How to Talk About Final Wishes With Loved Ones

By Neptune Society

Making the decision to preplan for your final wishes can bring you peace of mind. You know that plans are in place and your family won’t have to worry about making these decisions for you. You can also prepay for cremation or other final arrangements to remove the financial burden from loved ones in the future.

But these peace-of-mind benefits aren’t complete if you haven’t discussed your final wishes with relevant loved ones. It’s worth approaching that discussion even if you think the person in question will be difficult or will not agree with what you have decided.

If no one knows that you planned for your final arrangements, then it’s not a guarantee that they’ll be carried out. Someone else has to be aware of your wishes and act on them at the time of need.

Letting others know about your plans removes a burden from them. Your family knows they don’t have to worry about making these decisions during a time of grief. Stepping up now to make these decisions for yourself also removes the risk that family members may argue over the best way to mourn or celebrate you in the future.

Immediate Family

Loved ones, including family and close friends, should be include in conversations regarding your final wishes and plans. Many times, people preplan final wishes for the benefit of their family.

It’s a good idea to tell all of your close family — that way no one feels left out or surprised when the time comes. Talking about your final arrangements with everyone early further reduces the risks of family disagreements and stresses at the time of need.

While it might be tempting to start with the easiest individuals and work your way to more difficult discussions, it’s often better to talk to your closest relatives first. Otherwise, they may hear the information from someone else before you talk to them, and that can make the discussion that much harder.

When possible, start with your spouse or next of kin; this is the person who will likely be responsible for making the bulk of legal decisions during the time of need.

In cases where you think your spouse or next of kin may be the “difficult” family member, you might consider sharing first with someone close who you trust, such as an adult child or sibling. That person can then support you in further discussions with loved ones.

Who else needs to know about my final wishes?

If you’ve appointed anyone outside of these groups as your power of attorney, you will want to inform them of your plans. Your POA may be partly responsible for ensuring your wishes are adhered to at the end of life and beyond, so ensure they understand both the letter and spirit of your final arrangements.

When you approach anyone to discuss your final arrangements, make sure they know why you are making these decisions now. Suddenly talking about final wishes can upset your family and friends if they don’t understand the context.

Unless you are dealing with a terminal illness, make sure that your family knows you are making final arrangement decisions to be proactive. Share with them your hope that preplanning will provide peace of mind for everyone and remove potential burdens from them in the future.

Try to stay upbeat and positive; you want family and friends to know that you are serious about your decisions even though you still anticipate living for many more years.

Planning ahead for the talk can also help reduce how difficult it might be. Choose the right time and place, be honest in your discussion, and bring someone supportive of your decisions if necessary.

Take your time and have meaningful discussions

Whatever you do, don’t rush through the process of informing loved ones about your final arrangements. While you want to tell key individuals as soon as possible, you don’t have to inform all family members at the same time.

Rushing through these discussions can leave family with questions and misunderstandings, and they may not realize how much thought and work you put into preplanning.

When you begin your discussions with family members, ask the people you talk to not to discuss your plans with anyone else until you’ve had a chance to meet with everyone you intend to. That helps ensure speculation and misinformation doesn’t prejudice anyone to your plans before you even talk to them.