As an estate planning attorney, I am always addressing the issue of mortality. Let's face it: everyone is going to die at some point. Yet I am amazed at how often people pass away without making their final wishes known by leaving verbal or written instructions for their loved ones to follow.
Your final arrangements go beyond what you want to happen to your property, although that should be written down in a last will and testament or a revocable living trust. You must also include what type of funeral arrangements you want and what should happen to your remains after you're gone.
Creating a final arrangements document can ensure your final wishes are carried out upon your death and ease the burden of making those difficult decisions for your loved ones.
How to Make Your Wishes Known
The best way to let your loved ones know about your funeral wishes is to write down a list of specific instructions in a document that is separate from your will or trust. This separate writing should include details about what should and should not be done so your family doesn't have to second guess what you would have wanted to happen.
The type of information to record in your final arrangements document includes:
- Whether you want a funeral or memorial service
- Where the service should be held
- Who should be specifically notified of your death
- Whether you want to be cremated or buried
- Where you would like your ashes stored or disposed of or where you want to be buried
- If you have money set aside to pay for your final expenses and where it is
You never know when your time is up so don't wait to put your wishes in writing. It is also important to let your loved ones know that you have created this separate document and where it is being stored. This way, they can access it at the appropriate time.
Where to Record Your Final Wishes
When you think of your final wishes, it makes sense that a last will and testament comes to mind. You can include your funeral arrangements in your will or trust, but it should not be the only place where you list your final wishes.
Having a last will and testament or revocable living trust is an important part of your estate planning because it's where you record how you want your property to be distributed after you die. Those documents should also include who should be in charge of making sure your property goes where you want it to go.
Usually, by the time your will or trust is located, your loved ones will have already made all of the decisions about the disposition of your remains and memorial. You should have a separate document detailing your funeral arrangements and tell your family about it while you're still alive to ensure your wishes are carried out.
You can also store your funeral arrangements online. Websites such as Parting Wishes, Afternote, and the Last Wishes app can be used for documenting and storing your funeral arrangements as well as your will or trust and other estate planning documents.
If you are not inclined to write down your final wishes or document them online, consider talking to your loved ones about what you want to happen when you die. It could be as simple as saying that you would never want to be buried or you would never want to be cremated. This will go a long way to ease stress and anxiety during a difficult time.