In continuation of our discussion about planning End of Life Celebrations this week, I thought today it was important to continue our conversation from yesterday about the complications that arise when planning.

As I mentioned, the emotional toll losing a loved one adds to planning a service can be overwhelming and all consuming. I know too many people who look back on a service for their loved one and regret not including certain things or not having other people involved. 

While it's not a particularly enjoyable conversation to have, discussing your wishes for your end of life celebration is so important. Having these conversations with your partner or family and getting your directives in writing will allow your family to celebrate your life without the added stress of trying to ensure they honor your memory in a way you would be proud of.

Here are some tips for conversations to have:

1) DNR- this is one of the more difficult parts to discuss, but you need to lay out what your wishes are in regards to medical intervention. I've been involved with family while they were making these decisions because there was no directive and watching them have to make decisions was so difficult. Discuss what kind of interventions you would want and also a time frame you wish for them to try to stabilize you. While every situation is different and there is no cut-and-dry answer for every situation, having a general guideline will make these decisions far easier for your loved ones.

2) Draft a Will- this takes time and careful consideration depending upon your marital status, family situation, and assets and it will likely change over time. It's never to early to draft a will and then just update it as events arise that necessitate a change. You can use simple websites like Legal Zoom, retain a lawyer, or even write it out and have it notarized. Make sure you let several family members or friends know where they can find your will. You have the option to give them sealed, notarized copies to hold on to, but that can be tricky in certain family situations, so do what feels right for your situation.

3) Cremation or Burial- you have the ability to pay into a funeral expense account immediately or even pay off an entire service and burial in advance. If you have the assets to do so, this makes the final planning so much less burdensome for your loved ones. One of the first steps in that process is determining if you wish to be cremated or buried. You can reach out to various cemeteries and funeral homes to determine pricing of both options and decide what is most important for you. If you do wish to be cremated, you can direct what should be done with your ashes. Some people opt to have them scattered, some want to have their ashes buried or placed in a family vault, or some wish them to be distributed among family members. There are some truly unique options as well- having a small amount of your ashes given to family members to be used to create ink for tattoos, you can have them incorporated into fireworks, or even used to help construct coral reefs. The options are endless, so I am including an article with links to various resources if you wish to be cremated.  If you wish to be buried, you can pre-determine all of your selections and also purchase a cemetery plot.

4) Memorial Plans- do you want a funeral in a church? Do you want a quiet gathering with a burial on your property? Do you want to forgo the visitations and funerals and have a party instead? You have an opportunity to arrange your final send off in a way that honors your memory and your life in any way you choose. Based on your family situation and your wishes, it may be best to write a very detailed plan- you may also wish to lay out only the basics and allow your loved ones to add their own touches. Either way, make sure you express what is important to you. It will be so helpful to your friends and family after you pass to have a direction to proceed with. 3 common rules of thumb to use when planning a service are that you want the service to show how much they will be missed, showcase the life of the person, and showcase how many people loved and cherished them. In other words, you want to consider the gestures and touches in and around the service that show how much they were loved, items/songs/spoken word that define the person's life, and lastly, the pictures/tokens/and inclusion of all of the people who were touched by the loved one's life. It's a little hard to consider all 3 of these things when you are talking about yourself. This is where it is helpful to have these conversations with friends and family because they will be able to help make sure all of the important people, moments, and tokens are covered. 

An important add to this topic is the discussion of visitation and open/closed casket if applicable. Whatever your preferences on this topic, it is very important to make them clear. I have seen so many families stressed and angered when making this specific decision, so make sure to include this in your memorial plans.

5) In Memory- you can make a decision to have donations placed in your name, in lieu of flowers or food donations to family, upon your passing. You can choose a charity or organization close to your heart or even establish a scholarship or grant to be overseen by a family member/bank/business. If you wish to create a scholarship or grant, it may be best to visit a local bank or city organization. Grant Space also has some amazing resources to begin the process online. There are so many options when it comes to your legacy, make sure to do research and choose what is right for you.

6) Money- money will tear people apart in life and in death. So many families are left struggling to pay for final expenses when a loved one passes. It's a weight off of you knowing you have provided for your final expenses and it will also be one less thing for your family to worry about as they celebrate you. You can speak to your place of worship, a funeral home of your choosing, or even set up a fund at your bank specifically for final expenses and list it in your will. Your employer may offer final expense insurance, but you can also purchase it privately. You can also add it on to your current life insurance policy. There are many options to make it both affordable and easy for your loved ones to access upon your passing.

7) Executor- choosing the executor can be a difficult decision. Certain family dynamics can make this a difficult decision, as well as unforeseen circumstances that may arise after that person has been chosen. Each situation is very different, but be sure to choose someone you trust without hesitation and you know you can count on to be present, take the lead in planning, and ensure your wishes are followed through on. You can select someone other than your partner to be executor. I know from experience within my own family that choosing an outside person, like a family friend, can be beneficial. It gives the spouse time to grieve and spend time with family without the added stress of being responsible for all of the planning.

Planning your last celebration is difficult and not an easy conversation to have, but I promise, you will find peace in having these plans in place and knowing that your family doesn't have to stress or worry about what decisions to make.

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