End-of-life conversations and planning can be tough. Research by The Conversation Project* has found that 90% of the people who were surveyed think it’s important to have these discussions, but only 30% have actually had them. Sometimes the prospect of engaging in these conversations is daunting, but having tools to guide the process can help. Here are four tips to help you and your loved ones develop, have and document meaningful end-of-life conversations and create a shared view around plans.

Step 1: Take a Holistic View of Planning

It’s important to think about who you might be responsible for now and in the future. Consider completing a family financial road map. This document will help you with three tasks:

  1. Identify the people you are or may be physically or financially responsible for (including yourself).
  2. Project how these individuals’ needs may change over time.
  3. Uncover blind spots that have been overlooked in planning and need to be addressed, such as specific health care or housing concerns, treatment preferences, or family concerns.

Step 2: Test Your End-of-Life Plan for Completeness

Begin with creating a document that can assess all your planning wishes – including your requests for finances, housing, long-term care and end-of-life plans.  This document should be completed by both yourself and your loved ones.  It should help you evaluate whether you have all the necessary plan components in place (such as wills or trusts). It will also help you inventory supporting documents, such as powers of attorney, health care proxies, HIPAA release forms, organ donation cards, living wills and medical directives, final wishes, and letters of instruction. It’s a good idea to create a list of “trusted advisors.” These can be both formal and informal advisors. The goal of this document is to approach the planning process in a more mindful way. It should captures and consolidate key information and help close planning gaps.

Step 3: Complete The Conversation Project’s Starter Kit

The goal of the Starter Kit is to communicate what’s important when it comes to end-of-life issues. Review the kit and partner with loved ones to complete it. Remember to touch on the “what” and the “why” of end-of-life considerations. Talk early and often. Potential times to have conversations include when someone is coming of age (18 to 21 years old), before a medical crisis, concurrent with a major life event, before a major trip, or when one is newly diagnosed with a serious illness. Once you have clarified your wishes, remember to also have conversations with your doctors and financial advisors.

Step 4: Scan and Share Your Work

Plans are only helpful if the people who will execute them know about them. After completing steps one through three, it’s a good idea scan your work and store it in a secure, digital archive such as FidSafe. FidSafe makes it easy to share your information and important documents with trusted advisors. Plans can be accessed securely through computers and mobile devices, wherever there is Internet access. End-of-life planning is never easy. However, FidSafe simplifies the process and will give you greater peace of mind.

*Visit the Conversation Project for more information