Including Funeral Instructions in Your Will…

In less than 700 words read about the impact of leaving instructions about your funeral in your will.

I have been hearing a lot lately about some challenging situations for families facing the death of a loved one.

It is time to start talking about it!

Once upon a time I thought it a stellar idea to design my own funeral… from start to finish covering every last detail. Which songs, which poems, which pictures, who gets to speak… you get the idea? Over time two things, in particular, have changed my mind.

The first being:
I am not going to be alive at my own funeral.

Not an unsurprising detail but one that I missed when I thought about planning my funeral. And given that I am not going to be there in anything but spirit or memory then I figure it’s best to let those I “leave behind” decide how they want to say their farewells.

It’s one thing to express some desires about the kind of send-off you’d prefer… but when people get REALLY specific about their preferences and they convert them into “instructions in their will” it totally denies those in mourning the ability to say farewell in a meaningful and significant way.

The other thing that has changed my thinking is that if I want a celebration of my life that is planned and specific…
I’d best celebrate the way I want while I am alive to enjoy it.

And so I have definitely been doing that since the thought occurred to me… I think I have been doing reasonably well on that front even before this line of thinking became evident.

Why do people get specific about their funeral instructions? 

There are lots of reasons why people get specific about their funeral or send-off instructions and why they put them in their wills. The only way to legally ensure your instructions about your send-off are followed are to enshrine them in your Last Will and Testament. Reasons for doing so might include, and yet are certainly not limited to:

  • Personal reflections of self…
    which might range from a lack of self-worth (‘Nobody will miss me when I am gone’), to an overinflated sense of self-importance (‘Throw me a whopper of a send-off because everyone loves me and will want to hear how significant and important I was while I lived – in case I didn’t tell you enough while I was alive’)
  • Financial implications…
    If allowances haven’t been made by a person to cover the financial considerations of their funeral they might not want others to have to bear the costs of a send-off let alone a big send-off. And conversely, a person may have set aside a significant amount for their funeral such that a fully loaded celebration of their life can occur.
  • A waste of time and resources…
    If a person is particularly aware of the potential cost involved in a funeral or other send-off they may prefer the funds to be bequeathed to loved ones or partially donate some of their wealth to charitable organisations or particular causes.
  • Maintaining control…
    for others a sense of control may have been important while they were living and they may choose to prolong that sense of control for as long as possible by enshrining in law how their send-off will occur.
  • Having the last laugh (metaphorically speaking)…
    by choosing and ensuring their preferred send-off occurs people can intentionally or otherwise have the final say of what happens or doesn’t happen at their send-off because they feel like they had little or no say in their affairs while they were living.

As I mentioned this list of reasons for enshrining your send-off instructions in your Last Will and Testament is by no means inclusive of every and all reasons…

Think about the way you would want to celebrate a loved one’s life and how you’d feel if you had no say in how you would want to say farewell!

More on what happens when the people who are left behind lose the legal or familial right to mourn in a meaningful way another time.

We have just one life…

Jacqui Chaplin

Independent Funeral Information | Life Story Collector & Writer | End of Life Tributes | Easier End of Life Experiences | Funeral Planning and Celebrancy

Just One Life… doing and designing dying and death differently and with dignity and distinction.

For more information on doing dying and death differently or to start thinking about how to handle a death of a loved one before you are overtaken by grief, organise a conversation with Jacqui today.

Call +61 (0)412 741 531 or email

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Jacqui Chaplin is a Lifetime Commemoration Specialist and funeral celebrant in Melbourne, Australia. She loves capturing stories of the nature of life and being human and celebrating and commemorating well lived lives and lives that have ended. Jacqui has a passion for bringing the conversations that many of us find difficult to think about, let alone speak about, out in the open so we can see how our stories, values and beliefs influence our attitudes and thinking on dying, death, mourning and grief.

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