Six Tips for Talking to Your Family About End-of-Life Wishes

Sarah J. Randall

Author: Sarah J. Randall

POST DATE: 2.27.23
Ccha  Estate Planning

There is no getting around it: talking with family about your end-of-life wishes is difficult. Even putting plans in place to take care of your family once you pass can be challenging for many people. In fact, most Americans do not have a will or estate plan in place. You are not alone if you have not discussed your end-of-life wishes with your family.

While it may be a difficult conversation to have, discussing your plans and preferences with your loved ones is helpful in preparing your family for the future. Here are six tips that can help you plan to have this meaningful conversation with your family.

Tip 1: Prepare

Before alerting your family, figure out what you wish to discuss and the most critical points you want to convey. Writing a list of key points can be helpful. It is also important to consider more than just what will happen once you pass. Planning for incapacity can be even more critical than discussing your last wishes or how you want to distribute your property. Choosing an executor who you trust is also critical. It may be helpful to make sure the person you want to appoint as your executor is willing to perform the duties that come with that role.

After figuring out what you want to discuss, determine how you wish to broach the subject with your family members. Refrain from springing the conversation on them. This conversation will be difficult for your loved ones as well. Give them time to prepare too.

Image of mother and daughter making end of life plans

Tip 2: Do Not Procrastinate

Though preparing is essential, we sometimes use preparation as an excuse to procrastinate. It is easy to procrastinate so long that the conversation never happens. Early in the preparation process, try to set a reasonable schedule for yourself and stick to it as closely as you can.

Tip 3: Choose Somewhere Appropriate

Try to find an appropriate setting for your conversation. Given the difficult subjects you will discuss, try to find somewhere private to accommodate everyone. There are probably better times to have this discussion than at a family party or a breakfast out.

The conversation may be easier if you get everyone together at your or a family member’s home. Though discussing your end-of-life wishes with everyone at once may be ideal, it is not possible for everyone. If you cannot gather everyone together, try to avoid leaving anyone important out of the loop for too long.

Tip 4: Listen Carefully and Speak Confidently

It is often helpful to politely ask your loved ones to listen to what you have to say before responding. When they respond, listen carefully and do your best to address any concerns they may have. Part of the point of having this conversation is to prepare them for the future.

That being said, these are your end-of-life wishes, not theirs. Be confident and only make changes to your plans if you want to. If a family member disagrees, be clear that these are your decisions to make.

Tip 5: Discuss All the Essential Topics

There are several critical topics you should consider addressing when discussing your end-of-life wishes. Critical points you may want to discuss include:

  • How you would like your final wishes to be carried out;
  • Who you would like to carry out your last wishes;
  • Who you would prefer to take guardianship of any dependents or pets;
  • How you hope to spend your final days;
  • Any professional, spiritual, or religious support you wish to have present;
  • How medical decisions should be made if you are unable to make them yourself;
  • Who will make medical decisions when your preferences are not clear; and
  • Anything else that is important to you.

These are your decisions to make, so anything you do or do not wish to discuss is ultimately up to you.

Tip 6: Have an Estate Plan to Formalize Your Wishes

In addition to having a discussion with your loved ones, it is essential to have a comprehensive estate plan in place to make your end-of-life wishes legally enforceable. Having a will, a power of attorney, and an advanced healthcare directive in place will go a long way toward protecting your interests and your loved ones.

At Church Church Hittle and Antrim, we understand how difficult making preparations for your end-of-life journey can be. CCHA Law has served clients in Indiana for 140 years. We provide personalized estate planning services to suit your needs. Our attorneys will give you the attention you deserve and always make themselves available to answer your questions and address your concerns. Contact CCHA Law today so that we can help you craft an estate plan tailored to your unique needs and goals.