Sharing your final wishes with your family can feel like an intimidating and scary process. You may be worried about your family not accepting your decisions or someone saying something during your conversation that causes an argument among family members. These types of feelings and concerns are completely normal. However, it’s important to remember that expressing and documenting your final wishes is a significant life step and one that would benefit both you and your family. Preparing for the conversation can help you navigate through any apprehension you may have. 

How to start a conversation

How you start and approach the conversation is entirely up to you, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. No one knows and understands your family as you do, and only you know the right place and time to have the conversation. 

While it may initially seem like your family would prefer to avoid the funeral conversation altogether, in reality, you may discover your family finds relief and comfort in the fact that you’ve shared your feelings and thoughts with them about your funeral. Sharing your final wishes will allow your family to understand your perspective, move forward in agreement, and meaningfully share in your memorial planning.

Why a will or trust isn’t enough

Everyone agrees that having a plan in place for what you’d like done with your personal property after you pass is a good idea. And, if you’re like most people, you probably assume that if you have a last will or irrevocable trust your final wishes will be carried out. For the most part you’d be right. 

However, there are a few things to consider before documenting your funeral wishes. Your last will can include your funeral wishes, but it shouldn’t be the only place they are documented. Funerals happen quickly, usually in a few days, and by the time your family has found or read the will or trust document the funeral has passed. To avoid this common problem, write down your final wishes in a document that is separate from your will or trust.

Your final wishes can be captured in any format and can be as detailed or as simple as you like. The important thing is that you document your wishes and inform your family of where the document can be found.

Here is a list to help you get started:

  • Burial preference
  • Burial
  • Cremation
  • Type of ceremony
  • Traditional Church Service
  • Informal Service
  • Home Service
  • Customized or Personalized Service
  • Chosen funeral home
  • List of speakers and pallbearers
  • Music choices
  • Flowers and other decorations
  • Organization or charity of your choice to receive donations 
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