Pastoral Thanatology Certification Blog on Decisions After Your Gone: The Will

Death is such a feared subject that many families put off discussing it.  This prevents communication that can enhance closeness as well as clear miscommunication and heal old wounds.  Beyond the fear of death, discussing or thinking about the “what if” is even more dangerous if anyone neglects putting their wishes on paper if they die or if they are injured long term.  This can not only lead to a disregard of one’s wishes but also lead to multiple assets being misused or lost.

Everyone should have a Will, a Living Will and Power of Attorney document.  Like insurance, it does not mean one anticipates the worst, it merely means one is prepared for the worst.  When such documents are not prepared, after death, ensuing chaos can occur with bills, inheritance battles, state interference and overall bitterness.  Likewise, when someone is very sick, on a ventilator, a feeding tube, or in a coma, one’s wishes may or not be met.  A legal bind document can resolve these issues and ensure that what one wishes is properly handled.

There are three basic documents that ensure a calm legal atmosphere after death, or during a dying phase or possible long term illness.  The first is the Final Will and Testament.  This document ensures that one’s financial and legal business is resolved according to one’s wishes after death.   It first gives an individual the power to resolve all financial and legal issues in your name.  This individual is your personal representative and ensures that all expenses of funeral, bills and debts are paid immediately following death.  Utilization of existing funds as well as life insurance are used to pay off any debts.  This individual also ensures sell of property and transfer of inheritance and fulfillment of any final wishes.  Also extremely important are one’s final wishes at the funeral and how the body is to be respected, via burial or cremation.  Obviously, the executer of one’s will is important to ensure one’s wishes are met This executive of your will must be a very trusted person that you know will be around after your death.

Secondly, there are a variety of beneficiaries that are listed on the will.  You can distribute individual possessions but primarily, homes, cars, financial legacy are left to primary beneficiaries.   They can be listed in order as well, if one is no longer alive, proceeding down a chronological order.

A Living Will is important to ensure that one’s medical wishes are met. Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program


The legal binding of a will depends merely upon a signing an official form and having a non family related witness and notary sign it.  Some individuals prefer going to an attorney and that is fine as well. Ultimately, anyone, young or old, should have a Will in place.  As one becomes married, has children or accumulates assets, this becomes even more imperative.

Not all disasters result in death and this is why it is also important that one’s wishes are met in the final two documents; A Living Will and Power of Attorney.  These two documents are closely related.  One deals with medical issues while alive if unconscious or unable to make decisions and the other deals with giving a particular person certain powers to carry out your life.   A Living Will hence deals with a multitude of issues if you become extremely ill and unable to function.  A Living Will dictates medical procedures according to one’s wishes.

Among the numerous things that can arise during a medical emergency in which you lose consciousness can be how your care is to be properly administered.   How long do you wish to be left on a ventilator, or feeding tube?  If a comma results and one is brain dead, how long do you wish extraordinary measures to be carried out?  Do you wish to be resuscitated?   What is your preferred pain management?  Furthermore, do you wish to have organs donated if not listed on your license?   These are extremely personal decisions and if no written documentation exists to guide physicians or family, then one’s medical care can be dictated from outside sources.

A Power of Attorney plays an important role in this.  If a person is listed to fulfill your care needs while incapacitated then they can dictate the policies or if No Living Will is in place, carry out what you wanted from merely discussions although again this leads to the issue of trust.  A Power of Attorney bound to the dictates of a Living Will are always best.   The limit of the Power of Attorney is up to you.  The person can have only power during the illness, or be given only a certain amount of time.  Usually, the Power of Attorney also has other powers given to him or her.   They are able to access all legal and financial matters, access accounts and pay bills in your absence.   Again, the limitations are up to you in what your Power of Attorney can do and not do and for how long.   Again, due to death of others, sometimes, these documents need to be updated, but to have a person in place you trust is essential in planning.

Yes, death can be a difficult discussion but it is an important one.  This aversion to death and dying talk is not healthy.  It is part of life and can open many conversations that are critical to relationships but most importantly it can open discussions about legal and medical ramifications that are critically important.  Written and legally binding documents are essential to prevent disputes and one’s wishes not being honored.

Please also review AIHCP’s Pastoral Thanatology Program and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Pastoral Thanatology