At the end of each month, we take a moment to survey interesting developments in elder law. Did you know there’s a boom in death planning? So says the New York Times. For the July roundup, we take a look at the “Boom” resources mentioned, then quickly round up a few other useful articles that surfaced during the past few weeks:
The Death-Planning Boom
The Times declared that the Covid-19 pandemic has created a “Boom time for Death Planning” and featured a handful of websites that purport to help people plan for the end. The article focused on the business of virtual death planning but didn’t give many details about what users might find if they explore the sites. So we took a look, and here’s what we found:
The site offers easy-to-digest “help” with end-of-life issues such as medical treatment and funeral planning. There’s a blog with posts ranging from “Encouraging words for your husband when he’s feeling down” to “What a headstone really costs.” For many features, an account is required. Question by question, the site walks through various topics. Some questions are dangerously misleading. For “Do you have a will and/or trust?,” you can answer no and add a “Note.” As a note example, the site suggests: “No, I need to set that up. I’d like my wife to get everything I own if I die.” That could suggest expressing that wish is enough. It’s not! The site makes money from promoting “affiliate partners” including life insurance companies. The same companies curiously show up in articles. There’s no “legal advice,” but the site encourages creating documents expressing wishes that people expect to be followed yet are probably aren’t enforceable. Why “Cake”? The FAQ explains: “It’s a warm, inviting symbol of celebrating and honoring life.”
Offers “a simple, trustworthy, and comprehensive place” for grieving people to turn. For now, it is indeed simple, but not yet very comprehensive. Trustworthy? Who knows? You are offered a “free” checklist in exchange for creating an account with an e-mail address. The checklist includes pre-planning, funeral planning, obituary writing, closing digital accounts, benefits eligibility, and grief and bereavement. Beyond that, there’s a slew of articles about different topics that fall within their goal of providing help with “how to navigate your life before and after a death.”
The site touts “Event management and consulting tailored for the modern memorial.” And continues: “We’re not your grandma’s funeral (. . . unless it’s your Grandma’s Funeral.” The site helps facilitate virtual memorials, providing advice and even running the entire show with a “full virtual event plan,” if needed, starting at $1,249. When Covid is over, they plan to assist with in-person events, too.
The site says it’s “a place to connect individuals and families with those offering services and support at the end of life.” Providers can sign up for $49 for three months or $349 lifetime to get marketing via custom listing, a home page, and booking and online payment system. Users can seek various services to help cope with grief such as art therapy, death doulas, memorial event planners, etc. You can comb through listings to find a provider or sign up in order to search. Sifting through listings, we found just one provider listed in Tucson offering five services (companion animal advance care planning, companion animal home funeral, legacy work, grief support, and death doula services). There’s an estate planning category but only one provider, in Atlanta. Maybe it will take off, but for now, useful mostly to discover creative career choices and services.
The effort aims to provide support for those dealing with death and training for helping them. The site says, “We are guides to navigating the emotional, practical, legal, and, spiritual issues while contemplating or nearing the end of life.” To that end, you can book a 2-3 hour consultation to create a 30-page end of life planning document (legally enforceable? probably not); hire a death doula; get “financial planning,” of a sort that is entirely unclear; get “completion services,” such as obit writing and grief counseling referrals. You can purchase a workbook for wrapping up a loved one’s affairs ($44) or exploring end-of-life planning ($47). There’s also training for becoming a death doula or end-of-life planner. The blog features videos from founder Alua Arthur, with the listed credentials of “death doula, attorney, adjunct professor and ordained minister.”
The nonprofit has the website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. The site features video from a 2019 symposium on various topics associated with its mission to promote the idea that “all people should experience the end of life in a way that matches their values and goals.” It aims to “bring together a multidisciplinary community that unites design, technology, health, policy and activist initiative to create a cultural shift to transform our thinking around the end of life.” There’s also “End Well Live,” a weekly virtual conversation with guests who support those facing serious illness or caring for them.
We’re all for any effort to get people thinking about planning. For these and others (a simple Google search turns up a lot more), explore them to help decide what you want to happen at the end of life. Then, when it comes to trying to expressing those wishes in a legally enforceable way, it’s still best to seek legal advice specific to your jurisdiction.
A Few More Bits for the July Roundup . . .
- Arizona remains a Covid-19 hot spot; this week’s Fleming & Curti podcast updates how the firm is handling the challenges.
- When it comes to organ donation, older clients often joke that they probably no longer have usable parts. Turns out, they are wrong. Various organs last longer than you might think.
- The isolation of the pandemic is making elders more vulnerable to abuse, and it’s unclear whether defunding the police could help keep seniors safer or remove important resources. Meanwhile, the virus has exposed some shortcomings of care in facilities, but options may be limited.
- Do you have or have you inherited a pile of paper savings bonds? Here’s how to redeem them.
- Reminder: The current super-high estate tax exemption might not last; those who might benefit from it, should act soon.