By Karen L. Rancourt
Are you among the 57 percent of adults who have not put their legal and financial affairs in order? Do you want family members to gather around an ailing grandparent, arguing about whether to begin or continue use of life-prolonging technology or whether to have a questionable operation done? When you die, do you want family squabbling about cremation versus traditional burial or to have a religious or non-religious service or memorial event?
Grandparents can minimize these stresses and strains by legally making their wishes known regarding medical care they want, do not want, or their end-of-life and post-death preferences. We can waste time talking about all the reasons why we don’t address these issues—they are reminders of one’s mortality, they’re anxiety provoking—but to avoid them is simply, and please forgive me for scolding, irresponsible.
For those who need to get their affairs in order, working with a lawyer is an obvious option, but for those who prefer to take care of their legal documents themselves before getting a lawyer involved, commercial websites can help store and sort relevant documents and accounts, including, Organize My Affairs, Estates Documents Organizer, Legacy Locker, and AfterSteps (fees range from $14.95 to $59.95 to purchase the documents). Another website, Get Your **** Together, provides templates for wills, living wills, powers of attorney, death, and burial planning. The site is well organized, easy to use, and it’s free.
Once your affairs are in order, make sure family members know what legal arrangements have been addressed, how to act on them, and where they can access hardcopies, and/or online copies of legal documents. In addition to taking care of their legal affairs, some grandparents go so far as to make their own burial arrangements, pay for them in full, and specify the content for their funeral or memorial service, right down to music and readings.
Surviving family members are spared the burden and emotional trauma of trying to figure out what Grandma or Grandpa “would have wanted.” And grandparents have the peace of mind of knowing that their end-of-life and post-death wishes, as well as their plans for the disposition of their assets, have been specified and will be carried out.
Karen L. Rancourt, Ph.D., writes an advice column for parents and grandparents at Mommybites.com and is the author of Ask Dr. Gramma Karen: Helping Young Parents and Grandparents Deal with Thorny Issues.