Roadblocks to End of Life Planning and How to Overcome Them

By Gina Vliet

Having a Will, Power of Attorney, and Personal Directive are generally what’s considered an end of life/estate plan. But did you know that’s just the beginning?


A good END OF LIFE PLAN contains more than just a few key documents:

  1. Will (including choice of Executor)
  2. Power of Attorney (financial proxy)
  3. Advance Care Plan/Personal Directive/Protection Mandate (health proxy)

You also need to cover the ABC’s…

  1. Assets: An up to date list of assets, including digital assets
  2. Body disposition plan (preplanning package, insurance, or savings account)
  3. Contact List: An up to date contact list (Not just the bank and stakeholders in the estate, but those personal connections you want notified in case of critical illness or death)
  4. Conversations: With those who are part of the process and those who will be impacted/need to know what’s going on
  5. Details: Final wishes, including celebration of life planning
  6. Emergency Funds: readily accessible money put aside for big life changes (illness, injury, job loss)
  7. Financial plan: For final expenses and your legacy


Big scary list, I know. The most common roadblock for not getting plans in place? It’s work. And you don’t want to think about death and dying. I get it. But we’re all mortal and being proactive is far less work than being reactive during a time of need. So how do we tackle these roadblocks?


COMMON Roadblocks: time, money, knowledge, emotions

Whatever your reason/excuse, what it really means is that your end of life planning is not a priority. How do you make it a priority? You figure out how to navigate over or around that roadblock.


TIME Roadblocks

  • If you don’t know what’s involved or how long something will take, you are not inclined to do it.
  • You are busy caregiving others.
  • You think you’re too young to die, or you plan to live forever (Denial won’t help, dear).


Timing can also be an issue. We tend to be reactive when it comes to this stuff, and it’s usually when we are in crisis that we think about dealing with end of life plans.


STRATEGIES for overcoming time roadblocks

  • Start with something you know about, have heard about, such as a will or funeral pre-plan.
  • Get educated. Do some research and tackle something…anything. The trick is just to begin.
  • Hire a professional. It will help you be more efficient. Doing it yourself is great, but you get it wrong it’ll cost more in the end.
  • Caregiver support and resources can come from many places and in many forms. Ask for help. People feel good when they help others, so you are giving them a gift when you allow them to help you.
  • Denial won’t stop death from happening so find a way to come to terms with mortality. Participate in a Death Café. Talk to a trusted friend. Talk to a complete stranger. Do some reading. Take a walk through your local cemetery. Visit some local funeral homes. Change is easier to take in small doses, so start with something non-threatening and work your way up the bigger things.
  • Reflect on how much time you may have left on this earth. Time moves at different speeds for different people. The older we get, the more aware we are of the passage of time.


FINANCIAL Roadblocks

  • Assume retirement funds will cover all costs associated with aging.
  • Know retirement funds and pension won’t be enough but find the idea too awful to think about.
  • It costs money to die; more than most people realize.
  • You don’t have the funds: future expenses not a priority when you need money for present expenses.
  • Assumption your estate funds will cover costs.
  • Don’t want to pay a professional.


STRATEGIES for overcoming financial roadblocks

  • Early and regular reviews of your aging/retirement plan will make it easier to come up with an affordable strategy.
  • Regardless of the size of your estate, money from the estate will not be immediately available to your executor. Ensure some funds are designated for final expenses.
  • Whether you choose to put money aside in a savings account, a final expenses insurance policy, or in a funeral pre-plan, you always have the option to make smaller payments over time.
  • Not everyone can afford the Taj Mahal; have a pre-plan that fits your budget. You can always change it later.
  • Talk to your financial advisor/bank/accountant to figure out how you can use the money you may already have saved to best advantage.


KNOWLEDGE Roadblocks

  • You don’t know what you don’t know, and starting from scratch can be quite overwhelming.
  • Assumption that having a will and funeral pre-plan are all the end of life planning needed.
  • Think you don’t have any assets, and you don’t want a funeral.
  • You assume end of life documents are a one and done thing, and you made up a will twenty years ago…didn’t you?
  • You’re not sure know how to have THE conversation.


STRATEGIES for overcoming knowledge roadblocks

  • Choose a topic that interests you and feed your curiosity by doing some research. Google it, go to the library, ask around…whichever method you prefer.
  • Take a class, attend a seminar. Many financial institutes, funeral homes, financial advisors, and seniors’ and community associations offer information sessions for free or relatively inexpensively.
  • Participate in a Death Café or other death positive events in your area.
  • Do some reading.
  • Make an asset list, including your digital assets. You likely have something started for your insurance. Build on it.
  • Seek advice from a professional who works in the end of life industry. Find a local death doula, executor advisor, funeral services provider, downsizing expert, estate accountant, life transition specialist, and ask them if they have any free advice for you.
  • Talk to people who have gone through it and learn from them.
  • Let people know you are open to speak about end of life, death and dying. People around you may be willing to talk about it, but don’t want to bring up the topic. Give them permission.


EMOTIONAL Roadblocks

  • You don’t like to TALK about death, or your loved ones certainly don’t.
  • You don’t want to THINK about death.
  • You know it needs to be done, but you’re procrastinating.


STRATEGIES for overcoming emotional roadblocks

  • Feel your feelings, but then try to figure out what you’re going to do about them.
  • Join a Death Café. Find like-minded people and practice on them!
  • Take baby steps. Change is uncomfortable, but inevitable.
  • Tell those who do not want to acknowledge (your/their own) mortality that you need them to do this for you, not for them, because you need to get your EOL planning taken care of.
  • Plan your own memorial! Then take that plan and speak to your loved ones about how they would like to remember you. Remember, whether it’s a funeral, memorial, or wake, it’s for those you leave behind, not for yourself. Planning your own is a fun way to begin that important conversation.
  • Plan a death playlist. It’s a no-pressure way to think about mortality and what’s important to you, and a small task to work on for your end of life plan.
  • Have a Deathday on your Birthday! Reflect on and discuss your death each year on your birthday. Death is as much a part of life as birth, so why not celebrate them both?
  • Procrastination is never about not having time, it’s about not making something a priority. Consider making your end of life planning a priority. Check in with your values to see where making the process for those you care about easier.



Everyone’s life has to be closed at the end of it. We plan for end of life out of love for those we will some day leave behind. When we die, we will not be there to support our loved ones through the change. Either we make it easy for them, or we make it difficult. Today we still have a choice. Tomorrow, who knows.