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Discussion: What Kind of Death Do You Want?

Death is truly our final frontier. Most of us like to imagine a story-book ending: lying in our bed at home, surrounded by those we love, with a skilled hospice worker tactfully hovering in the background. Sadly, 70 percent of Americans die in a hospital, nursing home or long term care facility. Why don't we get the death we want? Sometimes circumstances or medical needs get in the way, but often, it's simply because we never tell anyone what we want.

We don't like to talk about death, despite the popularity of skulls in clothing and jewelry even when it's not Halloween. The Huffington Post's "5 Reasons to Plan Ahead for the End-of-Life," discusses why people should overcome their fears and a cultural reluctance to consider the end of their lives in order to plan the type of the death they want and prepare the legal documents needed to facilitate their wishes.

There are some very compelling reasons to overcome your fears and get going on this. And it's never too early to start planning: remember there are no guarantees for the future.

Five reasons to start planning for the end-of-life now:

1. Preserve Your Financial Legacy. According to a recent survey, roughly 41% of Baby Boomers don't have a will-and 50% of all Americans die without a legal will in place. If you fall into either of these groups, it means that the probate court will decide how and to whom your assets may be distributed among your heirs, according to the state law. If you have no estate plan and don't discuss a strategy with an experienced estate planning attorney, you may give a significant portion of your estate to taxes. Protect your assets and distribute them to your heirs by creating an estate plan.

2. Provide for Your Minor Children. That same survey found that 55% of Americans with children don't have a will and have failed to designate a legal guardian for their children under 18. Here again, the court may decide who will receive custody of the children if both parents die-a traumatic event for everyone. Take the necessary steps now to name a guardian and protect the welfare of your children.

3. Get the Care You Want at End-Of-Life. Another survey continues the bad news: less than a third of Americans have completed advance Directives-instructions to health care professionals on the type and extent of care to be delivered in a life-threatening situation. Without this, you stand to receive aggressive, full treatment in a crisis, which may not be what you really want. Complete a Health Care directive with instructions for your health care at the end-of-life. This will save energy, resources, and create less stress for your loved ones. Make sure the documents are in your home and easily accessible, should an emergency arise.

4. Be Remembered as You'd Like. If you would like to be memorialized in a certain way, you need to make your wishes known to your family in order to have them executed. Yes, you should stage-manage your own funeral! Write down the arrangements in advance for your own funeral and leave detailed instructions.

5. Alleviate stress for your family. There's plenty of grief with the loss of a loved one without adding conflicts about handling financial, health care, or after-death arrangements. Communicate your wishes clearly now with detailed instructions and draft the required legal documents to ensure your desires are met.

Talk with a qualified estate planning attorney and make those plans now.

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