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Beacon Senior News

Exit papers: Having the “last wishes” conversation with your family

Feb 22, 2021 02:51PM ● By Arlyn Macdonald
Exit papers- the last wishes conversation

How to have the last wishes conversation

As seniors, we are intelligent, experienced and responsible role models for our family. One of those responsibilities is to have that important frank conversation with our families about our last wishes. 

It’s not a popular subject. Some families don’t want to talk about it at all because they’re already beginning the grieving process over the inevitable passing of their loved one. However, it’s up to us to insist that we have this conversation. It’s an act of love.


What you will need

Get all the important documents ready, or have a list of the documents you may need help with.

Last will and testament is usually drawn up by an attorney. It details how you want your remains handled and how valuable assets should be distributed after your death. Attach a list of personal items you would like to give to family members or friends, which you can add to or change as you desire.
    Everyone should have a will. Passing away without a will can present legal challenges for your family and can cause arguments and undue stress as they attempt to guess your wishes.

Health care power of attorney names the person or persons who will carry out your health decisions, if and when you are unable to do so. You may already have filled out this document at your doctor’s office or hospital. You won’t need to make a new one unless you want to change your representative.

Financial power of attorney names the person or persons you trust to take care of your finances and pay your bills if you become unable to do so.

A living will specifically lists what you want to have done or not done at the end of your life, such as resuscitation, emergency operations, medical equipment to be used, and so forth. You will want to make these end-of-life medical decisions while you are still able to do so. 

Final days and remembrance service details. What kind of atmosphere do you want during your final days? List special requests for your memorial service, such as the preferred location, readings and music.

Contacts, account numbers and passwords. It’s also good to have a list of contacts to be notified once you pass. Keep a notebook or file with names, addresses and phone numbers for physicians, attorneys, etc. Keep secure records of bank accounts, savings accounts, loans, health insurance, stocks and bonds, life insurance and burial plans. Military information is also important for veterans and their spouses. Don’t forget your safe deposit box number with the location of your key and important ownership papers for your home, any vehicles or boats, etc. Your family—and especially your representatives—will need to know this information, and having it all in one place makes it easier for family members to make your last arrangements. If you have investments, your investment counselor should have helped you with naming beneficiaries. These papers should also be placed in your notebook or file.


Five Wishes

One of the best resources to help you get your health care power of attorney, your medical end-of-life wishes, and your remembrance service in order is a booklet called “Five Wishes.” It’s a comprehensive legal document that’s easy to follow and fill out, and you it all or in part. Order or download it at www.fivewishes.org. For additional help, contact the caring team at HopeWest at 241-2212.


Set a time to talk

Once you have all your documents ready, it’s time to start the conversation. Explain to your children that you’re going anywhere any time soon, but that taking part in the conversation means you love your family and you want to do the right things for them when they will need it most. 

Sometimes it helps to set a special time and place to meet without distractions and to make sure all the family members who need to know details are there. Often, that will only include the family members who will be taking care of your affairs after you die. The people you choose should be willing and knowledgeable to take on those duties and be trusted to follow your wishes.

It may take several conversations with your family or representatives to make sure your affairs are all in order, but you will all feel better once this is done. 

There’s no time like the present to take the time to get organized for yourself and your family.


Virtual Write a Will Seminars (via Zoom)

Attend one of these no-obligation online seminars and learn about will-planning basics. 

Preregistration is required. Call 970-243-4442 or visit www.mesacountylibraries.org

• 10 a.m. Monday, March 1

• 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 10


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