When our loved ones are nearing the end of their lives, we often experience a whirlwind of emotions. As we reflect on moments we’re glad to have shared with our loved ones, we’re also encountering the pain of impending loss.

Simultaneously, we may be feeling the stress of funeral planning and ensuring our loved one’s affairs are in order when they pass. These necessities can take time that we would rather spend with our loved ones in their final days, and end-of-life planning may feel like a weighty task. 

However, helping our loved ones make end-of-life decisions mindfully can allow us to be more present with them during their last moments.

Elderly couple arms linked together, wearing rings.

What Is End-of-Life Planning?

End-of-life planning is the steps that you and your loved ones take to settle affairs and fulfill last wishes before they pass. This can include creating or finalizing a will, making burial arrangements, naming beneficiaries, and other decisions.

We may choose to begin end-of-life planning after receiving a terminal diagnosis or preemptively earlier on in life. 

There is no incorrect time to start creating this plan, as it can relieve the pressure of decision-making from our loved ones after we pass on. Making important end-of-life decisions like these takes away any guesswork after us or our loved one passes and is a way to ensure that their wishes are fulfilled.

Who Helps With End-of-Life Planning?

When it comes to end-of-life planning, you are not in it alone. Many third-party organizations and individuals, such as attorneys and hospice social workers, can help you and your loved ones navigate this process. 

Why Is End-of-Life Planning Important?

End-of-life planning provides family members with peace of mind after a loved one passes away and can improve our quality of life as we walk through our healing journey.

When our loved ones have an end-of-life plan in place, we’re able to focus on grieving with our surviving friends and family members, celebrating our loved one’s remarkable life, and providing comfort to those who need it without being pulled away to make legal decisions.

End-of-life planning is also a way to honor, celebrate and respect our remarkable loved ones. Although it can be difficult, talking with our loved ones about their end-of-life wishes is a thoughtful way to ensure that we celebrate them in a way that honors their unique point of view after they pass on.

End-of-life planning can be a positive experience for families by providing an opportunity to have difficult conversations, navigate emotions together, and celebrate our loved ones’ lives while they’re still with us.

What Should You Consider When End of Life Planning?

End-of-life planning can look different for each family. This time might include end-of-life care, estate planning, funeral planning, and planning ways to celebrate your loved one after they pass.

End-of-Life Care

End-of-life care refers to how our loved ones will spend their last days. Listening to a loved one’s care preferences is a thoughtful way to help them remain comfortable in their final moments. By asking our loved ones their preferences, we can help them feel heard and valued.

There are several options when it comes to end-of-life care, including home care, palliative care, nursing homes, or hospice care. Your loved one may also desire to have a caregiver. You can contact your local healthcare providers to determine what services are available in your area.

Our loved ones may choose to write their medical treatment preferences in a living will. This document can be a helpful guide, especially if a loved one is no longer able to advocate for themselves during their final days. 

End-of-life care planning may also include a health care proxy. This is a legal document that appoints a person to make medical decisions for our loved ones when they can no longer make decisions for themselves. The person that a loved one appoints to make these healthcare decisions is referred to as a proxy or a health care power of attorney.

Estate Planning

Estate planning refers to the financial planning elements of end-of-life preparation.

Your loved one‘s estate encompasses all of their belongings, including their house, car, bank accounts, and insurance plans. The purpose of estate planning is to determine who will be the recipients of a loved one‘s estate as explained in their last will and testament.

Deciding on beneficiaries on life insurance policies and 401(k)s is another essential aspect of estate planning called probate. 

Finally, a durable power of attorney is another important component of estate planning. This is a legal document that empowers an individual to make decisions leading up to your loved one’s last days. 

Leaves covering the front yard of a white house during fall.

Funeral Planning

Funeral and memorial services are meant to celebrate our loved ones by gathering family members and friends to share memories of our remarkable loved ones. 

To help ensure the service honors our loved one’s wishes, including funeral arrangements in end-of-life discussions can give our loved ones the ability to make their own choices regarding their memorial.

This is the time to discuss with your loved one whether they desire cremation or burial. If your loved one desires to be buried, talk with them about meaningful burial locations and decide together where they will be buried.

Take time to discuss with your loved one where they would like their funeral or memorial service. Ask them if they would like for it to be in a funeral home or if they have another meaningful location in mind.

If your loved one chooses to be cremated, discuss with them how they would like you to store or scatter their ashes. Your loved one may also want their ashes to be turned into a portable memorial, like a cremation diamond. 

Unlike a fixed relic like an urn, memorial diamonds allow us to keep our loved ones with us throughout our lives by taking them where we go. This provides opportunities for us to share their incredible story, remember their enduring legacy, and hold them close to our hearts.

Since funerals and memorial services are a time to celebrate those we have lost, it is important to carefully listen to and account for each one of our loved one’s wishes to honor their incredible lives.

Silver ring with colorless round diamond.

Wrapping Up

End-of-life planning refers to the decisions that we make with our loved ones make as they are nearing their last days. 

This type of planning encompasses a broad array of decisions, including end-of-life care or advance directives, estate planning, and funeral planning. End-of-life planning is a time to celebrate our loved one’s final wishes and ensure that their voice is heard.


Estate Planning Info & FAQs | American Bar Association

Why you should never be too polite to talk about death | Independent Age

Common Terminal Diagnoses | Stanford School of Medicine