When someone passes away, there are dozens of decisions and actions that will have to be handled in the process of saying goodbye.  However, there are some very basic steps that you can take to ensure that your loved ones have peace of mind knowing that your final wishes are known and that things are settled before and after your death.

Courtesy of Legacy.com, here are six important matters that you can complete ahead of time and give your loved ones greater peace of mind:


  1. Advanced Directive (Living Will) – A legal document that gives instructions that address the medical care a person wishes to receive if he or she becomes incapacitated or seriously ill and cannot communicate their wishes themselves.
  2. Last Will & Testament – A legal document that details instructions for what should happen to a person’s assets after death. If a person dies without a will, they are said to be “intestate,” and state laws govern the distribution of the property of the decedent. The difference between a living will and a last will & testament is that the last will  doesn’t take effect until after a person has passed away, but a living will is in force while the person is still alive but incapacitated. The State Bar of California has lots of good information about wills on their website: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Free-Legal-Information/Legal-Guides/Do-I-Need-a-Will
  3. Durable Power of Attorney: Health Care Directive -This designates someone to make health-related decisions for you, only during a time that you are unable to make them, such as if you were to become unconscious. Unlike a living will where death in imminent, if you become able to make decisions and convey them again, this power reverts back to you.
  4. Durable Power of Attorney: Financial – Much like the health care directive, this gives authority to someone to manage your finance by signing checks, paying bills, etc. in the event you become incapacitated. It is also cancelled if you are able to handle your finances again.
  5. HIPPA Release: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed to protect health information privacy. It forbids your health care providers from discussing your medical information with anyone who isn’t directly involved in your medical care. A release form allows you to designate people with whom your doctors can discuss medical matters such as diagnosis and treatment

Most of the above have forms that you can download online or have your lawyer created them for you.

  1. Disposition – How do you wish your remains to be handled after your death? Cremation? Burial? Or do you wish your remains to be donated to science?  These decisions can easily be handled by talking to one of Forest Lawn’s counselors who can explain the differences and answer any questions you may have.

After you take care of these decisions let your loved ones know what you’ve done and where to find the necessary documents. Be sure to review your documents yearly to ensure they are up to date.