Opening up about end-of-life care

Teachers are no strangers to difficult conversations. Frightened preschoolers, stubborn third graders, sullen middle schoolers, stressed-out high school juniors — teachers have handled it all. But there is one conversation almost everyone finds challenging — talking to loved ones about plans for the end of life.

It’s not that people don’t want to talk about it. A recent survey showed that 92% of people say talking with their loved ones about end-of-life care is important, and 53% would be relieved if a loved one took the initiative, but only 32% have actually done it.1

Part of the challenge, of course, is that it can be painful to even contemplate losing someone you love. But another thing possibly hindering the conversation is that families feel overwhelmed by how many things they need to figure out. Decisions about healthcare, funeral planning, financial assets, dividing up personal property, even what someone chooses to do with their social media accounts after their death — it’s a lot to tackle. A high-level list of tasks includes the following:

  • Contact funeral home for burial arrangements and associated costs.
  • Contact attorney to obtain will and/or trust documents.
  • Contact accountant and collect all tax information.
  • Contact the county or state vital records office to get copies of the death certificate (typically between 10 to 25 copies).
  • Contact bank and all financial institutions for account information.
  • Have the location and keys to all safety deposit boxes and/or safes.
  • Get the list of all credit cards, monthly bills (e.g., utility, phone, cable), outstanding debts.
  • Get the list of key phone numbers, access codes and passwords to shut down services and social media accounts.
  • Collect all insurance policies.

Two things can make it easier to face the conversation with courage, strength and wisdom: an empathetic third party and a clear guide to what’s important. You may want to include a financial professional, who has likely participated on some level in many of these conversations, in the discussion. Additionally, check out Equitable’s Share Your Love Family Discussion Guide, which offers a complete worksheet for making a plan.

Nothing can make losing a loved one any less painful. But being prepared can ease the burden

1Source: The Conversation Project National Survey, 2018.
GE-3088805 (09/2020) (Exp. 09/2022)