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End-of-life planning checklist and timeline

Jan 21, 2021 4 Minute Read

End-of-life planning is one of the most caring things you can do for your family. When the time comes, your end-of-life plan can help sad and overwhelmed family members feel at peace about their decisions for you. A plan also helps make sure you have a say in your medical care and who gets your treasured belongings.

Ideally, the best time to plan is before the end of life. But if you haven’t begun planning yet, that’s okay. One survey found that 92% of people say it’s important to talk with their loved ones regarding their wishes for end-of-life care, but only 32% have actually had the conversation. This end-of-life checklist can help you start the process.

What documents are needed for the end of life?

An end-of-life checklist includes documents that put your wishes in writing. These documents let your family know what you want, like wishes around advanced care and distributing your possessions after you die, and legally allow them to carry out those wishes. The main documents to include in your plan are:

  • A will. A will lays out your final wishes and leaves instructions on how to distribute your property after you die. It can cover things like whom you want to receive your personal items and money, how to pay remaining expenses, and who should care for any minor children. A will can’t cover assets you own with other people, like a house, or assets with a beneficiary, like life insurance. An attorney can help you sort things out.
  • Powers of attorney. There are two main kinds of powers of attorney: one that allows someone to handle your finances if you’re not able to, also called the durable power of attorney, and one that allows someone to make healthcare decisions for you. It’s important to create powers of attorney now, since you can’t legally grant them once you’re already incapacitated. You can choose two different people for healthcare and finances. When you do, make sure to let them know you’ve chosen them for these roles and how you’d like them to handle your healthcare and finances.
  • Advance directives. Advance care planning lays out additional instructions around your end of life care. They include living wills, which provide specifics on your healthcare wishes, like situations where you don’t want to be intubated or resuscitated or if you’d only like palliative care. Another document to consider is a HIPAA waiver, which gives people beyond your healthcare power of attorney access to your medical information (but not the power to make decisions for you).
  • A list of important documents and passwords. Keep physical copies of important documents in a single spot, including your Social Security card, birth and marriage certificates, estate planning documents, and education and military records. You should also create a list of logins for social media handles, email, utilities, and other digital accounts – and make sure your family knows where to find everything.
  • Your funeral plans. With the average funeral starting at $10,000, planning ahead can help your family give you a meaningful sendoff and ensure they have the funds to pay for it. If you’re 50 or older, final expense insurance can provide your family with a payout designed to help cover funeral costs. It’s easy to qualify, and plans are generally budget-friendly since the payout amounts are lower than other types of life insurance.

Want more information about end of life planning?

We’re here to help. Check out our other resources to help you plan – and pay – for end of life needs.


At eFinancial, our goal is to make life insurance simple, affordable, and understandable for everyday families. This content is intended for educational purposes only. Each post is carefully fact-checked, reviewed and updated regularly to ensure the information is as relevant as possible.