By Cristin Harris Rigg, CFP®, CDFA™

Preparing for one’s own eventual demise or the loss of a loved one can be emotionally exhausting. If starting the conversation seems difficult, you’re not alone. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (2017) and The Conversation Project National Survey (2018):

Having one conversation can make all the difference. Nothing has to be set in stone and perspectives can change as circumstances change. Through talking about it, you’ll gain a shared understanding of what matters most to the parties involved. It might also reveal that you and your loved ones disagree, and that’s okay — it’s important to simply know this, and to continue the conversation.

Here we break down steps you can take to prepare for one’s own eventual demise or the loss of a loved one:

Break the ice.

Identify an opening that’s comfortable for you. You can break the ice by writing a letter to yourself, a loved one, or a friend. You could also practice the conversation with a trusted friend. Remember to also respect family dynamics as you broach this sensitive topic.

Understand financial options for long-term care services.

You have a few different routes to take when it comes to long-term care financing:

  •  Medicare provides temporary coverage for those recovering from an illness or injury in a skilled nursing home preceded by a three-day hospital stay.
  •  Medi-Cal is a state-administered program for low-income seniors.
  • Veterans Aid & Attendance benefits are available for some individuals and surviving spouses.
  • Long-term care insurance is another option, although it has become more and more expensive in recent years.

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Downsize to increase mobility and improve quality of living.

Did you know there are 300,000 items in the average American home? And that over our lifetime, we will spend 3,680 hours searching for misplaced items? Downsizing can make life easier. By downsizing, the probability of dangerous falls can be reduced with more space and less clutter.

You don’t need to part with all those items in a day or a year; just do bit by bit. Set aside one day a week to downsize; reserve the time and plan nothing else that day. Consider having an estate sale or hiring a professional cleaner/organizer as well.

Begin taking financial inventory and review regularly.

If you or someone you love were to pass away today, what would loved ones need to know to effectively manage the situation from a financial and practical perspective? Having a working document that is updated regularly as new items come to mind can be helpful. Ensure that loved ones have access to all necessary information and know where to find it.

Don’t forget about digital assets.

Review financial information (banks, investments, loans), insurance info (auto, health, life, homeowners), medical info (doctor’s portals, pharmacies), employer documents (benefits, pension, 401k), utilities (cell phone, internet, electric), email accounts (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail), and information and files (contact lists, tax software).

Don’t forget entertainment too, such as social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram), loyalty programs (airline miles, hotel points), and books, music, and videos (iTunes, Netflix).

Ensure estate plans are in order.

Review trusts, wills, powers of attorney for finance, advance healthcare directives, funeral/service plans, guardianship documents, and pet trusts.

Beware of financial elder abuse.

This can look like unusual bank account activity, unusual use of credit cards, missing possessions, overdue bills, or a new “best friend” wanting to accompany an individual to the bank.

Build a team of trusted family members and professionals.

Your team may include family members and care manager/caregivers, as well as a financial advisor, estate planning attorney, accountant, trustee/fiduciary, real estate professional, and insurance professional.

No one wants to think about their own demise or the loss of a loved one, let alone talk about it. But it’s a necessary conversation to have to ensure a plan is in place and wishes are met when the time comes. Remember that this is a process, and every attempt at the conversation is valuable. The Conversation Project makes this process easier by providing free tools and Conversation Starter kits online.

As you navigate these changes and decisions, having an advisor you can trust becomes all the more important and can lift the emotional and financial weight off your shoulders.

If you are already a client, we are here to help you design a personal plan for you and your loved ones now, or whenever you feel it is the right time to do so.

If you are not a client, please contact us today to begin the conversation.