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Have you spoken to any of your family about your final wishes? Or are you finding it difficult to talk about? That’s understandable. It’s tricky to broach the subject. Writing down your final wishes is a good way to make sure your family know what you’d like. It also means you don’t have to talk about the details with them, if you don’t want to.

To help you write your final wishes, we’ve put together a final wishes checklist. Hopefully, it’ll give you the info you need to help you plan what you’d like.

How to write your final wishes

Before looking at what to include in your final wishes how should you record them? Do they need to be written down? Recorded in your will? Or just talked about?

Having a will in place is sensible. It’s typically where you record how your property should be shared out when you pass away. And it should name who’s in charge of this. But families often start plans for a loved one’s funeral long before their will is read. So having a separate final wishes document can be useful. It means that your family have a clear idea of what you’d like to include in your funeral. It can make planning it less stressful too.

So how do you put your final wishes document together?

There’s no need to worry about creating an official-looking document. The best thing to do is to record your final wishes in a clear way and store them somewhere safe. This could be a handwritten document that’s kept in a secure cupboard or drawer at home. Or it could be in a file saved on your computer. You can even use apps and websites to record your final wishes.

However you put your final wishes together make sure the document is clearly labelled and that someone you trust knows where you keep it and how to access it. Ideally, that person will be the one who organises your funeral. So they’ll be aware of everything you’d like. It’s a good idea to sign the document too. That way there’s no confusion as to what you want and who put the document together.

 a bunch of flowers laid on a coffin at a simple funeral service.
"One said 'For if I pop my clogs' on the cover"

"[Dad] was always writing and drawing, and he had little notebooks where he’d put his wishes. One said 'For if I pop my clogs' on the cover."

What to include in your final wishes document

When you put together a final wishes document the main thing that comes to mind might be your funeral. But there are some other things you might want to consider including too. Here’s a list of what to include in your final wishes:

  • Funeral wishes checklist
  • Financial info and requests
  • Medical wishes
  • Legacy requests

Below we’ll go into more detail about what you could include in each of these sections.

Funeral wishes checklist:

How is your funeral going to be paid for?

Perhaps you already have a pre-paid funeral plan in place. If you do, you’ll need to write down the details of the funeral director you went to. This will help your family easily identify who they need to contact to organise the funeral. If you don’t have a funeral plan write down how the funeral will be funded. Whether that’s from your estate, from a life insurance policy, savings or with financial help from family. This will help your family stick to the budget they know they have.

Who would you like to arrange the funeral?

There may be one or more family members or close friends you’d like to arrange your funeral. Perhaps it’s the person you told about your final wishes. Whoever you choose, writing it down in this document will make sure that no questions come up amongst family members about whose responsibility it should be.

Would you like to be buried or cremated?

Think about the details too. Where would you like to be buried? Would you like your ashes to be kept or scattered? Would you like a natural burial? Noting down your preferences will make planning your funeral easier.

Where would you like the funeral service to take place?

This will depend on whether you’re religious or non-religious. Whether you’d like a traditional or more casual funeral. And whether you’re going to be buried or cremated. You could pinpoint a couple of venues that feel right to you to help narrow things down. Or just keep it simple if the detail isn’t as important.

What type of funeral would you like?

A traditional service? Or a celebration of life? You can note down in your final wishes document what you would like the tone of your funeral to be. Details like dress code and music may help family members understand how you’d like the service to feel.

Who do you want to attend the funeral?

It can be difficult for family members to find every single contact you’d like to attend your funeral. So giving them a list of people and their contact details will help them. It also makes sure everyone who’s important to you gets to say goodbye.

What about the details of the service?

If the small details of your funeral service are important to you make sure you note them down too. Think about what music and readings you’d like to have? What type of coffin would you like? What transport would you like you and your family to travel in to the service? Who should lead the service? Would you like any flower arrangements?

What memorial would you like?

Would you like a grave marker? Or an urn for your ashes? What about a memorial bench or tree in your memory? Write down any quotes or messages you’d like included on your memorial too.

Financial info and requests

Even though your will is typically where you leave details about your finances for family, it may be a good idea to add some of this info into your final wishes too. Consider adding in the below details if they’re important to you:

Would you like to make any donations to charity?

Would you like people attending your funeral to make a donation to a charity instead of gifting flowers? Or would you like to make a donation to a charity that’s important to you using some of your savings? Putting this in your final wishes will make your intentions clear to your family and make sure they use your savings in the way that you want them to.

What personal belongings are you leaving behind and who should they go to?

Even though this type of info is usually in your will putting it in your final wishes as well won’t leave family members guessing. And it’s a good way of leaving behind a message for them too.

Do you have any outstanding debts?

Leaving this info behind for family members who’ll be handling your finances is useful. It means they don’t have to go searching for the info. And they won’t come across any surprises. Leave them details of how much you owe, who the lender is and the lender’s contact details. This will help them manage the debt as quickly as possible.

Medical wishes:

Do you want to donate your organs?

Making it known to your family that you want to be an organ donor in your final wishes is sensible. You may have signed up to the NHS organ donation register already.  But it’s worth having a chat with your family about this too. Organ donation needs to happen quickly. So making sure they’re on board with the idea is important. As it’s likely that the doctor will ask for their permission in the event of your death.

Would you like to donate your body to science?

If this is important to you you’ll need to contact a medical school ahead of time. This is because permission can’t be given by anyone else after your death. You need to sign consent forms. And you may have to answer questions too. So just putting this in your final wishes won’t be enough. It’s a good idea to include it though so that family and friends are aware of your wishes and not taken by surprise.

Legacy requests:

Do you have a plan for your digital legacy?

Any email or social media accounts, websites, blogs or personal computer files are all part of your digital legacy. And you may want to have them saved or deleted. To do that you’ll need to let family members know in your final wishes. And you’ll need to leave them a list of your usernames and passwords. Keep in mind that you can add legacy contacts to some social media accounts. This means that only that person will be allowed to manage the account in the event of your death.

Are there any traditions you’d like your family to keep up with?

Your final wishes give you the opportunity to leave a message behind for loved ones too. How would you like them to remember you? Would you like them to meet up annually in your honour? Or keep up with a tradition that’ll help them remember you?

We hope having some help with your final wishes makes it less overwhelming. And now you have a clearer idea of what to include hopefully telling a loved one about your final wishes is a little easier too.

Photo by Nita via Pexels.