Last wishes are very personal matters. Even if a friend or relative knows you well, they may not understand your choices regarding disposition of remains. If you have kept your feelings about certain issues from your next of kin, they may be surprised or even shocked by the instructions you leave behind for your funeral, burial or
Some of the reasons your survivors may be reluctant to honor your last wishes include:1. The religious ceremonies you requested, or lack thereof, conflict with the religious practices of those entrusted with handling your final arrangements.2. The final arrangements you requested are very expensive and would either place a financial burden on your heirs or reduce the amount of inheritance received by the beneficiaries of your estate. See
funeral trusts.3. The location you requested for your burial is not where your family wants your remains interred.
4. You requested a method of disposition of remains, such as cremation, that violates the tenets of your family’s religion.5. The funeral arrangements you requested seem inappropriate to your family or may embarrass them.6. Carrying out the last wishes you requested would require a substantial amount of time and effort.Because it is impossible to predict whether your spouse, children or other family members will be reluctant to follow your memorial preferences, you may want to leave a last wishes letter with your last wishes planner.
Paying For Your Last Wishes
When leaving instructions for your funeral, burial, cremation, ash scattering or other final arrangements, did you take into account how much it will cost to honor your last wishes? Although some people expect to rely on
life insurance or the sale of property to pay for their funeral expenses, that money is unlikely to be immediately available to your heirs or next of kin. Sometimes family members are unable or just unwilling to assume the burden of paying funeral expenses for a relative, even if they may eventually be reimbursed by the estate.To ensure funds will be readily available to pay for your last wishes, there are several options. One option is to pay the cost of your final arrangements in advance. To learn more, see
prepaying for funerals.Your estate planning lawyer can also discuss other options such as a funeral trust to pay final expenses. If you are going to set aside funds with your children or someone else to pay these costs, read
can I afford a funeral to decide how much you will need.
What is a Last Wishes Letter?
A last wishes letter is a letter a person writes about his or her memorial preferences explaining reasons for certain requests or outlining details regarding how final arrangements should be carried out. A last wishes letter is often used by someone who is concerned his final wishes will not be honored.To see an example of how a last wishes letter may be used, see the film The Bridges of Madison County. The heroine of the movie, Francesca, wrote a letter to her children explaining her last wish to have her ashes scattered off Roseman bridge in Madison County. This covered bridge was important to Francesca because of time she spent there with her lover, Robert. When he died, he had his ashes scattered off Roseman bridge and it was Francesca’s last wish that she have her ashes scattered there as well.
Because Francesca knew her children might not honor her request, she left them a letter explaining her last wishes. Her children read the letter while settling her estate. They were shocked by their mother's request and were conflicted about whether to honor her last wishes. They probably expected their mother to be buried with her husband. However, as we see in The Bridges of Madison County, after her children read the letter and discussed it, they decided to fulfill their mother’s last wish.While your last wishes may not be as surprising or dramatic as those featured in The Bridges of Madison County, your spouse or children may nevertheless disagree with the instructions you leave behind for your final arrangements. Often the source of conflict can be as simple as not wanting to be buried in the family burial plot or asking that no funeral services be held. Some people do not want a viewing at their funeral and this can be upsetting to family members. While donating your body to science can be seen as a charitable act, some members of your family may have strong feelings about what happens to the body of their loved one. These are just a few examples of why it is sometimes beneficial to write a last wishes letter explaining the reasons for your final requests and asking that they be honored.
Other Estate Planning Letters
A last wishes letter only deals with matters such as your final resting place and funeral arrangements. If something happens to you, your loved ones will have many other issues to handle in order to settle your estate. If you have not already done so, you should consider writing a few other types of estate plan letters as well.
Perhaps the most important type of estate planning letter is the letter of instruction. This is a letter written to the person in charge of administering your estate. It contains information on a variety of different issues to ensure your estate is distributed in the manner you intend. It is also a letter that provides information your executor may not be able to find without instructions from you. For more on how to write this type of estate planning letter, go to
Letter of Instruction.