How Do You Talk About Your End-of-Life Wishes?

It’s easy to talk freely about things we enjoy, like vacations or wedding plans. But what about the conversations that aren’t as easy or fun? To celebrate worldwide New Conversations Day (July 12), we’re giving you some conversation starters to talk about something very important: your end-of-life wishes. 

Not Many of Us Willingly Talk About Death

If you have not talked to your loved ones about your end-of-life wishes, you’re not alone. According to AARP, only 27 percent of respondents shared their end-of-life choices. Meanwhile, 90 percent of people believe it’s a critical conversation with their family members but have yet to do so. 

New Conversations Day is designed to bring people closer through clear communication. Most of us don’t want to think about our mortality. It’s almost as if we don’t say anything, we can prevent something bad from happening.

The truth is that when you pass away without making end-of-life plans, you’re leaving your loved ones with extremely difficult decisions. However uneasy you might feel about discussing end-of-life medical treatment, burial, or cremation, imagine the burden your family members will face if you don’t. 

Why It’s Never Too Early to Discuss End-of-Life Plans

While there’s truth in mortality tables, no one is exempt from an inevitable if unplanned demise. Everyone, even young adults, should talk to their family members about end-of-life wishes. 

According to Harriet Warshaw, executive director of The Conversation Project, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping people talk with family members about end-of-life details, “It’s important for all of us to have these conversations early and often.” 

“Life is fragile, and you never know what will happen when you get up in the morning,” she says.

Getting the Conversation Started 

How do you begin a conversation about your final wishes? According to The Conversation Project, an organization that promotes discussion of end-of-life care, you start by organizing your thoughts. Taking time to consider the issues that matter to you most will make talking about them more manageable. 

You might want to think about:

  • Where do you want to spend your last days
  • Whether you want medical treatment to prolong your life rather than the quality of life
  • If you want to be an organ donor or donate your body for educational purposes 
  • If you want to be buried or cremated, and if cremated, what you prefer for disposition of your ashes 
  • Whether you want a memorial or funeral service, and what type

Pick a Time and Place

After you’ve gathered your thoughts, it’s time to talk to the people who should know your end-of-life plans. They might include your spouse, children, siblings, doctor, or friend. 

Commit to a specific date to talk to your loved ones. Think about where you feel comfortable having this conversation – around the kitchen table, on a walk, on a video chat, or phone call. 


Here are some icebreakers to help you start a conversation about your end-of-life care: 

  • “Remember how difficult it was when (someone) passed away? I want to make things easier for you.”
  • “You never know what life will bring and I want to be prepared for the unexpected.”
  • “Even though I’m okay right now, I’m worried that my situation might change. I want everything in order.”
  • “I’ve made decisions about end-of-life issues, and I want to share them with you.”
  • “I don’t enjoy talking about it, but it would be irresponsible of me to avoid making end-of-life plans.”
  • “I know it’s an uncomfortable topic, but would you talk to me about my end-of-life plans?”
  • “Can we talk about what happens if I’m incapacitated or seriously ill?”

Write It Down

After you talk about your end-of-life wishes, write them down. Although telling your loved ones what you prefer, putting it in writing ensures there is no question or confusion when the time comes. 

Then, talk to an attorney or estate planner to get your affairs in order. You might want to talk to your doctor, too. 

What Are End-of-Life Plans?

End-of-life plans are prearranged decisions that you make while you are able to express them. You have the right to spell out your final wishes, from what type of medical treatment you want to your preference for a final resting place. You deserve to have a voice in how and where you spend your last days. By making your choices known today, you protect your loved ones from having to make gut-wrenching decisions without any input from you. 

Three Elements in an End-of-Life Plan

End-of-life plans involve medical, legal, and financial matters. Experts agree that having the following documents helps ensure your loved ones clearly understand your wishes.

Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare

A durable power of attorney (also called a healthcare proxy) is a trusted individual who makes decisions about your medical treatment. Anyone aged 18 or older may serve as your healthcare proxy or power of attorney, including a spouse, adult child, sibling, close friend, or attorney. You should also identify a secondary healthcare proxy if your first choice is unavailable for whatever reason.

Living Will 

Also called an advanced directive, you may specify what medical treatments you do or don’t want if you become incapable of making decisions for yourself. A living will guides your healthcare proxy or power of attorney to make decisions for you if you are permanently unconscious or terminally ill. These decisions include palliative care (hospice), tube feeding, and performing CPR. 


A living will identifies your preference for your medical treatments as you approach the end of your days. A will describes your wishes for distributing your assets, property, and personal possession to your heirs. Naming an executor of your estate and having an up-to-date will helps your loved ones avoid the hassle and expense of probate. A legally executed will should include your preference for cremation or burial and a final resting place if you wish. 

Closing Words

Discussing your end-of-life plans is not easy. Most people prefer not to think about their final days. You might delay having this discussion because you don’t want to upset your spouse, children, or siblings. 

However, talking about end-of-life choices can lead to meaningful, intimate conversations that deepen relationships. Studies show that surviving family members feel less guilty and depressed when their loved one has made plans. Getting your affairs in order while you can articulate your wishes is a gift that your loved ones appreciate.  

All ShareLife funeral and cremation providers offer preplan arrangements. Not only will you save your loved ones from unnecessary stress while they’re grieving, but you’ll also save money by locking-in today’s prices. Talk to a trusted funeral, burial, or cremation provider to ensure your affairs are in order, far in advance from when you need them. Find one near you.