Guiding Your Loved Ones: What to Include in Your Final Wishes

Death extends far beyond the moment you pass away, reverberating through the lives of your family and friends and the way they remember and honor your legacy. It can also be a journey that begins long before you die. Discussing death can be difficult, but preparing for its inevitability with dignity can help ease the difficult transition for yourself and provide peace of mind for those you love who will live on. 

person sitting on bench at sunset

Taking the time to reflect on your final wishes and make plans for how you want them carried out can reduce some of the confusion and guesswork around end-of-life arrangements. Whether you write a document or record audio or video instructions, your final wishes can address a number of important topics, including what kind of ceremony you prefer, where you want the funeral held, what you want done with your remains, and who should be responsible for pet care arrangements. 

Putting these things down on paper can be emotionally challenging, but in doing so, you can ensure that your final wishes are executed the way you want, and your loved ones don’t need to try to interpret your desires without guidance. In this article, we will explore how to approach your final wishes, what to include, and how they can benefit the legacy and loved ones you leave behind.

What Are Final Wishes?

Final wishes, also known as last wishes or end-of-life plans, help you prepare for what comes next and create a guide for your loved ones to use in the event of your death.

There is no one format to creating your final wishes. Depending on how specific you want to be, you can create a short, general plan or a long, detailed one. The point is to clearly specify what’s important to you, how you want things done, and who you trust to do them, resulting in simple instructions that your loved ones can follow.

Last wishes are not legally binding documents. Unlike leaving a will—a legal document focused on distributing your estate and assets using formal legal language—final wishes are personal notes that allow you to express your most intimate thoughts, feelings, and desires regarding the end of your life and the legacy you leave behind.

The Benefits of Knowing Your Loved One’s Last Wishes Before Death

Taking the time to plan your final wishes eases the burden on your loved ones, allowing them to grieve without the stress of worrying about complex decisions, logistics, and uncertainty. Managing the affairs of a deceased person requires a lot of attention to detail and without proper instructions, it can be a lot of pressure for friends and family to carry. By creating a clear and detailed guide to review, you ensure your wishes are fulfilled and alleviate anxiety for your loved ones.

close-up of a couple's clasped hands

While discussing final arrangements can be challenging, it also opens the door for heartfelt expressions of gratitude and forgiveness. It is the perfect opportunity to express your feelings to your loved ones in a significant and personal way. Often, final wishes are a combination of instructions, suggestions, and messages meant to bestow both responsibility and gratitude on their recipients.

The most significant benefit of a final wishes letter is the peace of mind it brings, ensuring a smooth transition for your loved ones during the grieving process.

What to Include in Your Final Wishes?

Final wishes are deeply personal, and there is no singular way to approach them. And while the open structure may feel daunting, that’s natural. It’s best to talk to your loved ones about your thoughts or seek professional support to navigate this end-of-life process. For example, working with a death doula provides holistic support before and after death. Talking to a therapist or trusted friend can also help you formulate a plan for how to approach your final wishes. 

When you have consulted with trusted sources and reflected on what you would like to include, you may still need some help getting started. Here are ten ideas to work from:

1. Include a list of personal contacts

Including your essential contact information ensures your loved ones know who you'd like notified upon passing. It also lets them inform all your closest contacts about your memorial or funeral service and helps coordinate who is responsible for what when the time comes. 

2. Add relevant financial information

Including financial information in your final wishes can help provide a clear and organized path for your loved ones to handle the financial aspects of your final wishes. This information saves them time, stress, and potential confusion during a challenging time. It can also clarify any personal financial obligations and who handles them. 

hands typing on laptop

Consider listing necessary financial and business contacts so your family and friends can easily reach out if any questions arise. These contacts could include your financial advisor, insurance agent, accountants, and attorneys. 

3. Specify your important documents

Provide the location of legal forms and important documents to ease your family member's duties while they're grieving. Specifying your wishes for these documents—whether they need to be kept, distributed, or destroyed—minimizes the risk of legal disputes or complications. In addition to financial records, you can include sentimental documents such as original birth certificates, marriage licenses, photo books, or personal letters.

