Why You Need To Talk To Your Family About Their Dying Wishes

No one wants to think about their family dying. It’s terrifying to acknowledge the fact that someday the people that have been in your corner your whole life aren’t going to be there anymore. You probably don’t want to have the death conversation. But it’s better to do it now than to keep putting it off until it’s too late.

It’s Personal

It hit me the one day when I was home from college that my parents were getting older. For some reason I had never really realized it before, but their hair was getting grayer and their age was getting up there. They were starting to approach an age that I remember my grandparents being at…and that definitely felt old (although I’d never tell them that!).

I also realized that I had no clue what their wishes were when they passed. I didn’t know where any of the important paperwork was or what was in their wills. I needed to talk to them. I kicked it around for a while, because this wasn’t a conversation I was looking forward to, but it was something I had to do.

They were actually impressed by my maturity in dealing with it and respected the fact that I had asked. My mom had no idea what to do when her father passed and she wished that she had had this conversation with him so she didn’t have to hunt through the house for his papers.

After talking with them, I realized how important it was that I had brought it up. As much as we don’t want to think about it, death could happen to any of us at any time. And it’s definitely better to be prepared for when it comes than to have to deal with your emotions on top of figuring a ton of stuff out because you didn’t talk about it. I’d seen friends lose parents relatively young, along with one who lost a sibling last year, so I knew that I needed to put on my big girl pants and talk to my family.

We tend to want to avoid talking about death and dying because we don’t know how to handle it. In fact, most of you reading this probably haven’t even thought about the possibility of your parents dying before now. You’re never going to be prepared for this conversation, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it.

But It’s Insanely Important

Do you know what your parents wishes are when they die? What about where all the important insurance and financial paperwork is in your parents’ house? These are things you should know sooner rather than later. You might not want to think about losing your parents, but it’s something you’re going to have to do.

Funeral planning may fall to you. You may want to give them a big, fancy funeral, but they might want to be privately cremated after a small family service. Follow their wishes for what they want, and look into planning how to go about it. You want to have at least an idea so you don’t have to figure everything out while grieving.

Knowing where the important documents are kept is also important. If you have siblings, decide which one is going to be the executor of the estate. Have your parents talk you through the paperwork and what’s to be done when they’re gone. Maybe they want to leave the house to you guys, or want you to sell everything and split the money. These are things you’ll need to know. You’ll also need to update the relevant companies (think banks, insurance, utilities companies) about their death so that you can start to get everything in order, so make sure you know all of their details too.

Inheritance is also an issue. Hopefully there’s already a will drafted for you to look at. Your dad, like mine, might want to leave you the sweet Mustang he’s kept since he got it at 16, which is probably worth around $26,000 by now. You’ll want to know the value and if you’ll have to pay an inheritance tax. Look up the laws in your state and see what applies to you.

Talk To Your Siblings

Some of you may be better at handling financial matters than others. Decide who you think would be best to be in charge of inheritance and insurance versus funeral planning and those arrangements. Play to your strengths, especially because you have to factor in your mental state when the time actually comes.

Sadly, siblings die unexpectedly as well. Maybe talk to each other if you plan on giving them anything when you pass away or if you want them to handle your funeral arrangements if your parents are no longer around to do so. It’s a good idea to start thinking about what you might want now in case something happens, but don’t worry that it’s all set in stone for the rest of your life.

If you own anything of value though, such as a house, you’ll definitely want to start thinking about drafting a will as soon as possible. If you’re not married, your assets won’t be passing onto a spouse so it’s important to decide who will get these if you were to die suddenly.

This is definitely some heavy stuff for you to be thinking about. You’re in your 20s—you want to have fun, not worry about death. But you don’t want to be caught off guard and not know what to do when the time comes. Have the difficult talks. You won’t regret it.

Holly Whitman

Holly Whitman is a freelance writer and journalist, originally from the UK but now based in Washington D.C. When she's not striving to be one of the best women political writers online with her thoughts on feminism and elections, she can usually be found sprawled on the floor with her two cats, garnering baffled looks from her long-suffering and wonderfully-patient husband.
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