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How do people see their last days on earth? The answers can surprise you

Forget legacy – many elderly Americans will leave their loved ones with memories when they die.

Nearly seven out of 10 Americans (69%) say they will be remembered for the experiences and moments they shared with family and friends, followed by the quality of their marriages and then passions or hobbies, according to a study by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave. Being remembered for the amount of wealth they have accumulated was at the bottom, whether they had investable assets of over $ 1 million or below $ 50,000. The survey included 3,000 Americans 55 and older.

Of course, many people over 55 also said that they will protect their loved ones after they are gone and do not want their deaths to cause a financial burden. But they are also too scared to talk about going away, or the years that go up to it. Adult children also often refrain from discussing financial and health commitments with their older parents, for fear of disturbing them or offending them.

See: This is the most useful thing you can do for your family before you die

"We live in a world where we are talking about one's last chapter or end of life, is very sensitive and most choose not to do so, says Ken Dychtwald, founder and CEO of Age Wave, a research and consulting company for pension problems.

Dychtwald, who is also a psychologist and gerontologist, spoke to MarketWatch about the unexpected desires of the elderly Americans have for their end of life. This interview was edited for clarity and length.

MarketWatch: How well do Americans inherit planning? Where do they go down?

Dychtwald: ] Very few people set up the mechanisms for transferring these ideas and legacy statements, which is a practical side for all of this: whoever they want to be in the last chapters does not have to be sad or sickly. Of life it seems the best stage in life, and in other studies we see satisfaction and happiness soar in the last decade of life. It's almost counterintuitive.

There are three main components for older planning.

A will. Even for people over 55 in this country, only 55% of the population over 55 had a will, Age Wave found. Some high-profile examples of people who died without will include music legend Aretha Franklin and Prince. Wills is not just for the rich and famous, they are a way to make sure your wishes are clear, your property is shared the way you want, and they help prevent court or family struggle.

An advance directive or health care professional. These communicate with their loved ones, your life experiences you should become ill or find yourself in a health crisis.

A lasting power of attorney. There is the ability to decide who you want to handle your financial or legal issues.

Many of the respondents surveyed by Age Wave thought only rich people should worry about this, and only 1

8% of the population over the age of 55 have all of these core elements in the planning of the heritage. And a legacy is about more than money. Write a letter you want your children or grandchildren to read a day, sit down and share with a video recorder so that stories will live forever, or have photo albums organized in a way they understand what they are. Not enough people say they've got it done, said Dychtwald.

MW: What are the obstacles (real or imagined) that people must get their cases in order?

Dychtwald: Hurdler is often psychological. I'll give you an example. My wife for 35 years, we have a good relationship and she is the strongest and healthiest person I have met. But she had replaced her hips and we were told that our will and health directive had to be in place. Here we are, my wife and I started this company, but we didn't want to talk about the possibility that she wouldn't get out of surgery. It was a morbid, terrible thought, we didn't want to. Talking about it, especially if it's right next to an operation or health crisis, is a very unpleasant scene, and we'd rather see "America's Got Talent" or take a walk in the park.

I think Americans get used to the idea that we can live forever. The end of life, or death, is not around us as much as it was in all previous centuries. And it's not wise. It's a weird thing. Something that affects 100% of us is not covered as often as colleges or buying a home, so people live with it as a bit of a mystery.

MW: Is there ever a place of wealth in these memories, and how can they get the balance?

Dychtwald: We asked people if anyone died and they did not have their basic issues in order, how would they be seen as a person? Answer No. 1 from survey participants is that they will be considered irresponsible. Like "Dad was a nice guy, but what a mess he was." That legacy and impression of you will be distracted or even damaged. And then we tried to figure out when people were planning their legacy plans and what we learned was waiting for a crisis or last minute of life is not a good idea. We must have these ideas in place with 50, well before any crisis.

When you come by car and want to drive safely, put on a seat belt. There are two things to do with inheritance – make sure you have the right documents and guidelines, that's the simple part. The difficult part thinks of who you are as a person. What people think I tell us in our study, they reached a point in life where they want to be their best themselves, not just so they are remembered that way, but so they can feel that sense they have made the best of their lives. When we asked what the ingredients are, it has money to be safe and secure, surely, but the big thing people say they want in the bouquet in their life story is experience and good memories.

Two weeks ago, my wife and I saw Elton John's farewell tour. It was two and a half hours, but he spent most of the night thanking everyone for millions of memories in his life as a practitioner. Although he had his ups and downs in life, his gratitude filled the stadium. We looked at him as taking this phase of his life to shape the way people would think of him and wished all his fans to know how much he appreciated them.

Also see: What's next after planning your pension? Help your children and grandchildren plan for theirs.

MW: With all the technology available to keep people alive, it seems that most people define a "good death" surrounded by loved ones, while "receiving every possible medical intervention" came as least important. Can you explain what that means?

Dychtwald: A good death does not mean that death is good. People will not lose cognitive function and they will not suffer. Their ideal death conditions would be surrounded by loved ones, right up to the end. Then they will have the dignity of maintaining mental clarity, and they will gladly be at home or somewhere they prefer. They are more concerned with the quality of life.

We all had a mother or father or aunt or uncle who passed in a very unpleasant way. We asked what is a good death in relation to their families? And they said they didn't want their families to be charged at the end, and they didn't want their families to experience death problems.

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