After you sign up at InsureYouKnow.org, the first thing you’ll want to do is compile a list of all the important documents you want to upload and store on the site. Most likely, at the top of your list will be your will. But take note: You should have two wills, a living will and a last will.
So what’s the difference?
A last will and testament is the document most people think of when they think of a will. It provides instructions on how to distribute your assets when you die. This is where you explain who gets your house, your cash, or any other valuables. There are a few different types of last wills, including simple wills (for uncomplicated estates), testamentary trust wills (for estates that involve a trust), and joint wills (for two individuals who want to leave their estates to each other), but they serve the same purpose: to ensure your estate is distributed as you desire.
A living will is very different from a last will. This document has nothing to do with the distribution of property. Rather, a living will is a type of advance directive that spells out the medical care you would like to receive in the event you become incapacitated and cannot communicate your wishes on your own. In other words, a living will provides a way for your loved ones to know your preferences regarding the following:
- The use of CPR if your heart stops beating
- The use of mechanical ventilation if you can no longer breathe on your own
- The use of feeding tubes if you can no longer eat or drink on your own
- The use of antibiotics and other medications
- Organ and tissue donation
According to a recent study published in the journal Health Affairs, less than one-third of U.S. adults have completed a living will. Of the 795,909 adults included in the study, 36.7 percent had completed some type of advance directive, including 29.3 percent who had completed a living will. While it’s not an enjoyable experience to sit down and imagine yourself in a situation where you can’t discuss your care with your doctor yourself, it’s incredibly important that you do so as an accident or other unexpected situation can occur at any time.
Of course, it does no good to write down your wishes if no one knows. You also have to tell your loved ones the document exists and explain where they can find it if the need arises.
“As I like to say, the form is only as good as the conversation and the shared understanding that goes along with it,” Dr. Rebecca Sudore of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, who wasn’t involved in the study, told Reuters Health. “Some people do fill out these forms with families or lawyers, and then the forms sit in the dusty recesses of a back drawer and they are not available or shared with family and friends, especially before they are needed.”
Creating—and sharing—a living will can help your loved ones tremendously in case of a crisis. Do them and yourself a favor by completing one today and uploading it to InsureYouKnow.org. The peace of mind you will be giving your loved ones far outweighs any momentary discomfort the task may bring.
As the saying goes, nothing is certain but death and taxes. Many of us, however, spend more time making sure everything is in order for the IRS than we do for our loved ones. And when we do take the time to create a will and discuss our burial preferences with our family members, we tend to stop there.
But there are so many more details involved in our deaths than who inherits our collection of first editions and where we want to be buried.
NPR’s “Weekend Edition” recently featured a story on Amy Pickard, whose mother died unexpectedly in 2012. As she handled her mother’s estate, Pickard was overwhelmed by all the questions she couldn’t answer, from what her mom’s smartphone passcode was to how to access her bank account.
“[I had to] become a detective basically,” Pickard told NPR.
Determining what bills needed to be paid and tracking down her mom’s car title would be difficult enough on a good day, but trying to piece together the puzzle of her mom’s life while grieving made things so much harder. It took Pickard two years to fully settle her mom’s affairs.
To help prevent others from going through the same difficult experience, Pickard founded Good to Go!, which offers private parties and consultations to guide individuals through their end-of-life paperwork. Based in Los Angeles, Pickard holds a party at her home once a month where people bring food that reminds them of a deceased loved one and complete a 50-page document she calls the Good to Go! Departure File. By incorporating a relaxed, fun approach that is filled with humor, Pickard makes the process less daunting and more manageable.
The Departure File includes a template for a living will, which addresses the medical care you’d like to receive in the event you are incapacitated and can’t communicate your own wishes, from the use of CPR if your heart stops beating to your preferences regarding organ donation. It also addresses minor but important details such as whether you’d want a TV on or music playing in your hospital room. In addition, the Departure File includes a booklet covering all sorts of information your loved ones will need after you die, such as:
- Contact information for friends and business associates
- Passwords for your email and social media accounts
- Plans for your pets
- Instructions for what to do with your photos, journals, and other personal items
- Obituary preferences (whether you want one and what photo you’d like used)
- The location of letters you’ve written to loved ones to be read after you’re gone
Whether you use Pickard’s Departure File (available for purchase on her website) or create your own document, storing all your data in one place is essential. InsureYouKnow.org is the perfect spot. Be sure to upload this document along with your last will and testament, life insurance policies, health insurance information, and other important files. Your loved ones will be going through enough when you die; don’t make them go through all these unanswered questions as well.