End of Life Planning Makes a Difficult Situation Much Easier

Charles 6 Comments

Posted by Colin Moore

One of the toughest challenges anyone can face in their lifetime is losing a loved one and then having to guess what kind of funeral and memorial service they would have wanted, also to try to locate important documents and find the answers to key questions.  But it does not have to be this way, by documenting our preferences and important details in advance of need, families can be spared making the difficult decisions of what to do next and avoid all of this uncertainty.

End of Life Planning is about thinking, discussing, planning and documenting the final event in our lives before it actually happens.  It should be a big part and a necessary part of any estate or financial planning service.  We cannot control how we die, but we can control how our finances will be managed, how our estate will be distributed, the sort of funeral we would like and what arrangements or messages we would like to leave behind for our families.

The worst time to plan a funeral is when someone has died.  You only have an average of twenty-four to seventy-two hours to make all the arrangements, while also dealing with the emotional impact of the loss of a loved one.  So, making difficult decisions which cannot be undone when you are overcome with grief is not the best time.

Making an End of Life Plan allows you to make extremely important decisions through a calm and clear thought-out process. In other words, it is much more likely that you will make more rational and logical decisions. This helps to ensure your funeral wishes and other family matters can be arranged in a more meaningful way, and the way you would have wanted.

Most people don’t know how to begin planning for life’s ending.  But for everyone who has made a Will they have already taken a step in the right direction towards pre-planning their future  wishes.  The problem is, this form of planning alone fails to address their family’s immediate concerns between the time of death and and in the crucial days thereafter leading up to the funeral when major financial decisions have to be made.   

The key to effective end-of-life planning is not to race through filling out legal documents but to take the time to understand the full scope of what is involved in putting our entire affairs in order and to seek out solid information on each topical area.  Then we can fully embrace the whole process.

Although an End of Life Plan will not completely alleviate the emotional and financial pressures people will face, it will certainly help them reduce or eliminate many of the most stressful decisions, pressures, and expenses, and ultimately help ease the pain of a very difficult situation.

Colin Moore is founder of The Funeral Consultancy and regularly provides courses and seminars on Caring for The Bereaved and End of Life Planning.

ED’S NOTE: We are huge admirers of Colin here at the GFG. Goodness knows how much money his work has cost him (we know how it feels, Colin!). He is motivated entirely by a desire to be useful and helpful. Do check out his website. He has been tenacious and he has persevered. At long last his work is gaining official recognition in Leicestershire and, what’s more, financial backing from Big Society coffers. Colin, we salute you.  


  1. Charles

    Excellent article! Thank you so much for discussing this topic. If everyone would just take the time to think about and come up with an End of Life Plan it would make it that much easier for their families when the time comes to say goodbye. They can focus more on coping with their grief than making those difficult decisions in a hurry.

    These are not decisions to take lightly and be in a rush to complete. Most of us already have a general idea of what we would like for memorial/funeral service, but the key is to discuss it with our family and document it. Putting the rest of our affairs in order is something that will take time, but it is something we all should take the time to do. Who would know better than us what all needs to be taken care of?

    1. Charles

      Hi Sarah

      Just to say thank you for your kind comment to my End of Life Planning article. In my 25 years as a probate lawyer I have witnessed the anxiety and stress caused by the family not knowing the true wishes of their loved one.

      Many thanks

  2. Charles

    Hmmmmnnnn. Whilst I agree it’s helpful to have all the finance and admin stuff sorted I just don’t agree that by planning your own funeral you are ‘sparing your family difficult decisions’ I think you are robbing them of an valuable therapeutic process. Most of our funerals take between ten days and three weeks to organise now, not seventy two hours. It’s a time for families to get together and talk and think about the person who has died, it’s a journey, culminating in a ritual where everyone has contributed and everyone participates. I spend a lot of time talking people out of planning their own funeral, telling people whether you want to be cremated or buried is useful as it prevents squabbling.
    As Thomas Lynch said ‘A good funeral is about the dead but for the living’ and as Bob Hope said, when asked whether he wanted to buried or cremated ‘surprise me’

  3. Charles

    I’d make a distinction between the general and the specific. Like Claire, I see value in people being on top of their personal paperwork (in life as much as in death). But in the matter of arranging a funeral, I believe what would be most useful is for people to stop scaring themselves off from thinking about what happens after a death — in general terms.

    It would be a Good Thing if people knew that a dead body is in no rush to go anywhere. That sitting with a dead person can be very soothing. That there’s plenty of time to sort out a funeral, and no need at all to be chivvied by any of the ‘professionals’ beyond the registrar, who simply requires that a death be registered. Once the pace has calmed down and slowed down, it is possible to review options for disposal/ritual/gathering, according to the specific circumstances.

    And, with Claire, I’d say that’s a potential source of satisfaction and solace.

  4. Charles

    With you, Kathryn, when you say slow down. We reflect that refrigeration is also a Good Thing. I have a feeling that slowing down is most effectively counselled if a bereaved person also believes that the sendoff event may be of emotional value to them. For the majority, the strongest argument for cracking on is the urgent desire to put the whole wretched business behind them.

  5. Charles

    when I meet new people and tell them what my profession is they almost always tell me about their mum or dad’s funeral, (which incidentally I never tire of), and they almost always say they wish they had taken more time.

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