Your Final Gift: A Checklist for End-of-Life Planning

Your Final Gift: A Checklist for End-of-Life Planning

Peace of mind is a final gift you can give your loved ones—affording them the knowledge of your end-of-life wishes. Creating a plan for your loved ones when you die is an essential part of responsible financial and personal planning. Taking the time now to thoughtfully plan and help ease what could be tough decisions can lessen the burden on those you leave behind. It ensures that your affairs are in order, your loved ones are taken care of, and your wishes are respected. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you create such a plan:

Legal Documentation and Last Wishes

Your final wishes deserve to be honored and preparing the right documents ensure they are completed. If you’re just beginning this journey, here are a few key steps to get things moving in the right direction:

Create a Will: A will is a legal document that outlines how your assets should be distributed after your death. If you have dependents, it’s essential to name a guardian for them in your will. Consult an attorney to ensure your will is legally binding and accurate.

Name an Executor: Appoint an executor in your will or through a separate document. This person will be responsible for carrying out your wishes, including distributing assets, paying debts, and handling other administrative tasks.

Compile Important Documents: Gather all your important documents, such as your will, insurance policies, financial account information, property deeds, and any legal documents. Make sure your loved ones know where to find these documents.

Make a Letter of Instruction: Write a letter to your loved ones with personal instructions, such as the location of important documents, sentimental items, and any final messages you’d like to convey.

Secure Safe Storage: Store your important documents and information in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box or a trusted digital repository, and ensure your loved ones know how to access them.

Additional Financial Documents To Consider

It’s important that your finances are handled according to your preferences, even if you are unable to manage them yourself. These are additional financial documents to make sure your finances are covered as needed: 

Establish Durable Financial Power of Attorney: You can have someone you trust oversee your financial decisions should you become incapacitated. This includes paying your bills, handling your investments, and even making transactions on your behalf. 

Establish a Living Trust: With a living trust, you can see to it that your assets are managed according to your wishes both during and after your lifetime. This includes assets like real estate, bank accounts, and personal property. You can name yourself as trustee to maintain control and then choose a successor trustee to handle the trust if you’re unable to do so. Living trusts also help avoid the probate process, which makes transitioning your assets to your beneficiaries a lot smoother.

Additional Health-Related Documents To Consider

Your financial wishes are undoubtedly important, but it’s equally important to make sure your personal health choices are respected. There may come a time when you might not be able to voice your decisions. So, make sure you also look into the following:

Prepare a Living Will: A living will provides instructions regarding your medical care if you cannot make decisions yourself due to incapacity. Specify your wishes regarding life support and other life-sustaining measures, ensuring your healthcare preferences are respected. 

Establish Durable Medical Power of Attorney: With durable medical power of attorney, you empower someone else to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Make sure this document specifies your medical preferences to guide those you trust in making decisions that reflect your personal values. 

Consider a POLST Form: If you’re dealing with a serious illness, a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form may be necessary. This form goes beyond a living will or power of attorney by turning your treatment preferences into medical orders. It can be pivotal in ensuring that your end-of-life wishes are followed across different healthcare settings. 

Consider a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order: If you do not want to receive CPR or advanced cardiac life support, you’ll want to look into a DNR order. This order must be signed by both you and your physician, and it should be readily accessible to healthcare providers. 

Clarify Organ Donor Preferences: If you wish to be an organ donor, make your preferences known and consider registering with a relevant organization.

Establish Funeral and Burial Preferences: Having funeral plans arranged ahead of time can make things a lot easier on your family during a time of grieving. Outline your preferences for your funeral or memorial service, burial or cremation, and any specific wishes you may have regarding your final arrangements.

Financial Management

Financial management can be one of the most challenging aspects of your end-of-life planning. Here are some actions you can take to get the right help and find clarity:

Make a List of Assets and Debts: Create a comprehensive list of your assets and debts, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, and loans. This list will help your executor settle your estate.

Maintain Proper Financial Planning: Consult a financial advisor to help your loved ones manage your financial affairs, including accessing funds, paying bills, and dealing with taxes.

Review Life Insurance: Review your life insurance policies to ensure they provide adequate coverage for your family. Make sure your beneficiaries are up to date.

Consult Professionals: Seek the advice of an attorney, financial advisor, or estate planner to ensure your plan is legally sound and addresses all relevant aspects.

End-Of-Life Housing

Your living arrangements are another important part of end-of-life planning. You’ll want to weigh multiple options that not only meet your healthcare needs but also provide comfort. Here are some options you may need to think over:

Consider Living With Family: You may prefer a more personal and familiar environment during your final years. However, if you’re going to live with your family, you’ll need to make sure the home meets your needs, or can support modifications to do so. It’s also important for all family members involved to agree on expectations and caregiving roles to support your well-being.

Explore Nursing Home Options: If you need continuous medical care and support with daily activities, a nursing home may be the best option. Research and visit several facilities to evaluate the quality of care, environment, and staff. Make sure you fully understand the costs and explore how these might be managed through your insurance or Medicare. 

Understand Hospice Care: When medical treatment is no longer focused on cure but rather on comfort, arranging for hospice care provides you with dignity and relief in your final days. Hospice care can be administered at home, in a hospice facility, or within a hospital. Discuss your end-of-life care options with healthcare providers and clearly communicate your decision to family members to prepare them for this process when necessary.

Communication and Updates

The quality of your end-of-life planning largely depends on how it is communicated to the right people. Here are some ways to keep your plans remaining clear and current, supporting those who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes:

Organize Your Digital Assets: Make a list of your digital assets, such as social media accounts, email accounts, and online financial accounts. Provide instructions on how you want these to be managed or closed.

Communicate Your Plan: Share your plan with your loved ones and the individuals who will be involved in executing it. Make sure they know where to find important documents and how to access your digital accounts.

Review and Update Regularly: Your plan should be periodically reviewed and updated as circumstances change, such as marriages, divorces, births, deaths, or significant changes in assets.

Remember that creating a plan for your loved ones when you die is not a one-time task but an ongoing process. Regularly update your plan to reflect your changing circumstances and wishes. This proactive approach will help provide peace of mind to you and your loved ones.


While none of us like to think about dying, not creating a plan for your end-of-life wishes can result in a burden to your family and friends or your intentions not being followed after you pass. A financial advisor can be an invaluable resource when creating a comprehensive end of life plan. Schedule a free introductory call with Uncommon Cents Investing today!



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More About the Author: Sheena Hanson

Sheena is a highly regarded financial expert known for her clear explanations and practical advice on complex financial matters. She earned her CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™️ designation in 2010 and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from the University of Wisconsin LaCrosse.