for us last year about his demoralizing experience in that job.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prevents collectors from making threats, calling too many times, harassing family members, or using deception in the pursuit of collecting debt. But collectors can contact family members of the deceased in order to reach the administrator of the estate. Some companies take it one step further, trying to squeeze money out of relatives or friends, even though they have no legal obligation to repay the debts of the person who’s died. (The only time a creditor can legally collect from a family member is if someone has co-signed on a loan or if he or she is the debtor’s spouse and live in a community property state.)

Michelle Dunn, a consultant for the debt collection industry who literally wrote the handbook on debt collection, says this kind of thing “happens every day.”

“Some bill collectors will talk to anybody in the family and try to get them to pay a bill. They’ll say it’s their ‘moral obligation,’ which is absolutely false,” Dunn said. “But people are not educated on what their rights are, and if they’ve just had a death in their family, they’re upset. So when a bill collector tells them something like this, they might be more likely to believe it [and agree to pay the debt].”

Bateman told me about a colleague who used a legal research database to track down addresses of next-of-kin, sent those relatives threatening letters about an owed amount, and then persuaded people there was a “moral obligation” to pay it. “A few times, we got payment in full from the kids or other relatives of these people. It was truly breathtaking,” Bateman said.

The Social Security Administration gives notice to financial institutions a few months after someone dies, but debt collectors usually find out much sooner by using databases to track recent deaths. Dunn, who was a bill collector herself before she became a consultant, told me she always read the newspaper obituaries to see if anyone she needed to call had died. “There used to be a newspaper—I’m sure it’s online now—where you could pay for a subscription and see, state by state, the people who have died that day,” she said.

As these online tools become easier to use, collection companies are increasingly more likely to pursue the debt of dead people, one way or another. There are plenty of horror stories: A woman in Hawaii sued Bank of America collectors, after she says they called upwards of 48 times a day just after she received her husband’s life insurance check. (There’s no obligation to use life insurance to pay off debts, unless the deceased person named his or her estate the beneficiary of his or her life insurance money, in which case it gets divided up with the other assets.) Another woman said she was harassed by collectors for five years about her dead sister’s debt, to the point where she moved and changed her phone number multiple times. The collection agency Rumson, Bolling & Associates was sued in 2011 after harassing debtors’ family members, co-workers, and neighbors, as well as threatening to “desecrate the bodies of deceased relatives” if they failed to pay off funeral bills. The company was eventually banned by the Federal Trade Commission from the debt collection business.

But the worst cases are sometimes people who think they’re doing the right thing by informing a bank, loan, or credit card company that the account holder has died, and then get manipulated into paying the debt.

“Someone will call and say, ‘I’ve been going through my uncle’s mail because he’s passed away and I see you’ve sent this letter that he owes some money, and I’m calling to tell you he’s dead,'” said Dunn. “Some bill collectors will then tell them to pay that bill, and they don’t know they don’t need to, so people pay it.”

Van Deusen, who was the administrator of her sister’s estate, estimates that she spent more than 50 hours on the phone with collectors from BBVA bank, and even more with other credit card companies, which she described as “endless, persistent gas lighting.” She was never asked to pay her sister’s debt out of her own pocket, but she says collection agents tried to get the estate to pay off debts that weren’t even real—including nearly $7,000 in fees that were issued post-mortem, and debts that had already been written off. “Death and taxes, sure,” she said, “but dead people shouldn’t be paying debt that the credit card companies have already written off.”

Van Deusen also battled numerous calls from a third-party collection agency that claimed they had purchased her sister’s American Express debt and demanded money from the estate. “I said, ‘Show me a contract.’ Any evidence this was her debt. In the year we were negotiating, they just never produced that.”

Many collection agencies, including the one where Bateman worked, pay employees based on how much debt they collect, which can motivate collectors to squeeze every last dollar out of a family—whether it comes from the dead person’s estate or otherwise. I asked Bateman if he ever felt compelled to bully a debtor, or a family member, in order to earn higher commission. “Sure, all the time,” he said. “Sometimes, I’d have an argument with a particularly sassy debtor who wasn’t going to pay me any money, just because it was fun to do.”

“It’s a recipe for someone to push the limits and break the law because he or she is desperate trying to get these people to pay,” said Dunn. “It’s setting them up to do something wrong.”

