For 11 months of the year, modern Western culture is death-phobic. But in October, that all changes. We get together to enjoy spooky things, readily welcoming the company of ghosts, skeletons, and zombies. It’s a time to have fun doing what scares us: which makes it the best time to think about end-of-life planning.
It’s naturally horrifying to confront the fact that some day you’ll die. For the more superstitious among us, it can feel like planning for death will somehow make it come sooner. The reality is, however, it’s far scarier to have something happened and be totally unprepared. And besides, do you want to risk someone else deciding what happens to your body?
Most people think of end-of-life planning as just a will: a simple, single document that distributes their worldly possessions. But it can (and should) contain more than just that. For instance, you can include funeral plans in your will. You can decide how your remains will be handled and set a budget. Feel free to get creative—you aren’t just limited to traditional burials or cremation!
Do you want a “green burial”? More funeral homes are offering environmentally friendly burial options where the body isn’t prepared with toxic preservatives, thus preventing pollution of the earth. You can also choose to be buried in a biodegradable casket, or a traditional funeral shroud. These types of funerals can be highly personal and are also typically more economical than traditional embalming practices.
Maybe you’d like a water cremation? Unlike traditional cremation by fire, aquamation doesn’t release airborne pollutants and uses 90% less energy. The process uses a 95% water, 5% alkali solution to mimic natural decomposition processes. In the end, the body is reduced to its most basic elements, just suspended in water.
Perhaps you’d like a traditional cremation? If you’re worried about the cost of your funeral, cremation is an excellent option. You can choose from an endless variety of urns reflecting your personal taste, or you can specify a special place where ashes should be scattered. We can help ensure you do this legally, as there are strict regulations regarding disposal of human remains.
Do you believe your funeral shouldn’t be a sad affair, but rather a celebration of your life? Is there a religious tradition you want followed, or a song you want played? The style of funeral you have, down to specific details, can be included in your will as well.
Funeral planning is often time consuming and stressful. With these simple additions, you can help make things easier your loved ones when the day comes. Plan a little, or a lot: just remember that you have great freedom to choose what happens to your body. But before you get to the funeral home, you’ll want to have powers of attorney and advance healthcare directives in place.
In Texas, you’ll need separate documents for specific powers of attorney. A medical power of attorney is different from a legal power of attorney, and it’s generally best to have both. A medical power of attorney is an agent who has the authority to make medical decisions for you. A legal power of attorney will allow an agent to manage your property and finances. Of course, you could have one person serve as a legal and medical agent for you, but Texas law requires separate grants of authority. When the agent’s authority to act begins and ends is up to you.
An advance healthcare directive is a written statement describing your wishes regarding medical treatment. You may want to include a “do not resuscitate” provision, or maybe allow a natural death in your home. The document is legally binding, ensuring your family and health care providers carry out your wishes. Just as you have a choice as to how you’re laid to rest, the law allows you (some) choice on how you go.
As you can see, there are many moving parts in end-of-life planning. Although it may seem scary to think about the end, the true horror is being unprepared if something happens. So when you see a skeleton (or ghost, or zombie) this Halloween, take a moment to think about what you want to happen to you when your time comes. Give us a call when you decide. We’ll do our best to make it happen.