End of Life Planning

“These will be the last words I hear you say”

Mary Black wrote those words in a song about the Irish diaspora, watching family members set sail for America. Today we sometimes say this as we help loved ones die with dignity.  While hospice care and dying at home is not for everyone, it represents a growing return to connecting our lives to our natural death.

And what does this have to do with your financial advisors?  Quite a bit, it turns out! When someone you love is diagnosed with a terminal condition, there are so many issues to deal with: care givers, finances, emotional and spiritual changes, and just coming to grips with the ending of a life.  Your financial advisor is not a religious advisor, nor a therapist, but we are very aware of your overall financial and life situation. We can help you and your family come to a deeper understanding of the issues you may want to be concerned with while you still live, as well as at the time of your death.

One of the best tools I have found for engaging families about end of life planning is called Five Wishes, and I am making a free limited number of the Five Wishes document available to Natural Investment folks.  (There is usually a nominal cost, which we are covering.)

Five Wishes is a tool advisors and counselors use to help you think ahead about a health care agent, a living will, and what your personal, spiritual, and emotional priorities are, in case you are unable to communicate those desires.

  • When is the best time to fill this out?  Now!  While none of the directives go into place until you are no longer able to communicate your wishes, of course if you wait until then, it’s too late.
  • Who should fill this out?  Anyone in your family 18 or older. Sadly, many young adults pass on without sharing their thoughts. As we age, we’re more likely to have shared some of these thoughts with loved ones, but without a legally written document, problems can arise.  We have seen siblings totally disagree about Mom’s care, LGBT folks in legal/ medical limbo, and young people unable to express their wishes.
  • Why does this concern my financial advisor?  While we primarily manage your assets, some of us provide comprehensive financial life planning. Five Wishes works for us when it communicates your wishes. In your next meeting with your NI advisor, spend a few minutes talking about what financial concerns come up for you in considering end of life planning.
  • What does Five Wishes cover?  The five areas include two legal documents: the health care proxy (who do you want to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to?) and the Living will, which outlines the kind of medical treatment you want at the end. Third is how comfortable you want to be; fourth is how you want people to treat you; and finally, any final thoughts and intentions that you want your loved ones to hear. This also specifically covers burial/ cremation, funeral/memorial service options. Don’t forget green burial choices when you are thinking about this (See greenburialcouncil.org).

Five Wishes is all about your personal decisions, and your privacy is totally respected using the form.  We encourage you to take some time and fill it out yourself.

After that, we’d encourage you to then share with your loved ones.  We’d also add two additional areas when you talk with your loved ones:

  1. Who is your lawyer and where is your will?
  2. What charitable organizations, if any, would you like to see some amount of your estate go to? Social change organizations need our support more than ever!

To receive one of the twenty copies of Five Wishes that I’ve pre-purchased, simply contact me: garvan (at) naturalinvestments.com—first come first served! Of course, they’re well worth ponying up for if the free ones are gone; see agingwithdignity.org.

Although many people find it hard to think, talk, or plan about death, this document provides a wonderful and useful catalyst for thought and discussion that has the potential to ease stress and emotional pain at the end of the life of a loved one—or of your own.