Documents Every COPDer Should Have - Part 2

Last updated: September 2020

This is part 2 of "Documents Every COPDer Should Have. For part 1, click here.

I have been asked several times what medical documents those of us with COPD should have and how do they go about preparing them. Besides having a living will, anyone with a chronic illness such as COPD should have a final will and testament outlining what they want done with their belongings after their death, as hard as it is to think about.

Final Will and Testament:

You'd be surprised how when a person dies intestate, (without a will), the arguments and fights between family members that can be caused. Not to mention the red tape they have to go through to get your affairs settled. When you die without a will the laws of the state where you reside will determine how your property is distributed upon your death. This includes any bank accounts, securities, real estate, and other assets you own at the time of death. Without a Will the distributing of everything you own is taken out of your hands and put in the hands of a court appointed attorney that has no idea as to whom you would really want your things to go to or how you want your finances distributed.

As hard as it is to think about, anyone with COPD needs a will because no matter how young you are, you could have an acute COPD exacerbation tomorrow and die. And no matter how nice you think your family is, not having a will can bring out the worst in them. I know many of you might feel you can't afford to go to a lawyer to have a will drawn up, but you don't need a lawyer to draw up a Will. You can do it yourself, have it witnessed and notarized and it is as legal as one a lawyer drew up.

If you don't know how to draw up a Will look online and you can find a lot of templates and direction giving you the information you need to draw a very professional looking will and appoint an Executor. An Executor will see to it that the terms of your Will are carried out, so pick someone you trust. You're Will insures your belongings, whether it be a lot of money or just a few personal belongings, will go to the people you want to have them and not someone a court decides should have them.

Hopefully having a Will and Executor stops any fighting in the family although that can't be guaranteed. Be sure to keep your Will up to date and change it as needed. I've had to change my Will and Executor three times over the last few years. Many of my personal things I have already given to the person once named in my Will. At my age, having severe COPD, and living on SS, I find things I would be giving a loved one in my Will make great gifts, and I get great pleasure being able to watch my loved ones enjoy the gift while I'm still alive. So every year or two look over your Will and make sure there is nothing in your Will you want to change and make sure you want the Executor to stay the same too. Keep a copy of your Will with your other important papers and give one to your Executor.

Burial Plans

The last thing all COPDers should have is a written burial plan. I know it is very hard to think about dying but it is an inevitable fact of life and needs to be dealt with. COPD is very unpredictable. Like in my case, right now I'm sitting here writing this article, but, I'm fully aware of the fact I could get up from my chair and have an exacerbation, cardiac or pulmonary arrest that will cause my death. So several years ago I sat down and decided what I wanted done upon my death. It was a lot easier for me since I had no one I needed to consult on what I decided to do. Once I had in my mind what I wanted done the first thing I did was get in touch with a funeral home in the area where I live, told them exactly what I wanted done upon my death and arrange with them to carry out my wishes. I also acquired a prepaid insurance policy to cover the costs.

As I've moved to different states the first things I do after getting settled in is contact a funeral home in the area, make them aware of what I want and transfer the insurance policy to them. Having a burial insurance policy is different than just having a prepaid burial plan. By having a policy I'm free to transfer it anytime I want to any funeral home I choose.

After I had done this I made my wishes and desires known to my family. I feel it's one more thing they don't have to worry about or deal with after I'm gone. All they have to do is call the number I gave them and a funeral home will take care of the rest. The person I chose to be the executor of my Will also has the information she needs concerning my funeral arrangements. I also have the number of my funeral home listed on my Living Will so if by some chance I should die in a hospital they have orders to call the funeral home.

I know many of you live with a spouse, a significant other, children, grandchildren, and various other family members. For you making final arrangements will be a little harder as you will have to discuss with them what you would like and most of you will want to take into consideration what they want. Talking about death and dying and final arrangements becomes a very touchy subject as most of your loved ones will not want to think about the fact you could die at any time. So you may have to force the conversation by letting them know you have no intentions of dying but you need them to be aware of the type of final arrangements you want. A person's final arrangements can be a simple cremation, very elaborate affair with a horse drawn carriage and marching band, or a good old-fashioned Irish wake.

No matter what you decide you want for your final arrangements money will be a major factor. When discussing the type of final arrangements you want you also need to discuss how they are to be paid for. If you don't have this discussion in advance, not only will your death cause your family to grieve, but can cause a great financial strain on your family as well. When a person is grieving having to decide and make funeral arrangements only makes the grieving worse and they become vulnerable to overspending on your funeral when a simple cremation is what you really wanted. So as hard as it may be (on you and them), you need to have that discussion with your loved ones letting them know what your final wishes are.

Once you decide what you want, write out a plan detailing the agreed-upon arrangements and how they are to be paid for. This will take a lot of stress and guilt off your loved ones knowing they are fulfilling your wishes. You may want to get a burial insurance policy. This will be separate from any insurance policy you now carry. Its sole purpose is to paid for your funeral. The one I have is interest-bearing so even if some of the services go up in price over the years the amount of my policy rises also.

I made my final arrangements in New Mexico six years ago and from that day on I have never worried about putting my loved ones in debt should I die. All my loved ones have to do is call the number of the funeral home and they will take care of the rest. Including my cremation, and sending my ashes to the military cemetery in Salisbury where I will be interred with my husband and have a small memorial service.

The last thing I have in my burial instructions is that I do not want anyone sending flowers, instead send the money they would've spent on flowers to their favorite charity. Having flowers or not, a large or small service, cremation or a casket in ground or mausoleum burial are some things you should finalize. Remember to let your family know that just because you're making these arrangements does not mean you are going to die. I made my arrangement six years ago and haven't needed to use them yet, but it nice to know they're in place when needed.

Breathe deep and easy.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on March 2, 2018, Mary Ultes passed away. Mary was an engaged advocate for the COPD community who strived to help people live fulfilling lives. She is deeply missed.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

More on this topic

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.

Community Poll

Have you taken our COPD In America survey yey?