How to Prepare for Your Death: A Guide to End-of-Life Planning

A woman, wearing a brown cardigan, is holding hands with a man in a blue jacket. They are both sitting down, and their faces can't be seen. To the left, the hand of third person holds a pen and writes on paper attached to a clipboard

End-of-life planning involves more than just funeral planning or writing a will—it’s about helping your family. 

Coping with grief is difficult and, for some, a lengthy process that is mentally and physically exhausting. Tying up all loose ends associated with your finances, your funeral, and your last will and testament before the inevitable happens can show your family and friends how much you love them.

When people think of end-of-life planning, they often think about wills and funerals, but there is much more involved than that. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to consider when starting your end-of-life planning.

Assigning a Beneficiary

Have you ever thought about what would happen to your bank accounts, life insurance policy, IRAs, and other non-probate assets after you pass away? Unless you assign a beneficiary to receive these assets, a civil court could award any money associated with such assets to the state and other entities.

You can name one or more beneficiaries in your will and choose how much each beneficiary should receive. You may also designate a nonprofit organization as a beneficiary of a portion of your money. Another option is to designate a primary and secondary beneficiary in case something happens to the primary beneficiary before you pass.

Additionally, estate planning attorneys recommend reviewing your list of beneficiaries every year in case you need to or wish to change a beneficiary.

Creating a Living Will & Advance Directives

A document titled "Living Will" is laying on a table. On top of the document is a red pen.

A living will is a type of advance directive that contains instructions outlining your wishes concerning your health care should you become incapacitated.

Living wills can include clear instructions regarding end-of-life housing, such as not wanting to be placed in an assisted living facility, nursing home, or hospice, as well as certain medical treatments and procedures you never want to receive.

You can learn more about how to create a living will here.

Creating a Last Will & Testament or Trust

Last Will & Testament

A last will and testament names the executor of your estate and describes how you want your assets to be divided among individuals and/or other entities. The executor is essentially the “boss” of your estate and ensures your last wishes are carried out as you describe them in your will. Wills must be signed and witnessed according to state laws before they are enforceable by a probate court.


A trust is a legally binding arrangement that allows the transfer of money, valuables, and/or other assets from the assets’ owner (trustor or grantor) to a trustee. Trusts contain instructions about how a trustee must manage and distribute the assets to one or multiple beneficiaries. The trustee, not the beneficiaries of the trust, has the final word on the distribution of the assets.

Since wills and trusts both involve the creator designating people to manage them, it is important to review them regularly and update them accordingly.

Organize Your End-of-Life Planning Documents

Keeping your end-of-life planning documents in separate, marked folders can help prevent your assets from going to the wrong people or your estate being litigated in probate court. 

Tell the individuals named as executors, beneficiaries, or trustees exactly where you have stored these documents. Also, ensure you make digital backups of each document and place them in a secure cloud storage space to prevent them from damage or loss.

Funeral Planning

planning a funeral

Pre-paying your funeral expenses is a hedge against rising costs and a wonderful gift you can leave your loved ones, who may be unable to contribute to funeral expenses.

In addition to handling costs, funeral pre-planning means y

ou have control over the details, including your preferred funeral home, the type of funeral or memorial service you want, and the type of casket you wish to be buried in. 

Wujek-Calcaterra & Sons has a detailed funeral pre-planning guide you can download and fill out. Follow this link to download your free funeral planning guide.

Write Your Obituary

You can write your own obituary and place it with your other documents or leave specific directions for what you want your obituary to say. Most newspapers have specialized obituary writers if you don’t want to write one.

Continually Update Documents

Two people are sitting down in front of a long legal document. The person on the left is holding a pen and using it to point at something in the document. The person to the right has their hands folded on the desk.

Remember— it is essential to keep documents updated so your end-of-life planning instructions are followed according to your wishes.

Working with an estate planning attorney is recommended, as they know when state wills and trust laws change and can help you keep your documents updated when needed.

Purchase Life Insurance

Term life insurance can help pay for end-of-life expenses, funeral planning, and costs associated with long-term care. Term life insurance policies generally cover an individual for 10, 20, or 30 years. If the policyholder passes away during any of these timeframes, the beneficiary named in the policy receives a specific amount of money typically used to pay for funeral expenses.

Start Your End-of-Life Planning Today

For over 100 years, the Wujek Calcaterra & Sons has provided the metro Detroit communities with exceptional cremation and funeral services, grief support, and end-of-life planning assistance.

If you need help starting your end-of-life planning, please contact us today to schedule a free consultation—we’re available 24/7.

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