Complete Article HERE!

How Much Does A Cremation Cost? Depends Who You Call

direct cremation

How much do you think it costs to cremate a dead body? It’s a question you probably don’t think about until tragedy strikes and you’re planning the funeral of a loved one.

One of the last things anyone wants to do when they’ve lost a loved one is make a complicated financial decision. Families want to spend that time celebrating a life, not hunting for the best rate on the memorial service. If a funeral home quotes you a price for a cremation, you’ll probably just assume you’re being treated fairly and accept the price.

So it may come as a surprise that the price of basic services like cremation can vary wildly from home to home. Today the average cost of a standalone cremation — no additional services — is $2,057. And yet, in any given city, some funeral homes will charge you two to three times as much for a cremation. Same service, drastically different price.

Even more troubling, in the Internet age funeral parlors tend to make pricing hard to find. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission allows funeral homes to keep their rates hidden until someone actually writes or calls a funeral home representative — leaning on regulations last updated in 1994 — rather than pushing funeral homes to let the customer compare online. In a survey by the nonprofit Funeral Consumers Alliance, only 25 percent of funeral homes fully disclosed prices on their websites, while 16 percent failed to disclose prices after an email and a phone call.

Tough access to comparison shopping seems to affect pricing. At Parting, we’ve painstakingly built a database of how much funeral homes charge for services so that no one ever gets ripped off in their time of need. Let’s walk through the data.

If recent trends continue, cremations will account for over half of all funerals by 2018, up from about a quarter in 1998.

rate of cremation

People have been buried in coffins for centuries, so why the rise in cremations?

The Cremation Association took a look at this question. The group found a correlation between high cremation rates in states with a high proportion of people unaffiliated with organized religions, and the number of unaffiliated individuals is on the rise. The group also attributes the growing cremation rate to the simple fact that it’s cheaper than the coffin, which alone can cost thousands of dollars. And having the ashes portable in an urn (which typically cost in the hundreds of dollars) allows families more creative memorial ceremonies, like at a riverside or on a mountain top, where they don’t pay for a burial plot.

The cremation process itself is relatively straightforward. The body is placed in a large chamber and using mid-thousand-degree heat from oil, gas or propane, the body is incinerated. The process may have minor differences, depending the funeral home, but the end product is the same: ashes, in an urn or container.

Though families get essentially the same product regardless of where the body is cremated, there is surprising variation in cremation costs. Analyzing our data, we found that while there are many locations at which direct cremation, the most basic cremation service, costs less $1,000, there are are also a large number of funeral homes which offer the service for more than $4,000. There are even those that charge over $9,000 for the service.

price of cremation

Comparing direct cremation costs is not always apples to apples. For instance, some funeral homes have their own crematorium while others use a third party, which can mean an extra fee. Still, these fees don’t explain why direct cremation at some facilities costs five times more than others.

John Jung of California Mortuary in Los Angeles points out that cremations are an administratively intensive process. They have to get approval from a doctor and, depending on the state, the various layers of government.

But when we analyzed cremation costs by city, we also found large variations in price within the same location. The following charts shows the range in prices for the forty largest U.S. cities in order of the largest range in price.

cremation prices

The disparity in some cities is glaring. New York tops the list with the highest parlor charging over 18 times the lowest. In Washington DC, the most expensive direct cremation is nearly $7,000 dollars more than the least expensive.

How could there be such a wide range of prices?

Jung believes that any parlor on the very high end of pricing probably doesn’t see the service as essential to their business. They keep cremations on the price list in case someone really wants it and then they turn a hefty profit for the effort. But it’s not core to their revenue.

And the lower range cremation prices are likely to attract additional business. They are loss leaders. “If it’s under $1000, they’re probably losing money. You really don’t make much profit on the direct cremation alone,” Jung says. “They’re just trying to get you into the door.”

The average price for a standalone cremation nation-wide is $2,057 but our data shows a full memorial service costs, on average, $3,650. These bundled services add additional products like the cremation casket, which typically go for around a thousand dollars or just removing and transferring the remains (typically a few hundred), not to mention flowers, embalming services and time spent viewing the body.

Getting a family in the door allows a funeral director to sell these additional services. This can create an awkward situation: It’s hard to say no to an upsell for someone’s last goodbye. Good funeral homes try to keep that balance of selling their own services while respecting the family in a time of need.

