7 Tips to Start Talking About Death with Your Family

older woman smiles down at table as family members raise glasses to cheers

Death is not an easy subject to talk about, but it’s a must. Everyone in your family needs to know each other’s wishes and be prepared for a loved one’s passing. In fact, a conversation about dying and death is one of the most important discussions a family can have. Here are 7 tips to start talking about death with your family.

Why Do We Need to Talk About Death?

Too often, families wait until someone has a serious health crisis before even thinking about what would happen if a loved one dies. In the midst of a family health emergency, the last thing you want your loved ones to do is start making decisions about your care or what would happen if you passed.

When it comes to death, age means nothing. An accident or sudden illness can strike anyone at any time. You need to let your loved ones know how you want to live – and die. This includes having an end-of-life plan that spells out how you would want your medical and financial affairs handled if you were in a coma or became seriously ill and could not make your own decisions. Also, you need to discuss how you want your estate distributed after you die. 

If you are an adult son or daughter, encourage your parents to communicate to you their end-of-life decisions. You also need to express your thoughts and wishes to them and other family members in the event something happens to you. As mentioned, the whole family needs to be involved in the discussion, so everyone is on the same page.

Related: The Talk: Discussing End of Life Planning with Your Parents and Loved Ones

If you have a serious or terminal illness, you need to get your affairs in order. And you need your family in the loop to avoid them having to seek legal intervention if you become incapacitated. You should have legal estate planning documents in place that dictate your choices and wishes.

Related: Estate Planning 101: The Documents You Need and Why

How Do You Talk About Your Death with Your Family?

Having a frank family dialogue about death will help ease anxiety and make everyone have a better understanding of each other’s fears and concerns. 

Check out these tips to help get you get started on talking to your family about death:

  1. Be Prepared

Knowing what you want to say and how you will start the conversation will make it easier for you. Write down your thoughts and any specifics you want to talk about.

  1. Gather the Family

Get the whole family together. Explain that a serious talk is needed, and everyone needs to be in on it. Pick a suitable place and time.

Related: Calling a Family Meeting to Discuss Estate Planning

  1. Avoid the Sledgehammer Approach  

Ease into the conversation. Having the right approach is key to a successful dialogue. Avoid saying, “You know, I’m gonna die someday and you need to be ready.” Instead, set the stage by saying something like this, “We need to discuss something important, and it may be uncomfortable. As a family, we all need to be prepared in case I get really sick, so you will all know what to do if something happens to me.”

  1. Break the Ice 

Bring up current events so your family can have something to relate to. One subject you can start with is the COVID-19 pandemic and how quickly so many were sickened and died from it. If a relative or friend recently passed, you can mention that, pointing out how these life changing events have made you start thinking of your own mortality. 

  1. Express Your Wishes

Now that the conversation is underway, tell your loved ones what health care treatments you would want or not want and how you would want your finances handled in the event you became seriously ill. Also, discuss your thoughts about your Will – what you would like to leave and to whom. Perhaps you may want to set up a Trust for your home or bank accounts that will pass to a family member upon your passing. What about your funeral? Do you want to be cremated or buried?

  1. Choose Your Representatives

Ask responsible loved ones you trust to be your Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney so that they can act on your behalf to carry out your medical and financial decisions respectively if you cannot speak for yourself. Who do you want as your Will’s executor or trustee to oversee your Trust? If you have minor children, who would you choose to serve as their guardian if you die?

  1. Gain Perspectives

Listen to your families’ thoughts and wishes and consider their perspectives. Ask them what they would want if something were to happen to them. Who would they want making their financial and health care decisions? Have they thought about creating their own Will? 

  1. Create Your Estate Plan 

Once everyone has made their views known, it’s time to create your estate plan:

After completing your documents, securely store them in an online vault, like Gentreo’s Digital Family Vault. This provides quick access for your chosen family members anytime from anywhere.

Don't Procrastinate with this Conversation

Don’t put off talking about death with your family. Waiting isn’t going to make it any easier. Do it while you have your faculties and have the time to make proper decisions and plans. Having plans in place will protect you, your loved ones, and everything you own if – and when – life throws a curveball.


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