“We need to talk”—Starting the conversation about end-of-life decisions

The day after Thanksgiving, my family of six sat down to have an end-of-life discussion. This topic might not be one that most families would voluntarily discuss on a festive occasion, but my family is not the norm. All of us approach life rationally: We’re going to die, it’s just a matter of when—my parents could receive a call that I was in a fatal car accident or I could receive a call that my dad had a heart attack at work.

For me, this two-hour discussion provided a sense of relief that we documented the assigning of power of attorney  and management of assets in the event of my parents’ death or remarriage. My parents voiced their preferences as to how end-of-life decisions should be handled—from “If I’m brain dead, don’t keep me on life support” to having my siblings in agreement when making a healthcare decision if both parents are incapacitated. It also gave me the opportunity to voice my preferences for how end-of-life should be handled, as my parents would be the ones making the decisions on my behalf.

And though my dad jokes that we’re already writing him off when he could have 30 more years left of life, my reply is we don’t know that so that’s why we need a plan. So whether you are a mom who doesn’t feel like she’s 80 or a son who is enjoying his 30s, take time to have that end-of-life discussion. Our helpful Wills, Living Trusts, and Planning Ahead page provides an overview of the documents that you can create to not only document your decisions but help family members carry out your directives after your passing.

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