With some cases of COVID-19, patients are dying in isolation.
The sorrowful stories are a grim but important reminder: if you haven't formalized your final wishes, you likely would not have the opportunity to do so from your hospital bed.
The best time to get your affairs in order is when you're healthy -- regardless of a pandemic.
You might want to have a professional, like an attorney, do this. If that's not possible, here are three steps to consider taking yourself:
- Prepare your end-of-life care;
- Determine your wishes for your assets;
- Plan your funeral.
Step 1: Prepare End-of-Life Care
For end-of-life care, many people have what's sometimes called a "living will". In California, it's often a six-page form called the Advanced Health Care Directive. With it, you can set wishes about your end-of-life care, and designate a decision-maker.
You can download an advanced health care directive form for free, via the California Courts website. It's actually pretty easy to read. Note: you'll need two witnesses to sign it with you.
Step 2: Arrange Your Assets
Next: your property. Here's where a statutory will might help. Click here to download a free copy of the California Statutory Will, created by the California State Bar.
The form is also just six pages. It walks you through selecting an executor. Then, it helps you list who gets your residence, cars, bank accounts, and other assets. It also determines what happens with your children. Two witnesses are needed to sign here, too.
Step 3: Plan Your Funeral
Finally, make sure your final wishes are known. Consider putting on paper exactly what you want -- or don't want. Visitation? Burial? Cremation? A service? A marker? There are many decisions to make.
Funeral directors have told us families struggle with these choices when someone dies without a plan. You can prevent conflict by putting pen to paper now.
Again, you might want to hire a professional -- such as an attorney -- to help with all this. Some lawyers specialize in estate planning, wills, and trusts.
One word about living trusts: They can be useful, but the Attorney General cautions not everyone needs one, so be wary of anyone pushing a "one size fits all" solution.