How to Make Your Funeral Wishes Known to Your Loved Ones

Making a Written Declaration of Your Final Wishes Will Ease Stress and Anxiety

Mother and adult daughter talking
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As an estate planning attorney, I am always addressing the issue of mortality. Let's face it, everyone is going to die, and yet I am amazed at how many people do not leave any type of verbal or written instructions for their loved ones to follow after they're gone. And no, I am not just referring to instructions about what they would want to happen to their property, which should be written down in a last will and testament or a revocable living trust, but what type of funeral arrangements they would want and what should happen to their remains after they're gone.

Below, you will find a list of tips to follow to make your final wishes known to your loved ones.

4 Tips for Making Your Funeral Wishes Known to Your Loved Ones

  1. Do not make your will or trust the only place where you write down your funeral wishes. While your last will and testament or revocable living trust is the place where you should write down what you want to happen to your property after you die and who should be in charge of making sure that your property goes where you want it to go, your will or trust should not be the only place where you list your funeral wishes. Why not? Because usually by the time your will or trust is located and read, your loved ones will have already made all of the decisions about the disposition of your remains (burial or cremation) and memorial, if any.
  2. Write down your funeral wishes in a writing separate from your will or trust. 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 whether you want a funeral or memorial service and where; whether you want a gathering of friends and family and where; whether you want to be cremated, and, if so, where you would like your ashes to stored or disposed of; and if you want to be buried and where. Singer Janis Joplin, who died at the age of 27, managed to update her will only two days before her death, in which she provided for up to $2,500 to be set aside for a party in her honor. It is also important to let your loved ones know that you have created this separate writing and where it is being stored so that they can access it at the appropriate time.
  1. Use an online service to document your funeral wishes. In this day and age pretty much anything can be found on the internet, and this includes websites for documenting and storing your funeral wishes as well as your will or trust and other estate planning documents. Some of these websites will even allow you to create messages that will be emailed after you die. Check out Parting Wishes, My Last Song - Lifebox, and Funeral Inspirations.
  1. Talk to your loved ones about your funeral wishes. If you are not inclined to write down your final wishes or document them online, then instead, consider talking to your loved ones about your final wishes. 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 and give your loved ones a general idea about the idea of what you would want and do not want.