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The Importance Of Discussing Funeral Wishes

This week is Dying Matter Awareness Week.  The campaign is to raise awareness of the need to talk about death. This year's theme is the way we talk about Dying Matters, highlighting the language we use and the importance of open, honest dialogue regarding death.

So many are reluctant to discuss what arrangements they want to happen when they die.  In particular often people have not discussed their funeral wishes with their family. This can leave in a difficult position trying to ‘second guess’ what the person wanted and it can lead to disagreements in the family at a time when emotions are already heightened. 

Who can make the funeral arrangements

The subject of funerals is important as many assume it is their 'next of kin' who can make the arrangements.  It is in fact your executor (or if you have no will your administrator under the intestacy rules who is the person entitled to your estate on intestacy) who is entitled to arrange the funeral. This includes the funeral service itself but also where your body should be buried or where your ashes should be scattered.  

Normally, of course, the executor and the family members work closely together to agree the funeral arrangements.  However if there was a dispute regarding the arrangements then it is the executor who ultimately decides the arrangements.

Setting out your wishes 

Your will is a good place to note your wishes.  This can simply state that you wish to be buried or cremated or it can go into greater detail.  However, funeral wishes are not binding in a will, they are simply wishes.  There is also a possibility those wishes will not be read until after the funeral arrangements have been put in place. 

It is therefore vital to discuss your wishes with your executor and your closest relatives. 

The Importance of Discussing Funeral Wishes

There are a number of reasons why it is important to discuss your funeral wishes and these include:-

  1. Granting Peace of Mind: Pre-planning your funeral allows you to take control of your final farewell, ensuring the funeral arrangements reflect your values, beliefs, and preferences. By discussing your wishes in advance, you ensure that your executors and your family know exactly what you want, which can assist in reducing their stress during an already challenging time.
  2. Personalisation: When you discuss your funeral wishes, you can personalize the service to reflect your own preferences. Whether it's a specific song, a favourite poem, or a particular location for your final resting place, these are personal details that need to be specified. 
  3. Reduced Financial Burden: Funeral expenses can add up quickly. By openly discussing your wishes, you can make informed decisions about burial or cremation options, service types, and other aspects of end-of-life arrangements. Even if you don’t buy a pre-paid plan setting out your wishes can help the executors and your family determine what costs they should and shouldn’t incur when putting the arrangements in place. 
  4. Open Communication: Sometimes, people avoid discussing funeral plans because they fear upsetting family members or believe that talking about death will somehow make it happen. However, open communication is essential. By sharing your wishes, you take away the need for them to have to guess what you want. 

Start now 

It's never too early to discuss your funeral wishes. Many put off discussing their funeral til later in life, but if you died unexpectedly at a young age it is important your family know what your wishes are.  Funeral wishes can always be updated throughout your lifetime. 

Starting the conversation

Approaching the conversation about funeral wishes with your family can be sensitive, but it's essential for everyone's peace of mind. Here are some things to consider to help you navigate this discussion:

  1. Choose the Right Time and Place: Find a quiet and comfortable setting where everyone can sit down without distractions. Avoid bringing up the topic when emotions are already high.
  2. Be Compassionate and Empathetic: Acknowledge that discussing end-of-life matters can be difficult, but emphasize that it's important.
  3. Share Your Wishes: Explain why you've decided to have this conversation and what you've already considered. Be open and honest about your preferences, whether it's burial or cremation, specific rituals, or any other details. Highlight the benefits of pre-planning, such as reducing stress, avoiding financial surprises, and ensuring a meaningful farewell.
  4. Involve Everyone who is important: Ensure you tell everyone who would want to be involved in the decisions after your death.  Only telling one of your children could still cause arguments after your death. 
  5. Document the Decisions: Write down your final decisions on what you would like to happen so that your wishes are expressly stated.
  6. Revisit the Topic Later: Understand that this may not be a one-time conversation. Revisit it periodically to ensure everyone remains informed and aligned. Life circumstances change, and so might your preferences.

Final thoughts

Remember, discussing your funeral wishes is important for those making your arrangements. By planning ahead, you can help alleviate the burden on your family, ensuring that they have the necessary information and support to honour your wishes when the time comes.