Communicating your end-of-life wishes

Talking about your end-of-life wishes can be one of the most difficult conversations you ever have, but it’s important to have it. Otherwise, your loved ones will be left to make big decisions when they should be grieving your loss. Things like:

  • If you are to be cremated, what type of vessel do you wish to be placed in?
  • Where, if anywhere, do you wish your ashes to be scattered?
  • How do you want your funeral or celebration of life to unfold?
  • If you are to be buried, then where
  • Have you ensured your wishes align with the rules of cultural or religious burial sites?
  • Have you arranged a method of payment, such as life insurance, for the costs of burial?

It’s a lot to think about. In order to give you and your family peace of mind for the future, we’ve compiled a checklist of items you may want to accomplish or discuss with your family in order to ensure their well-being after you are gone.

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1. Make your wishes known in case of serious illness or injury.

Young woman writing in her notebook about end-of-life wishes

In the event of a debilitating health event, you may not want to spend your last days (or months) on life support. Perhaps you’d wish to request medical assistance in dying under certain circumstances. Or you may feel strongly about donating your organs to science or to those in need. If you are unable to speak for yourself in this scenario, you want to be sure that your loved ones are clear on your wishes. These decisions can be extremely difficult to make in the moment, so do your loved ones a favour, and tell them while you can.


2. Write down donations to be made in your name after you’re gone.

Close-up view of hand writing a donation cheque

If you actively support a cause or charitable organization, and wish for a donation to be made in your name after your death, you need to make sure you have both the donation amount and the recipient(s) somewhere in writing. You could even go one step further and request that donations be made to a charity of your choice in lieu of flowers in your obituary. Or have a life insurance policy donated to a charity of your choice!


Keep a list of passwords in a secure spot.

Hand opening safe deposit box with key

If you live in a household where you manage the finances, your spouse or common-law partner will need access to your passwords in the event you are no longer around. While it is not recommended to share passwords, they will need to know where to locate them when the time comes — especially if they will be left to take care of the bills and the banking. Not to mention, if you’d like your social media and/or email accounts closed down once you are gone, your loved ones will need access your passwords in order to do so.

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4. Keep a list of your bank accounts, investments, credit cards, and more.

Close-up of hands storing files and paperwork in a filing cabinet

Any bank accounts, investments, credit cards, or loans that are in your name should be kept in a secure spot, like a safe or deposit box. And don’t forget to include the name of your financial institution(s) and your financial advisor! That way, your loved ones won’t be left unaware of any money owed or debts to pay, and can avoid the unpleasant scenario of a debt collector calling around.


5. Make sure your assets are properly allocated.

Mature couple sitting on dock and dipping feet into water at the cottageFrom cars and collectibles, to expensive pieces of art and family heirlooms, it is incredibly important that you determine who inherits what once you have passed. This can help alleviate unnecessary family conflicts that can be drawn out for years. It is important to note that inheriting the family cottage will come with a tax bill so large that your loved ones may be forced to sell if they aren’t aware or prepared. This can always be avoided with the right life insurance.


6. Make sure estate trustees know where to find important documents.

Senior couple meeting estate trustee to discuss location of end-of-life planning documentsIn most cases, your estate trustee would be your lawyer. But it could also be a close friend or family member that you trust. Ensuring this person knows where to find important documents, like the ones we’ve already discussed in this guide, is essential. This will allow your loved ones to grieve in peace, rather than worrying about locating the various pieces of information needed during this difficult time.

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7. Consider writing a letter to your loved ones.

Young man looking thoughtful while he writes a letter to his loved ones

If you’d like your loved ones to maintain a connection to you long after you’re gone, consider writing letters to your immediate family members and best friends. Feeling extra creative? Record a short memoir of your life, whether in writing or on video. Make sure to share favourite songs, movies, books, places to visit, and stories of your life — from first pets and first loves, to family vacations and summers at the cottage. This is a document your loved ones will cherish for years to come.


8. Make a will, and be sure to update it as life changes.

Young parents with baby looking over documents as they update their willEvery single one of the important documents and details we’ve included in this guide should be captured in a will — a.k.a., a legally binding document that will save your family a lot of hassle after you have passed. Just make sure the executor of your will and your next of kin is aware of where you’ve stored it. If you haven’t drafted a will yet, make it a priority. Otherwise, the government gets to decide who gets your assets… and that includes your children! So don’t delay.


9. Designate a power of attorney (POA) you trust.

Blank power of attorney form with paperwork, phone and digital tablet.Appoint a trusted friend or family member as your POA in the event you are unable to manage your financial and business matters, like buying and selling real estate or filing income tax returns. A POA for personal care (a.k.a., a proxy or living will) can act on your behalf, and according to your wishes, in the event you are unable to make your own medical decisions, such as selecting treatment options or determining if hospitalization or home health care is required.

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10. Buy life insurance to protect your loved ones.

Laughing toddler sitting on dad's shoulders as parents smile at each otherFrom credit card bills to mortgage payments, if you aren’t prepared, your loved ones could be left with huge sums of debt to pay off after you’re gone. Not to mention, funeral costs alone can be as high as $20,000* in Canada. That’s where life insurance comes in. And when you purchase a Serenia Life term or whole life policy, you are automatically eligible for a free digital will, as well as a number of other member benefits that help you support your family and your community.

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