Take Control of Your Legacy

It’s Never Too Early for End-of-Life Planning

Planning for end-of-life decisions is an essential part of securing your legacy. Give your loved ones an invaluable gift by getting your affairs in order early.

To aid you in planning proactively, we’ve published a new research paper, End-of-Life Planning: Creating the Road Map to a Lasting Legacy. It identifies key steps and considerations while providing a framework to help align your decisions with your values. We focus on the medical, financial, and legal elements in our end-of-life planning checklist—as well as essential action items to define and memorialize your legacy.

What Is End-of-Life Planning?

“End-of-life planning” typically refers to documenting preferences for one’s last days and final parting. This includes personal, medical, and financial decisions, such as a desire for (or refusal of) certain life-saving measures, asset management during a period of incapacity, and property distribution after death.

Why Does It Matter?

Absent planning, state law may dictate care for you or your loved ones, leaving crucial end-of-life decisions to judges and healthcare providers who don’t know you. Advanced planning ensures your wishes and needs are respected without the potential for drawn-court proceedings and other avoidable delays.

Proper end-of-life planning also reduces the burden of decision-making on your loved ones, allowing them to focus on what matters most. For example, clear instructions make sure that your wishes are honored while limiting the potential for conflict in a time of crisis or grief. Going a step further to discuss your plan with your chosen fiduciaries and beneficiaries will help strengthen the impact.

Where Do I Start?

Getting your affairs in order is no easy feat. It requires significant time and effort. But doing so before an emergency or sudden cognitive decline may mitigate the uncertainties that lie ahead. The following end-of-life planning checklist contains the basic medical, legal, financial, and organizational tasks that can be done without professional guidance. It also highlights those that should be done in consultation with planning professionals.

End-of-Life Planning Checklist*

Communicating Your Plan

It’s essential to share your plan with loved ones, financial and legal advisors, and healthcare providers. Many families put off these conversations to avoid sparking fear or anxiety, but a thoughtful dialog addressing life’s “what ifs” may uncover additional ideas and help put everyone’s mind at ease. Share the goals and values that shaped your plan to provide helpful context and prevent future conflict. Focus on expressing your core beliefs and the “why” behind your choices to alleviate the potential for misunderstanding.

As you navigate these conversations, consider the following:

  • Who will you involve? In addition to your family members and estate planning attorney, you may want to engage your financial advisor, healthcare agent, executor, and doctors.
  • When and where will you meet? Be intentional in planning a time and place for your family’s discussion.
  • How will you broach the conversation? Consider starting with each family member’s individual and shared values or priorities, emphasizing your family’s purpose and the legacy you wish to create.
  • What are the goals? Each conversation should work toward an objective, like defining individual roles and responsibilities or finalizing certain financial decisions.

Keep in mind, you don’t need to share every detail at once. Rather, make this an ongoing series of discussions as your circumstances evolve. Be prepared to listen and keep an open mind to help ease any tension.

Your Advisors Can Help

Planning for the end of life isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do it alone. Seek the guidance and expertise of your legal and financial advisors throughout the process. Start by reviewing the end-of-life planning checklist above and exploring the subject in depth with our full guide.

By taking the time to evaluate what matters most and engaging in conversations with your loved ones and advisors, you can ultimately ensure respect for your wishes and safeguard your legacy.

Morgan Campbell
Associate Director—Wealth Strategies Group

The views expressed herein do not constitute research, investment advice or trade recommendations and do not necessarily represent the views of all AB portfolio-management teams.

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