At various stages of adulthood, we will all have to plan ahead. It may be you are planning for the later stages of your life, or simply because of major lifestyle changes such as starting a family or travelling overseas for the first time or for an extended period of time.

Life’s a gamble – nothing can be guaranteed. Every one of us has to face the inevitability of our own death – but even before this, the circumstances surrounding your lifestyle may be severely impacted by an unplanned major accident or debilitating illness.

Documenting your wishes for your end of life healthcare, funeral service and memorialisation can be a liberating experience for both yourself and your family.

Whilst it’s probably not at the top of your ‘To Do List’, you do need to ensure that everything in your life is organized and documented, so that your family and friends know your preferences for end of life healthcare, and what you want to happen after you’re gone.

These are some of the main points you will need to consider –

Powers of Attorney:  Just as important as what happens after you die, is what happens if you’re seriously ill, rendered mentally incompetent or physically incapacitated.

You will need to have appointed various Powers of Attorney for your personal, medical and financial decisions. You may nominate the same person for all such decisions on your behalf, or different people for each concern, depending on their knowledge, skills, experience etc.

Having such legal documents provides protection and peace of mind, and ensures that decisions can be made that deal with your personal care, lifestyle, guardianship (if necessary), financial, and medical treatment decisions. You have a lot of choices for different types of Power of Attorney depending on where you reside.

All types of Power of Attorney expire when you die, and the control of your estate will move to the ‘Executor’ you named in your Will.  This may (or may not) be the same person.

Advance Healthcare Directive:  An Advance Healthcare Directive, also known as ‘living will’, Personal Directive, Advance Directive, Medical Directive or Advance Decision, is a document in which a person specifies what actions should be taken for their healthcare, if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity.

In some countries it has a legal status in itself, whereas in others it is legally persuasive without being a legal document. Not every medical procedure is covered in this type of directive, and under those circumstances, you would have to appoint a designated Medical Power of Attorney (also known as an agent, attorney-in-fact, health care proxy, or health care surrogate, depending on where you live). This person can make medical choices for you if they’re not included on your Healthcare Directive, or override your previous choices if the circumstances warrant it.

Once again there is different paperwork and guidelines for this type of Healthcare Directive depending on where you reside.

Estate Planning:  Most people wrongly believe their Will covers all their assets, so special care should be taken to ensure that the ownership and control of all your assets, including ’non-estate’ assets, pass to your beneficiaries in the way you intended. An example of ‘non-estate’ assets includes jointly held assets, trust assets and superannuation. These are not necessarily dealt with by the terms of your Will, and are treated separately for estate planning and distribution purposes.

It is therefore important to have a considered and comprehensive estate plan to ensure all assets are identified and transferred according to your wishes in the most effective and efficient manner.

Organ Donation:  One organ and tissue donor can transform the lives of 10 or more people. Organs such as the heart, lungs, pancreas, kidneys, cornea, liver, and skin can be transplanted to others in need. Whilst your age and medical history will be considered, you shouldn’t assume you’re too young, too old or not healthy enough to become a donor.

Your medical condition and circumstances of your death will determine what organs and tissues can be donated. Once you make the decision to be a donor, you need to record your decision. There are varying ways you can document your decision to give an anatomical gift – registration on your driver’s license, Advance Healthcare Directive, Living Will or an Organ Donor Register depending on where you reside.

Preparing a Will: A Will is a legal document that sets out how your ‘estate’ assets are to be divided after your death, and benefactored (given) to the people who you intended to receive them.

  • You can decide how to divide your ‘estate’ between family, friends and charities.
  • You can appoint who you wish to to act as the ‘Executor’ of your estate.
  • You can indicate your choice of funeral service, for example a religious or non-religious service and whether you wish to be buried or cremated.
  • You can indicate you preference as to an appropriate guardian for your children.

The Executor must collect all your ‘estate’ assets, pay all your debts and distribute your ‘estate’ in accordance with your Will. The distribution of your ‘non-estate’ assets – life policies, superannuation funds, assets held in trusts etc, may be dealt with under different laws, which means they do not automatically form part of your estate. It may be they are run independently from you and are paid out according to other policies and procedures upon your death.

It is important for everyone to have a Will – even if you don’t have property, money or assets. It can save your family and friends money, time, disagreements and also help them to understand what you wish to be done with your remains after you have passed away. It’s already a difficult time for those left behind, so why not make it somewhat easier for them.

Pre-planning a Funeral: Whilst considering our own funeral makes most of us a little uncomfortable, more people are realising that pre-planning a funeral offers emotional and financial security for them and their families.

With a pre-planned funeral, your family will find comfort in knowing that the funeral reflects your wishes, and also has the advantage of lessening the burden of having to make important decisions at a stressful time.

There are a number of options available when pre-planning a funeral, such as Pre-Arranged Funerals, Pre-Paid Funerals, Funeral Insurance and Funeral Bonds, and it is important to understand the differences before committing to a plan.

For more information on your options, please visit our website:  Your Life Assist

Talking about your own death does not hasten the day.  Rather, it allows you to plan for your end of life healthcare and how you wish to be remembered, and it can be a liberating experience for both yourself and your family and friends.

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