Researching End of Life Care Options for a Loved One

Dad came to me today and said he wanted to cancel his life insurance.

Dad pays about $220/month right now for life insurance, and on his limited disability budget, that’s a lot for $7k worth of life insurance. His suggestion is that instead he would pay me $100/month to put away for however long he lives and use that towards his end of life wishes. Whatever is left he said would go to us.

There’s a risk in this decision, of course. He could pass before we have enough to cover his end of life care costs. However, I spoke with my husband about it and we both agreed we’d go ahead and take this risk to help dad with his budget. So now we start planning some end of life care so we don’t have to deal with this last minute.

Now, I don’t know exactly how much cremation costs. This is what dad decided on that he wanted rather than being buried with the family because it’s just cheaper and makes more sense. Who wants to continue to fill up graveyards needlessly?

Initial googling says the average cost of cremation is $2,000. That’s not bad, honestly, and you can even get cheaper but I’m not entirely sure the cheaper options mean you get the ashes back. So a $2k investment risk for dad is not a big deal for us. So long as dad lives another 2 years we’ll be covered anyway.

When dad does eventually go, and it’s something I have to think about and plan for, I have some of the process figured out already. Now I just need to prepare my own end-of-life details.

For dad my plans are simple:

  • Basic cremation service
  • My own urn to display where I honor my ancestors
  • The rest of the ashes distributed on the old farm that we grew up on and here on our property where we’ve ended up (which would transfer over to our large farm when we are able to purchase it).
  • A nice memorial cookout where friends and family can come to honor him. I’ll have a nice set of memorabilia and photographs available, we’ll cook burgers and good food, we’ll play Elvis music, and let people tell stories about dad

Seems like an okay and reasonably priced plan, right?

The biggest struggle will be the aftermath. Dad has hoarded a loooot of things here at my house. From the garage to the basement to his bedroom and most of the downstairs. I’m probably going to have a work day here at the house where my friends all come in and help me sort through dads things into piles of what we can donate, sell, and throw out. Making sure to hold onto things that are sentimental to me. Knowing my friends they’ll be willing to help and make the transition easier for me.

Life without dad will not be easy, and I’d be in a bit of a pickle if I was alone. Thankfully I have Donald here to help.

The important thing is to plan ahead for this sorta thing and not have to deal with the shock of it as it’s happening. Here’s what I have been working on preparing for dads end of life care (still a work in progress):

  • A last will and testament – This will allow me to designate what I’d like to happen when I die. I purchased mine (thought I need a newer one) from Legalzoom, which is also subsequently how I managed to get my first divorce at a reasonable price (If you can read, you can do this in an uncontested divorce)
  • Power of Attorney – If your loved one becomes ill, it will make life much easier if you have their power of attorney to be able to manage much of the organizational things like their finances. You can also get this from LegalZoom. Consider a Health Care Proxy (Power of Attorney for Health) as well.
  • Some sort of life insurance or savings – I had life insurance for a while, but the company closed. I’ve thought about doing the same thing my dad is doing and just socking money away into savings. I also have two retirement accounts that will automatically go to my husband as is law by marriage. Either way, some form of fundage prepared to cover death costs and then allow for an easier transition for loved ones is very important
  • Organized logins and passwords and account numbers – I use the “Big Book of Everything” by Eric Dewey. This is a free PDF download that lets you record everything that your kin might possibly need to know when you die. From logins to account numbers to things you’ll need to cancel and where you may have things stored. It’s very useful, and you can put this in a safety deposit box or in a home safe, whatever you choose.
  • Don’t hoard stuff! I know people think collecting all the things to pass on is doing a favor to their loved ones, but it’s really not. Antiques MIGHT be of interest to your kids, but they might not. Don’t give them more work to do if you can suffice with just leaving a fund for them to use as they need.
  • Write an Obituary and Eulogy – This is something I haven’t done yet, though I probably will fairly soon as I work with dad to write his. This is probably one of the most complicated things someone has to remember to do for you when you die. Why not take time to make it personal and fitting to your personality? My Uncle Donald Reisberg died last year and he had the best Eulogy I’ve ever seen. I need to get a copy of it because it was very memorable and made me appreciate his history even more.

Dad and I are pretty comfortable talking about death. I think after some of the tragedy that surrounded his parents deaths, and I know I felt it when I saw a co-workers family struggle with his sudden death years ago and how to access his accounts. It’s not as hard to talk about as people think, at least it’s not for us.

I want to honor my dad the best way I can within my means. And I’ll continue to honor him after his death without the struggle of getting things sorted out last minute.

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Crystal Groves Written by:

Crystal Groves is a farmer, web developer, musician, blogger, and personal finance enthusiast for the back hills of Maryland and Pennsylvania. She's an old-time blogger, starting just after 9/11, and has been blogging about technology, personal finance, health & wellness, and local news for the last several years.