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The Gift of Purposeful Planning

Six Things to Coordinate Now For Peace of Mind Later

Providing your loved ones with a plan outlining your last wishes can be an enormous gift now AND later. With a solid plan in place, your family members will know your wishes, how to wrap up loose ends in the manner you desire, and ensure that ministries close to your heart are remembered. Advance planning doesn’t have to be overly complex. What can you do right now to help your loved ones have a clear direction?

Designate a Patient Advocate

Who would you like to make decisions on your behalf regarding your care, custody and medical treatment in case you are unable to do so? Now is a great time to name this person, while you have the ability to choose. You should name this individual as your Durable Power of Attorney for Medical and Mental Health Treatment Decisions. This document is also called a Patient Advocate Designation. Your Patient Advocate will follow your desires if you become mentally incapacitated, as the law concludes that you no longer have the power to make your own personal decisions.

If you do not have a Patient Advocate, probate court will appoint someone else as your guardian. And it may not be your spouse. This is because the law seeks to protect the interests of your “presumptive heirs,” who are typically all your family members. To avoid probate court filing fees, delays and other significant costs, not to mention the emotional, familial upheaval, plan ahead and name your Patient Advocate ahead of time. Generally, your Patient Advocate should be one individual (not multiple children, for example) to ensure clear direction. You should also sign a HIPAA Authorization to give them access to your health  .

Name a Durable Financial Power of Attorney

Similar to designating a Patient Advocate, naming a financial advocate or a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Matters, helps avoid complications later. If you are mentally incapacitated, the law will conclude that you cannot conduct your own financial affairs. The law’s answer to this situation is a probate court conservatorship. Family members will have to file a petition, and delays and filing fees, and other significant costs will follow.

To avoid this, name your Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Matters. Under this document, you, as the “Principal,” appoint an “Agent” to handle your financial matters. This person can sign tax returns, access bank accounts and pay bills, fund assets into your personal trust, and sell real estate on your behalf. You may appoint more than one person (such as multiple children) to act as your Agent.

Create a Living Will

A Living Will is an expression of your wish to not be kept alive by extraordinary means if your death is imminent. Health care providers will generally look to your Agent under your Health Care Power of Attorney for guidance prior to relying on your direction in your Living Will. Your Living Will serves as a back-up to your Health Care Power of Attorney.

Designate a Funeral Representative

Do you have detailed wishes regarding your funeral arrangements? Make sure these requests are carried out by designating a Funeral Representative. Michigan law provides for the designation of a “Funeral Representative” who has the right and power under Michigan law to make decisions about funeral arrangements and the handling, disposition, or disinterment of your body, including decisions about cremation. If you select cremation, the Funeral Representative’s powers include the right to retrieve your cremated remains immediately after cremation from a funeral establishment, and the right to possess them prior to disposition.

Review Your Beneficiary Designations

When you opened a retirement account or completed your life insurance policy, you likely filled out a “beneficiary designation form” that indicates how your life insurance proceeds or your retirement benefits will be distributed upon your death. The retirement account custodian or insurance company must distribute those assets at your death to whomever you designated on the form. Now is an opportune time to review, and if necessary, update the names listed to ensure the correct individuals are listed. You may consider becoming a member of the Legacy Society, which is for those who have named the Beacon Hill Foundation as a beneficiary in their wills. One easy way to do so, without rewriting your will, is by naming the Foundation as a life insurance policy designee. Or, another simple option is to have your Beacon Hill refundable entrance fee donated back to the Foundation.

Payable on Death Accounts

Who will receive your checking, savings or investment accounts after you pass? Your financial institution is obligated to distribute your account to the person you have designated as the beneficiary. Some families choose to add a “child named Charity” to their wills. By this method, for example, if a couple had four children, each of the children would receive 1/5 of their belongings, and the remaining 1/5 could go toward charity. The advantages of a “payable on death account” are speed and simplicity. Your assets can be transferred to your beneficiary quickly and without cost. Check with your financial institution to review and possibly update the individual named as your beneficiary.

Making clear choices in these six areas and discussing them with your loved ones will help ensure your final wishes are carried out in the manner you want. While we never know the road ahead, planning ahead can ease some of the stress and indecision that comes with losing a loved one. And giving your loved ones extra peace is the best, end-of-life gift you can give.

For each of these steps, it is important to discuss how and when to put these documents in place with your attorney. For a helpful outline, check out A Guide to Medical and Legal Decisions, prepared by the Michigan Legislature. And, through Beacon Hill Foundation’s partnership with Barnabas Foundation, you have direct access to this kind of trusted planning support. At no cost to you, you can speak with a planner who will help you identify a plan that honors God, cares for your family and furthers the important mission of your favorite ministries.

Learn more by contacting Andi Allen at (616) 608-8285 or email:

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Beacon Hill at Eastgate is a distinctive, not-for-profit retirement community located in Grand Rapids’ desirable Eastgate neighborhood.

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