Start the Conversation

Who to Talk To

Start by talking with a few close family members or friends who you feel comfortable with and are good listeners. Let them know that this is a topic that is important to you, and agree on a time a place to have your first talk. They should be willing to spend some time with you discussing end-of-life issues.

What to Talk About

Start with the Essentials:

  • Who will serve as your Healthcare Agent if you’re unable to make medical decisions yourself?
  • Which medical treatments do you wish to receive at the end of your life?
  • Who will serve as your Financial Agent if you need help handling your financial affairs?
  • Who do you want to receive your financial assets, and how will any liabilities be paid off?

Make your choices and complete the necessary documents before moving on. These are the most important topics to discuss and decisions to make to in order to give the gift of planning.

Then consider your Personal Preferences:
Once the Essentials are taken care of, talk about your preferences related to healthcare, distribution of your personal belongings, care of the body, and your service and obituary.

Where to Talk

It’s ideal to choose a place where everyone feels relaxed and comfortable. It could be:

  • Your own living room,
  • Over a meal at home or in a favorite restaurant,
  • During a walk in the park,
  • A pleasant drive in the country.

Conversation Starters

The Conversations Starters Worksheet includes “Where I Stand” scales to help you explore your end-of-life wishes and helpful “icebreakers” from The Conversation Project, a nonprofit focused on helping people have conversations about death. Here are a few sample icebreakers:

  • “I just answered some questions about how I want the end of my life to be. I want you to see my answers. And I’m wondering what your answers would be.”
  • “Remember how __________ in the family died—do you think it was it a “good” death or a “hard” death? How will yours be different?”
  • “I was thinking about what happened to __________, and it made me realize…”

Print your Conversation Starters Worksheet »

Create Your End-of-Life Binder

Purchase a three-ring binder, a package of paper with three holes punched in it, and a set of five dividers. This will be where you store your worksheets and important documents as you take care of the Essentials and document your Personal Preferences.

Your End-of-Life Binder will be a valuable resource for both you and your family, and will help ensure that your wishes are honored and your most important documents will be readily available when needed.

Explore the DeathWise Website

Watch videos about end-of-life planning.
Planning is a gift - Andrea Windom
Starting the Conversation - Mary Collins
The First Step is the Hardest - David Erskine
Advance Commitments are Critical - Myra Aragones
How to Choose the Best Agent - Betsy Carpenter

Read interviews and articles.
Ask the Questions - Elizabeth Fournier
Helping People Die Healed - Glenn Rodriguez, MD
Making Your Financial Decisions Now - Marcia Mellinger
Last Trip File - Rolf Erickson

Once you’ve started the conversation, you are ready to move on and begin taking care of the Essentials. The conversations will continue as you learn more and gain new insights about your own feelings and wishes. Click here for an overview of the Essentials.

Take Care of the Essentials >>
Share Your Personal Preferences >>