“It’s really a service industry,” Jung says of funeral homes. “You have a job to do but at the same time you have to direct them in a gentle manner.”

Not every state is equally shocking in the divergence of cremation prices. California offers some hope that transparency would alleviate such glaring disparities. The state requires that if a funeral parlor has a website, it must post prices.

“California funeral law protects the family a lot,” says Jung, whose family has run their parlor in the Los Angeles area for 17 years. “It’s pretty strict.”

cremation price by state

Unfortunately the “death-care” industry, as Bloomberg noted in a 2013 cover story is big business and often ends up preying on grieving families. Publically traded funeral home companies like Service Corporation International (SCI), which run thousands of funeral homes across the country, are worth over $5 billion and — unlike locally-owned homes integrated with a community — answer to Wall Street traders, leading to pressure to upsell consumers.

Cremations are taking the place of casket burials and future generations will expect their prices online for a straightforward albeit serious service. More transparency will go a long way and having cremation costs online puts power into the consumer’s hands when they need it most.

No one wants to shop around for the best prices for a cremation when dealing with a tragic death, and unfortunately some funeral homes take advantage of this fact.

Complete Article HERE!

How To: Avoid Family Conflict When There’s No Estate Plan

6 ways a family can settle a loved one’s estate and still want to speak to each other afterwards

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Estate Plan

In a perfect world, someone dies and leaves behind pages of clear directives on everything from where the finances go to who gets Great Grandma Annette’s rocking chair, and an official executor makes sure the process goes smoothly and everyone loves each other dearly forever more.

But what is there’s no will left behind? How much money do you think it would take to tear your family apart? In her case, documentary filmmaker Amanda Brown knows the answer:

$51,283.50.

In her film Black Heirlooms, Brown tells the story of her grandmother Edna Mae “Mee Mah” Royal, a mother of eight and matriarch of a large extended clan. When Mee Mah suffered a stroke that left her unable to communicate, the formerly close family became irreconcilably fragmented, with members suing each other for control. Years later, the family remains split into two camps, with nothing but silence between them.

Your family would never have such a tragic breakdown, right? Don’t be so sure. AsBrown says, “Money is a catalyst for a number of things,” In her case, it compounded older issues that led to larger and more complicated disagreements.

As a financial therapist, the story of the Brown/Royal family breaks my heart. But it‘s far from unique. Beyond the usual disagreements about a loved one’s wishes or fairness, there’s a natural inclination to project interpersonal aspects of the relationship (emotional closeness, caretaking responsibilities, who was a “good” child vs. a “bad” one) onto the distribution plan. Couple that with emotions amplified by grief, and it’s clear the real challenge is getting the family through probate unscathed and intact.

With that in mind, here are six ways to help your family settle a loved one’s estate and remain sane:

1. Forget the word “right.” Be careful about being so certain you know what your loved one wanted. Even if he or she communicated something specific to you, it’s totally possible different wishes were shared with another family member at another time. In fact, it happens pretty frequently. Unless you have something in writing, be open to all points of view.

2. The word “fair” doesn’t exist. As an experiment, I did a quick social media poll on people’s idea of what a “fair” inheritance plan looks like. Some said everything divided up equally, others argued for a need-based system (those with more obligations/lower income receiving larger portions than more financially well-off family members), and some wanted everything  to go to charity. See? The concept of “fair” varies widely from person to person. And it’s impossible to win an argument when someone has a different definition than you.

3. Be clear about your own objectives. If it seems like the process is becoming tense or adversarial, suggest everyone take a beat to think about what exact outcome they’re pursuing. Sure, it may start with a certain division of assets, but it likely won’t end there as feelings get bruised and old factions or grudges come into play. Think long-term: how do you want this process to impact your family? What do you want the outcome to be, even after the assets are dispersed? And will it be worth the consequences?

4. Avoid the family narrative trap. As in the case with Brown’s family, any one argument has the potential to trigger a narrative that may go back decades. “Of course Little Sister thinks she should get X,” the thinking goes. “Mom always bailed her out so she didn’t have to struggle like the rest of us.” This can especially true when a family is dispersed and ideas about people are outdated. When you find yourself seeing present-day actions as a confirmation of something that is “always true” about someone, take a step back, breathe, and remind yourself to stay collaborative.

