This article appeared in the Sunday Times last weekend.

This is going to sound a bit morbid, but, on retirement, we should really start to plan for our deaths.

When I say plan for death, I mean plan for life between now and your demise. What people tend to do on retirement is to spend money on superficial home improvements like tarring the driveway or getting a garden designer. These are not the changes we should be making to equip us for the next 20 to 30 years of life, if we plan to continue living in our current home.

My logic is that, whether we admit it or not, each one of us will die, and the best person to plan for our own deaths and later lives is ourselves. Yet we shy away from it to the extent that other people – sometimes strangers – can end up making major life and death decisions for us.

Inspired by the Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) booklet Think Ahead, I have identified four steps – think, talk, plan, document – to making your later life a much less worrying prospect. It’s never too early to do this planning because the steps can be repeated if circumstances change.

THINK AHEAD

Think about how suitable your home is. The logic for living in your current home might not apply for much longer. For example, as your children become independent, eventually having families of their own, all but one of your bedrooms will probably be empty except for Christmas. What you really need is bigger common areas for when your kids and grandkids call around. That means rejigging your living space to meet your priorities now.

Frailty may be far in the future for you, but it’s worth thinking about your future needs, given that most of us want to stay in our homes as long as possible.

Taking these two elements together could result in a major remodelling project, which is all the more reason to embark on it now while you have the energy for it.

What about your wealth? How do you see that being passed on or do you believe you’ve worked hard and are going to enjoy your golden years? If you want to make sure the next generation, or the one after that, gets a share, you will need to make plans to that effect. 

TALK IT THROUGH

It can be daunting to talk to your partner about your own demise, or worse, theirs, but these are important conversations. Otherwise, nobody knows your wishes beyond what is written in your will, which only deals with your assets in the most simplistic terms. Communicate the results of your thinking and find out where your loved ones stand on these important subjects. It is a huge relief to bereaved family members to know what you want, but your preferences should also include what you want to happen should you become mentally incapacitated. 11 people in Ireland are diagnosed with dementia every day.

PLAN IT OUT

Planning is especially useful when it comes to succession as you will be mindful of inheritance tax. If your family circumstances are complicated by divorce or remarriage, there is an even stronger argument for putting in place the right structures to make sure your wishes are enacted.

If you are determined to remain in your home, you may need to engage a financial planner so that you have sufficient money to pay for carers, because state care packages are as rare as hens’ teeth.

if you are going for a major building project you will have to plan when or how that will happen and how it will be financed.

It’s important to get good, impartial advice at this stage. We often accept poor advice or try to do this planning phase unassisted. When we realise the deficiencies in this approach, it’s too late to do anything about it.

DOCUMENT IT

Your will is one thing but there is a more important document, which deals with how you want to be treated while you’re alive. If you’re a fan of US medical dramas, you’ll have heard of DNR – Do Not Resuscitate. In Ireland, we have the Advanced Healthcare Directive (AHD), a document which comes into play when you lack the capacity to make or communicate your wishes regarding your treatment.

The IHF’s ‘Think Ahead’ booklet is the perfect place to document your care preferences, to note your AHD and other information that is critical in an emergency.

I’ll leave you with this thought. On your death, if you have failed to think, talk, plan and document your future, your family could end up in the High Court tearing itself apart.

Schedule a 30 minute call with me today if you’d like to discuss your plans.