4. Include login information for your accounts

Include usernames and passwords for your accounts, such as banking, emails, subscriptions, and social media. Sharing your account information grants access to your digital documents and cherished memories like videos and photos. It also allows your loved ones to privately manage the end of your digital life, cancel subscriptions, and delete unwanted digital content.

6. Guidance for petcare

The thought of our furry friend's future without us can be overwhelming for pet lovers. Consider including instructions for pets in your last wishes, including:

couple cuddles a cute dog
  • Desired Caretaker: Specify who you want to take ownership of your pet.
  • Special Needs: Outline any special care requirements your pet may have, including medications or dietary needs.
  • Daily Routine: Briefly mention your pet's preferred treats, walk times, and other essential daily routine aspects.
  • Veterinarian Information: Include contact details for your pet's veterinarian, including their name, clinic name, and phone number.

This information provides valuable guidance and ensures your beloved pets are well cared for when you’re gone.

7. Beneficiary information

Preparing your final wishes allows you to designate who will receive your belongings. Outlining your chosen beneficiaries and exactly what belongings you want them to receive can help reduce confusion. While a will is best for items and property that have financial value, your final wishes can be a place where you bestow a variety of personal effects on your friends and family.

8. Requests for your final days

Have you considered your preferences for your final days? Whether you're facing a terminal illness or simply planning for the inevitable future, your last wishes can include requests to guide your dear ones during this sensitive time. These requests may involve specifying the following:

  • Preferred location: Where you would like to spend your final days, whether at home, a hospice facility, or another setting.
  • Visitor preferences: Who you would like to receive visits from, if there are any limitations, or if you prefer privacy.
  • Medical care preferences: Add your wishes regarding medical interventions, pain management, and end-of-life care.
  • Spiritual or religious guidance: This option allows you to consider which figure, such as a death doula, a pastor, or a priest, you would like to receive advice from. 

9. Messages for loved ones

Writing or recording final wishes allows you to leave personal messages to your friends and family. While expressing deep emotions face-to-face can be challenging, this type of premeditated communication enables you to say what might be difficult in the moment.

Leaving a note or video also provides the recipient with a lasting impression of your thoughts and feelings, giving them a tangible connection to you they can cherish long after you’re gone.

These messages can be heartfelt expressions of love, shared memories, encouragement, or guidance and advice.

10. Memorial service preferences

When considering your final wishes, you can explore different memorial service ideas that align with your personality. While a traditional burial remains a popular option, cremation offers a variety of diverse and unique alternatives. 

white rose on memorial marker

When a body is cremated into ashes, there are plenty of nontraditional options for the remains. Some cremation alternatives include scattering ashes in a beloved location, mixing them with soil to plant a memorial tree, or even taking them on a trip around the world. Individuals can also transform cremation their ashes into diamonds. Or you can divide up the ashes and do them all.

At Eterneva, we specialize in turning the ashes of loved ones and beloved pets into brilliant diamonds that can be cherished and worn for generations, physically connecting loved ones and allowing legacies to live on in a brilliant lab-grown gem. And if you decide you want to be a diamond, you can take steps to make that happen, even before you die.

I Want to Be a Diamond: Eterneva Blueprint

Eterneva Blueprint allows you to pre-plan what to do with your cremated remains. If you're interested in turning your ashes into memorial diamonds, you can make decisions about your future diamond from start to finish.

With Blueprint, you can pre-plan a beneficiary for the diamond, select design features, and lock in pricing and ensure it is paid for, all through a simple step-by-step process. This can give you peace of mind by taking control of your own memorial diamond, creating a beautiful gift for your spouse or children to cherish close to their heart.

polaroid of mom and daughter next to purple diamond ring

You can customize the diamond's size, shape, color, and setting to create a piece of jewelry that reflects your personality, preferences, and style and can carry on your legacy for years to come.

Making an end-of-life plan and recording your final wishes allows you to choose how would you like to spend your last days and leave instructions for after death. In addition to creating a moment for life reflection and enhancing your peace of mind, it can also guide your loved ones through the difficult times ahead, easing their burden and taking control of your future.