5. Go for consensus, not a win. Sometimes even when inheritance questions are decided in your favor, it can create significant damage to relationships in the family. During the process, make sure all stakeholders feel included and heard. Explore various options before settling on a course of action, even if it seems like there’s a clear majority in favor of a particular approach. If everyone feels like their points were respected and they had a chance to contribute to the process, it can go a long way in soothing damaged feelings and disappointed hopes afterward.

6. Get help. Please. Settling an estate without clear instructions from the deceased is a complicated, emotional minefield. I hope those last three words encourage you to work with one of the many professional mediators trained to help families work through the process. It’s certainly cheaper than the cost of litigation.

Obviously, the best option is to avoid this situation before it happens. A number of resources can help guide your family through some forward thinking, such as figuring out how to bring up the topicbasic planning and legal documents that should be put in place, and dealing with the emotional aftermath of inheritance. This is a process nobody should have to go through, or end up in, alone.

Complete Article HERE!

How to Talk to Your Grown Kids About Your Mortality

Do these three things and your children will thank you

By Elizabeth Fishel and Jeffrey Arnett

difficult conversations
During a car ride, Peter brought up to his two twentysomethings what his end-of-life wishes would be: No heroic measures, because he wouldn’t want to suffer and wouldn’t want his family to endure it. One of the boys took this in stride, but the other became very upset, asking: “Why are you talking about this? It’s horrible that you’re so calm about death.”

Death comes to us all, but in the 21st century, it comes later than ever for most people. Because of medical advances, life expectancy has stretched to record highs, and in the United States and other countries most people can expect to live into their 70s or 80s. Perhaps for this reason, we generally prefer to ignore death and avoid talking about it, even when we’re in our 60s or older. And our young-adult children, certain of their own immortality, may also prefer to think of their parents as living forever. Bringing up our mortality may provide a rude awakening to grown children of any age.

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But we ignore it at our peril, or rather, at the peril of those we love. They may not want to hear us talk about the inevitable visit from the Grim Reaper, but if we neglect the responsibility to prepare for our death — and to prepare them for it — we do them a disservice and leave them with a stressful mess when the time comes. That’s a legacy few of us would wish.

So, here are three crucial issues to make sure you address and discuss:

1. Make a Will

You need to have a will, and once you do you need to make sure your loved ones know about it. Because we tend to prefer to think of death as many years away no matter what age we are, many of us fail to fulfill the basic responsibility of making a will. Various surveys indicate that about 50 percent of American adults have not had one drafted. The percent who have made a will rises with age, but even among 55- to 64-year-olds, 40 percent have no will.

Here’s the problem with that: If you die without a will, the state takes over your estate and makes the decisions about who gets what. Who would want that?

So, no excuses: If you haven’t prepared a will yet, do it as soon as you’re done reading this post! There are many inexpensive online options or you can hire anestate planning attorney if your estate is complex or you’d like the assurance that all the legal steps have been taken correctly.

2. Make Funeral Plans

Figure out plans for your funeral and burial or cremation and make sure family members know what ,and where, the plans are. We’re not crazy about talking about this aspect of death, either, but again, wouldn’t you rather decide on this now, rather than leaving it to your grieving family members to handle hastily after your death? You may find consolation, too, in the thought that the post-death commemoration will be done as you would have wished, even though it is a party you will not be able to attend.

3. Make Your End-of-Life Plan

You also should come up with your end-of-life plan and make sure your loved ones know about it. Medical interventions are extremely effective at keeping us alive at the end of life, even after any prospect of restoring us to consciousness, much less good health, has passed. People vary in how they view this issue, from those who want all possible steps to be taken to those who would prefer not to prolong the inevitable.

Ask your doctor how to make an “advance directive” that will contain your instructions or look up the instructions online from a reputable source like AARP or state government websites (each state has its own laws concerning end-of-life care).

Don’t assume your loved ones will know what to do; they probably won’t, and you don’t want them to have to make those decisions amid the stress and sadness of losing you.

Difficult as these conversations and plans may be, for your children’s sake and for your own peace of mind, discuss them now, while you are lucid and healthy. Your children may not thank you today, but they will appreciate the guidance when the time comes. That’s one last gift of love you can give them after you’re gone.

Complete Article HERE!