Plan Ahead for Your End-of-Life

Everyone Should Do Some Planning

FCAofCT recommends that everyone – rich or poor, young or old, well or sick – make some plans because severe accidents and sudden illness cannot be anticipated. Planning helps guide family and friends on what is wanted and prevent hasty, undesired choices

Your planning should reflect your values, your philosophy on how you want to live and die, and probably consider your finances too, so that ‘funeral debt’ is avoided.

There are many workbooks to help you think about the decisions to make; while Amazon lists over 20 planners on end-of-life choices, we think that the best is “Before I Go….”, which comes with membership in FCAofCT.

The scope and depth of planning will vary. Young, single adults with good health and limited assets may wish to make the simplest, basic decisions; older adults with family responsibilities and some assets will need to make more choices, and aging adults should consider even more complex planning.

Finally, don’t keep all your plans secret or they will not be any help.
Talk with your family, explain your wishes on health care, on ‘body disposition’, on where your will and list of passwords are; give a copy of your living will to your doctor.

Here are the five basic items to include:

1) Advanced Directives for Heath Care – also called a “Living Will”, details health wishes and appoints an advocate when you can no longer indicate your own wishes, because of a coma or other condition. This is an essential document which lets you decide what types of medical procedures you want and do not want. Connecticut forms are available on the internet and also part of FCAofCT membership.

2) Will (and codicil)
A Last Will and Testament (“will”) is a legal document detailing how you want your property (“estate”, including real property and personal property) to be distributed after you die, and who will manage that property until it is distributed (executor). A will can indicate wishes for child custody and guardianship. That wish would likely be subject to approval by a court.

A codicil is an amendment (modification) to a will.

First: consider that wills can be highly technical legal documents that require a number of formalities. A will that is not prepared, executed, or witnessed properly might be later deemed invalid. Some of the requirements use language whose full meaning may not be obvious to the average person (e.g., “subscribed”, “attested”, “witnessed”).

Wills executed in CT must be in writing, subscribed (signed) by the testator (person creating the will). They must also be attested to by two witnesses in the testator’s presence, meaning the witnesses sign as a witness to the testator signing the will. The witnesses should not be beneficiaries of the will, they should be “disinterested” (otherwise they will lose their bequest).

Wills have specific requirements to be valid and these requirements may vary by state. Connecticut recognizes the validity of wills which were properly executed in another state, under the laws of that state.

Though not required, a “self-proving affidavit” executed along with the will is a good practice, though it requires the presence of a notary to notarize the witnesses’ signatures. This self proving affidavit can help streamline the probate of the will, reduce the need for future affidavits or testimony.

There are forms to create wills available for each state, usually for simpler situations (hopefully, uncontested bequests), so see websites such as Nolo, Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer, etc.

Lawyers can also be consulted to draft wills, including for more complex issues including guardianship of children, as well distribution of assets and property, and, perhaps, to avoid litigious relatives.

3) Power of attorney

Chose a trusted person to act on your behalf on financial matters or other matters. This person need not be an attorney, and usually is not an attorney, but you give them “power of attorney” to act on your behalf as if they were you.

A “durable power of attorney” means their power of attorney persists even if you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself.

4) Wishes for the Care of Your Body After Death, (‘Disposition of the Body’ in funeral jargon).

There are numerous choices to be considered depending on your philosophy, traditions, health, and place of death. These choices are: Organ Donation, Body Donation to a Medical School, Direct Burial without embalming, Burial with embalming, Cremation; considerations on Cemetery.

The simplest method is to indicate one or two alternatives that you prefer. With age or illness, you will want to spell out your wishes in greater detail.
5) List essential passwords (PINs and codes for computer, phone, safe) and keep in a secure place. Designate a “legacy contact” for your important online accounts such as Google and Apple iCloud.

Links and references

NOLO, Making a Will in Connecticut,

NOLO, Self-Proving Affidavits,

Connecticut Statutes, Chapter 802a, Wills: Execution and Construction,

Connecticut Probate Courts,
Trusts and Estates,

LegalZoom, Last Wills,

Rocket Lawyer, Complete Will,

Thomson Reuters via Cummings and Lockwood, Signature Pages for Will,

Disclaimer: This is for general knowledge and is not legal advice. Legal documents such as wills and powers of attorney are highly technical and may be invalidated or rejected if they are not completed properly. Consult an attorney as needed. This is a draft and work in progress.

Revised 4/12/2024.