The Ultimate End of Life Planning Checklist

July 3, 2020

Caring for an aging loved one is hard. When the end does come, there can be an overwhelming list of things to do. With Pillar, you can get ahead of this difficult, yet important task by planning proactively. Take things one day at a time so you can be less stressed in the future and focus more on the real things that matter – the person you love.

We've created an easy to follow checklist with everything you need to prepare an end of life plan for a loved one. This checklist covers everything from passwords and online accounts to healthcare proxies, power of attorney, and all of the medical and legal documents you'll need when the time comes. We'll be updating this guide overtime with specific documents and resources you can use to make things even easier. As you plan with Pillar, you can also create and store all your important information online and share access with your family.

End of Life Checklist: Every Document You Need

Passwords

Compile all your passwords in one secure location. The Pillar Vault can store all your passwords securely, at no cost for the basic option. It integrates seamlessly with their document storage for a smooth, simple experience so that you or your loved ones can easily and securely access and manage any essential accounts from one shared online location.

Financial Assets and Liabilities

Record account numbers and other relevant information about your estate and day to day finances.

  • Your will
  • Any trust documents
  • Pension or retirement plan benefits
  • Investment accounts
  • Savings accounts or plans
  • Checking accounts
  • Safety deposit boxes
  • Real estate deeds
  • Vehicle titles
  • Mortgages
  • Credit cards
  • Outstanding loans
  • Regular bills. Include information regarding due dates, end dates (if applicable), and how statements are received and payments made.

Legal Documents

Insurance Information

You will need policy numbers and contact information for each of your insurance policies. It’s also a good idea to keep a copy of the policy itself on hand.  

Contact Information

Be sure to review your contacts each year. Update their contact information, and add or remove individuals or organizations as needed.

  • Executor / Trustee
  • Attorney
  • Medical providers
  • Preferred funeral home
  • Anyone named in the will or trust
  • Close friends
  • Business associates
  • Religious and social organizations
  • Beneficiaries 
  • IRA
  • Annuity
  • Life insurance
  • Other

Medical Documents

Most medical information will be organized in your medical record, but there are a few important documents that you should also include in your end-of-life file. 

  • Advance Directive (also called a Living Will) - An Advance Directive outlines your wishes regarding care towards the end of your life. Would you prefer intensive treatments such as intubation, ventilators and tube feedings, or would you prefer for the focus to be on keeping you comfortable? Advance directives also designate a Health Care Proxy (also called Health Care Power of Attorney or Durable Medical Power of Attorney) who can make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. This is distinct from a financial power of attorney in that it is specific to healthcare decisions. The same person can be named to both roles, or they could be two separate decision-makers. Be sure to speak at length with everyone you’ve designated to make decisions on your behalf, so that each understands your wishes and will be able to advocate for them if needed.
  • POLST - The Physician’s Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment is a doctor’s order that directs healthcare personnel whether to attempt resuscitation, to use breathing machines, intensive care treatments, or just keep you comfortable. It’s intended for people who are in poor health, in the last year or so of life. The form, and its specific name, varies from state to state.

Preparing for After Passing

Your loved ones will be facing difficult emotions upon your passing. When you take care of some of these things ahead of time, you can reduce the burden upon them and minimize the chances for hard feelings between family members who may disagree amongst themselves about what you would have wanted. This can be a hard, but very therapeutic step for many – especially for individuals coming to terms with a terminal diagnosis.

Some people have found it helpful to start giving away meaningful items to specific people before their passing. The book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning can guide this process. Other preparations you might make include:

  • Designate your wishes for body disposition. Do you want to be cremated, buried or have your body donated to science or education?
  • Designate whether you will be an organ or tissue donor.
  • Make arrangements with a funeral home, including pre-payment for burial plot or cremation expenses.
  • Plan, or designate any preferences regarding, your funeral or life remembrance ceremony. 
  • Designate which charities, if any, you would like people to donate to in your memory.
  • Write your own obituary.
  • Review social media accounts to determine what you would like to happen with each one after your passing (including final messages, archives, and closing accounts)
  • Create messages for loved ones. Written letters, or audio/video recordings, can be very meaningful and memorable for the most important people in your life.

What is a "Life File?"

All of the documents on this list are what is commonly known as a "life file." This collection of directives, passwords, and account information is vital to quickly and accurately dealing with someone's wishes, affairs, and legal obligations at the end of their life. It's a little different for everyone, but usually includes medical directives, wills, legal and financial documents and preparations or preferences you may have about what you would like to happen after your passing.

If you are in the position to complete your own life file, you can save your loved ones an immeasurable amount of trouble later, when they, quite frankly, have better things to do — namely, taking care of your health, or grieving for your death. You will appreciate the peace of mind of knowing that your loved ones won’t be left struggling to locate important documents or make these difficult decisions on their own in what can be a very emotionally challenging time. 

Either way, completing a life file can be daunting, to say the least. But it's important. Use this checklist to make it easier to get started. You can work your way through the list and ensure pertinent is included, up-to-date, and stored safely in one secure, easy-to-access location.

Reminder: Once your life file is complete, plan to quickly review it every year or so, to ensure any changes are reflected. Be sure to update documents as needed for any major life events, such as marriages, divorces, births or adoptions.

Organize Your End of Life Checklist in Pillar

While compiling a life file can seem overwhelming, if you work through this checklist, and tackle each item, you’ll find that it’s manageable. And when you organize everything you need for a comprehensive end-of-life file in Pillar, and share access to the documents with those who need them without sifting through boxes of outdated forms or confusing online portals.

Pillar is here to help and provide guidance on anything you might need when it comes to taking care of your aging loved ones. Get in touch with us 24/7 at support@pillarlife.com. We're here to help!

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