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Making end of life decisions

Life is a series of decisions. Small and major decisions influence the course of the lives of all people, so it is inevitable that you and your family will have to make important decisions in preparation for life’s end. Of course, those who are constantly facing danger, those in their twilight years, or those in the terminal stage of illness may have already begun to make decisions.

There are reasons why families do not always talk about making end of life decisions. For one thing, the end is a subject that is uncomfortable to discuss, and if an old family member starts to talk about the issue, they may opt to change the topic to something more pleasant. Talking about the end of life is something fearful and painful and causes people to step out of their comfort zones.

Discussions with Loved Ones

What will happen when you die and have not made any arrangement about what comes after? Think, not only of their grief, but the mess, cost, and obligations you are leaving behind for your loved ones to face. Do you think they will have the mindset to plan the funeral arrangements? To search in unlikely places for your pension plan, insurance policy, registered retirement savings plan or annuity contract? In case of a cardiac or respiratory arrest, have you arranged for a do not resuscitate document? Have you designated a power of attorney? Have you prepared your last will and testament? This whole gamut of problems could have been avoided had you discussed these issues with the people in your life beforehand.

Funeral Arrangements and Burials

You will have many options if you plan your funeral arrangements in advance. The things that should be considered are funeral and cemetery arrangements and the kind of memorial you want. You can make a preplan and prepay funeral and cemetery service arrangement. With this arrangement, you will be able to secure a guaranteed price at the time of the arrangement that will not change as the years progress, even if, when the time comes, the cost would be much higher. Any funeral or cemetery provider in your locality will help you pre-plan and your local funeral director will offer counseling on the amount local social service agencies consider reasonable and customary to spend on a funeral.

Important Documents

You will alleviate the bereft state of your family members by preparing these important documents ahead of time, keeping them in a secured place, keeping them in order, and updating them annually:

  • Your bank accounts including the name(s) of the individuals with whom you do business
  • Name of the company and the policy numbers of your insurance policies
  • Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) and Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) account numbers, and the names of the institutions in which they are kept
  • Pension Plan information
  • Your Last Will with your lawyer’s name and the law firm where additional copies can be obtained
  • Personal documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, social security card, etc.
  • Deeds of real estate
  • A copy of the key to your safety deposit box (if you have one) with its location and number
  • Funeral arrangement details you have prepared
  • Executor(s), trustees and any beneficiaries’ names and contact numbers as stated in your will
  • Professional advisor’s names and contact numbers
  • List of your financial liabilities


Your last will is one of the most important documents to keep updated. With the power of attorney, your lawyer can act on your behalf. It is easy to prepare your last will. Your will should cover each of the following:

  • Your assets and how you plan their distribution –include your investments, real estate and possessions
  • Names of any beneficiaries. This may include immediate or extended family, friends, and even institutions
  • Names of a guardian or guardians in case of minors

Issues to Settle

There are important issues to be decided even before life comes to an end. To give everyone peace of mind, you have to deliberate on these issues before hand.

  • do not resuscitate (DNR) order is a medical directive passed into federal law in 1991 with the objective to stop the suffering of a person with a terminal illness or other serious conditions that are beyond treatment. The order actually authorizes medical treatment to be withheld using CPR techniques and other measures to revive the patient.
  • Cremation, an alternative to burial in the ground inside a casket, is the process of reducing dead bodies to ashes through burning using high temperatures, vaporization and oxidation. Some persons have opted for this method of interment as it is not against their personal, cultural, and religious beliefs.
  • Religious consideration is a free choice of the individual. Many believers look at the funeral rite as an instrument to help in the dead’s transition to the next life. For many, a funeral rite gives hope and consolation to those left behind. The presence of a clergy or minister can give comfort in the last moment.

As people approach the end of their lives, they and their families have to face tasks and decisions that include a broad array of choices ranging from simple to extremely complex. Tasks and decisions are not easily accomplished but they are relevant and essential for each and every person. 

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