Planning for the end of your life can feel overwhelming, but thinking through your options early can give your loved ones confidence that they’re carrying out your wishes with honor and respect.
All you need to get started is a place to write—either on paper or virtually. Save your plan somewhere safe, and give your family instructions for how to access it after your death. As you work through your end-of-life plan, consider factors like your final send-off, what your obituary will say, and what type of legacy you’d like to leave behind. Here’s where to start.
How would you like to be laid to rest?
You have options when it comes to your funeral and remains, from traditional and respectful to memorable and unique. No matter what you choose, final expense insurance can help your loved ones cover the costs of your perfect send-off.
This traditional route is typically also the priciest. On average, a funeral with a burial costs more than $9,400, including the ceremony, casket, burial plot, vault, and related services. As you plan your final wishes, consider picking out your casket, burial plot, and headstone during your lifetime to make things easier for your family when the time comes. You can also buy multiple plots for your family to make sure you can be laid to rest together.
A common alternative to a traditional casket burial, cremation involves heat-processing your remains in an industrial furnace to produce ash and minerals called cremains. Your loved ones can take these remains in an urn or other vessel to preserve them or scatter them in a place of your choosing. While cremation is less expensive than a burial, it can still cost $6,900 or more, depending on your location and chosen facility.
Donating remains to science
Gifting your remains to a medical school or the scientific research community can help improve health care knowledge and methods to benefit future generations. Donations typically eliminate costs associated with burial or cremation, as recipients will cover these expenses once they complete their work. Have a place in mind to donate? Make sure to register in advance with the medical school or scientific research organization.
Looking for a different type of send-off? In a newer way to return to the earth, you can now have your remains buried in a special pod that will cultivate a tree. State laws vary on burial locations and methods, but there are many approved, designated burial sites to choose from across the country. Once buried, these biodegradable urns break down over time, fertilizing the sapling as it grows. They’re just one example of a growing shift toward more eco-conscious burial practices, including mushroom coffins and water cremations.
Related reading: How to plan your funeral
What should your obituary say?
Obituaries serve to share the news of your passing with those who knew you, and also as a public record of your life preserved for future generations. To support your loved ones as they work to honor your last wishes and grieve, think about documenting the details you’d like to include in your obituary and where to share it.
An obituary typically begins with the recently deceased person’s name, their location, and date of passing. It also usually includes their date of birth, hometown, parents’ names, and surviving relatives’ names.
Summary of life
This area is where you may want the most input, both to have a say in your own story and to give your loved ones clear guidance as they share the news. Consider including a brief description of meaningful memories, relationships, and accomplishments that shaped your life.
Your loved ones will need to fill in details like the time and date for your funeral procession or celebration of life, but you can decide the location in advance and whether it should be open to the public.
Sharing your obituary
Newspapers typically publish obituaries for a fee that can range from $200 to more than $1,000. You can also choose to publish your obituary on social media or a website, which often allows friends and family to share memories and condolences in a virtual guest book. Community groups and religious organizations will often also share members’ obituaries in their publications for free. Consider leaving a list for your loved ones of places you’d like your obituary shared.
What legacy will you leave behind?
It can be tough to face the fact that we’ll all die one day, but knowing that we’re making a positive difference once we go can provide reassurance that our life was meaningful. Many people think about creating a last will and testament, which details how to distribute their assets and care for any dependents after their death. But beyond giving away your possessions, there are many other ways to leave a lasting legacy for your loved ones, your community, and the world at large.
Related reading: Do I need a will?
Stories and advice
Dedicate the time while you’re living to capture your experiences, life lessons, and wisdom for the benefit of your loved ones and future generations. You can write, record audio, film yourself, or make a time capsule—whatever feels right for you. Create a plan with instructions for preserving or sharing these items after you pass.
Consider the assets and belongings you’ve accumulated in your lifetime and what they might accomplish after your lifetime when placed in the right hands. Outline a plan for gifting your prized possessions or life savings to loved ones, charitable or religious organizations, or academic or research institutions.
Charitable memorial fund
A memorial fund allows loved ones to make a gift in your honor for years to come to a charity of your or their choice. The money they raise in your name can create a lasting legacy.
Designating a life insurance beneficiary
A life insurance policy is one of the best ways to pass on a meaningful amount of money to a loved one. The payout comes with no strings attached, so your family can use it to cover daily expenses, pay down a mortgage or other loans, or save for the future. Make sure your life insurance beneficiaries are up to date so the money goes where you want it to when you pass away. Also, keep in mind that your beneficiary doesn’t need to be a person—you can also name a favorite charity to support their work once you’re gone.
Finding peace in life after death
Though it may seem nerve-wracking at first, taking steps to plan for the end of your life can actually alleviate stress for you and your loved ones later on. Another important way to protect your family against future challenges is life insurance. In addition to death benefits, life insurance can cover emergency expenses during your lifetime and earn cash value over time.
Find the life insurance you need to protect your family at a price you can afford. Get quotes from multiple carriers and personalized guidance from a licensed eFinancial agent to help you choose the right coverage.