By Kelly Corkery
Q-We recently received shocking news of the unexpected death of a close family friend. She was a single mother and didn’t leave any instructions for guardianship or her personal wishes. Her parents can’t even gain access to her bank accounts. It’s a mess. What can I do to avoid a similar situation? --Worried in Jeddore
A-Firstly, you have my deepest compassion for the death of your friend. It’s not easy dealing with the sudden loss of a loved one. Secondly, Worried, this is a sad but common story. When a person dies without advanced planning in place, it can result in a messy nightmare for partners and family.
It’s important to have things together for the end-of-life before you die. There is fear and misconception surrounding the topic of death. Yes, you are going to die. We all will. Having open, normalized conversations planning for your eventual demise won’t expedite your death, any more than talking about winning the lottery won’t make you a millionaire.
And seniors shouldn’t be the only ones considering end-of-life planning. While some of us have the questionable benefit of knowing that our death is imminent, the majority of us don’t. The time to start planning is NOW. Significant life changes such as moving, new relationships, and having children are natural milestone opportunities to reflect & get organized on this important (but often ignored) truth.
You need a Personal Directive-10% of Nova Scotians have a Personal Directive. This legal document allows you to lay out your personal care decisions and how they are to be made for you if/when you are not mentally capable of making those decisions. It only takes effect when you are alive and mentally incapable or not able to communicate. So, why are personal directives so important? Well, imagine if you somehow lost your ability to make decisions through a traumatic injury. Or slowly, over time, due to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Who would you want to make decisions on your behalf?
You need a Power of Attorney-To be clear, it is also important to appoint someone who will be able to look after your money and any financial affairs like paying bills if you are unable to do so while you’re alive. You can’t designate someone to do these things through a Personal Directive.
You need a Will-37% of Nova Scotians have a Will. It comes into effect once you die, the Executor of your Will does not have any authority to act on your behalf while you are still alive. Unless, of course, you have named that same individual as your medical delegate in your Personal Directive. In any case, I advise that you speak with a lawyer.
Life, relationships and health situations change. Advance Planners recommend re-evaluating your end-of-life paperwork regularly. A quick rule of thumb is to update if you’ve experienced any of the Five D’s:
Death of a loved one, caregiver or delegate
Decade milestone-30, 40, 50 etc. years of age
Decline in your medical condition
Diagnosis of a new or significant illness or injury
So, Worried, I know that talking about dying can be uncomfortable. It’s SENSIBLE that you don’t want to leave loved ones without direction regarding your healthcare views, guardianship or end-of-life wishes. Discussions and documents about end-of-life are compiled out of love for those you will leave behind.
Yours in All Things Sorted,
Kelly Corkery is the Owner/Organizer of A Sorted Affair Inc. She helps people declutter, organize and simplify their spaces. If you’ve got a question you’d like Kelly to take on in her column, send her an email at [email protected].