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If you passed away tomorrow, would your family have the information they need to handle all of your financial affairs and legal needs? If the answer to that question is no, you aren’t alone. In fact, a recent study suggests that nearly half of Americans find it “nearly impossible” to discuss death with their family. While avoiding these tough conversations might be common, it is a risky move in the event that an emergency unfolds. Having a comprehensive end of life plan can protect your loved ones from costly financial implications and bring them peace in knowing they are carrying out your wishes as intended.

Many people don’t realize that end of life planning is about so much more than just writing a will and buying a life insurance policy. We’ve compiled a step-by-step list to help get you started.

Step 1: Schedule a family meeting with your financial advisor and attorney.

  • Review transfer on death for house and bank accounts, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, annuities, 401k, pension plans, and non-qualified accounts.
  • Verify beneficiaries are up-to-date on all accounts.
  • Verify that you have a trusted contact or POA on file at each custodian.
  • Address health care expenses. A variety of benefits may be available from your providers, such as employers, workers’ compensation, Social Security disability, Veterans Benefits Administration, Medicare, Medicaid and insurance.
  • Prepare any additional legal documents, for example: Living Trust, Living Will, Last Will and Testament, POA, etc.


Step 2: Create a “Family Binder” full of essential information and legal documents.

Organize your legal documents and other important information in one location to make sure it is easily accessible to the people you’ve designated as decision makers. Click here to learn more about a family binder.

  • Wills
  • Trust documents
  • Living will or advance care directive
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney (HCPOA)
  • Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) form
  • Adoption papers
  • Veteran’s discharge papers
  • Prenuptial agreement
  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce decrees
  • Death certificate of a spouse
  • Citizenship papers (if not born as a U.S. citizen)
  • Inventory of assets with account numbers
  • Passwords (email, social media, cloud storage, safe-deposit box, electronic devices)
  • A list of contacts
  • Receipts for funeral arrangements
  • Obituary and services guidance
  • Health insurance card
  • Copy of your Social Security card


Step 3: Finalize health and personal decisions.

  • If you decide to use a Healthcare Power of Attorney (HCPOA), be sure to choose someone who can be trusted to carry out your healthcare wishes. Provide as much guidance in advance and make sure the HCPOA form is current with no other conflicting documents in existence.
  • You can also provide guidance regarding limits of life-sustaining treatment through a living will or do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order.
  • If possible, make decisions regarding organ donation and funeral service arrangements.


Step 4: Know your rights if you’re employed during the onset of terminal illness.

  • Contact your human resources department to coordinate your paid time off, short-term and long-term disability benefits and continued healthcare coverage due to job loss under COBRA.
  • If you’re saving to a retirement plan like a 401(k), decide if you want to continue contributions, especially if you receive an employer match.
  • If self-employed, initiate a business continuity plan.


Step 5: Plan for the care of your dependents.

  • Plan for the custody or guardianship of minors, other dependents such as elderly parents or special needs persons, and pets.

Discussing terminal illness or death with loved ones is uncomfortable, but it is also necessary to spare your family from having to make assumptions about your financial affairs and posthumous wishes. Walking through each step of the plan with a trusted advisor can be incredibly helpful in facilitating those tough conversations and tying up loose ends. The experienced team at Storen Financial is fully equipped to support you through the process.

Still have questions? Need help setting up your end of life plan? Contact us today!


Blog by Lynn Prust – Client Relations Manager

Learn more about Lynn and the rest of the Storen Financial team here.