Considerations for final planning:
*Don't put living wills, funeral plans or other "advanced directives" in your will or safe deposit box: they may not be read in time. Leave copies with your children, intimate friends, your doctors, your lawyers -- wherever they're most likely to be found. Go over the contents with these people and make sure you have their support.
*See a lawyer if you expect to be caring for a dying or incapacitated spouse (or relative). Frequently, a transfer of assets is necessary to insure there will be adequate funds to take care of both the ailing and non-ailing spouse (or relative).
*Discuss your wishes with your doctor and your family if you plan to donate organs or tissues after death. Even if you have filled out a universal donor's card, family consent may be necessary to remove an organ.
*Make contingency arrangements if you plan to leave your body to a medical school. Specify your next choice of action if the body is not accepted.
*Review and update wills, health insurance and life insurance periodically and after major changes in your life, such as births, deaths, marriages and divorces.
* Don't put off all planning until you are old or ill. Life, not death, is uncertain.
*Feel free to express your wishes on any aspects of your final care. John Laster, partner in a D.C. law firm that focuses on problems of aging and illness, says he's had clients write, "Eulogies at my funeral should be short and, if possible, humorous, and should not be given by lawyers." Laster, who recalls following his late father's very detailed funeral instructions eight years ago, calls such directives "a great comfort at a hard time."
*Take advantage of information available. Subjects and sources include:
1. Information on living wills, funeral services, wills, organ donations, $1, from the Older Women's League (OWL), 1325 G St. NW, Lower Level B, Washington, D.C. 20005. (202) 783-6686.
Upcoming from OWL: A report on death and public policy including living wills and durable power of attorney, available in August for $3.50. A report from last week's OWL conference, "Taking Charge of the End of Your Life," available this fall.
2. Information on, and model drafts of, living wills and grants of durable power of attorney: Concern for Dying, 250 W. 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10107. (212) 246-6962.
3. A four-page planning tool, "Putting My House in Order," on which you can note funeral plans and financial and property information: Continental Association of Funeral and Memorial Societies, 2001 S St. NW, Suite 530, Washington, D.C. 20009. (202) 745-0634. Cost: 50 cents each.