Losing a loved one is always difficult, but it can be even harder when the grieving process is compounded by the need to make post-death decisions. These decisions can include making burial and funeral plans, putting together the necessary information for a death certificate, and writing an obituary.

Part of good estate planning is addressing these topics in advance. This can help to ensure that your loved ones are not burdened with making these decisions while they are grieving. It can also help to ensure that your wishes are carried out as you would have wanted.

I reflect on the gratitude I hear from families of clients who wrote their own obituaries. Is this surprising? While it might be hard for a grieving family to try to piece together details for an obituary under pressure, you can probably do this for yourself with ease, selecting the accomplishments, relationships, character traits or experiences most meaningful to you and your legacy.

Typically, obituaries are written in the third person. Earlier this year, another professional I often worked with passed away, and his obituary was written as a letter from him to the reader – the first time I've seen this format. It began "I could never understand why people didn't write their own obituaries. Who better to report on a life than the person who lived it." The obituary was personal, reflective, and a joy to read; it gave me a true sense of who he was, what mattered to him, and his unique personality came through. I've been thinking about it ever since.

Would you ever consider writing your own obituary? I encourage you to think about it as a way to leave a lasting legacy and to share your story with the people who matter most to you. If you do, be sure to share it with your loved ones and your estate planning attorney.

Here are some tips for writing your own obituary:

  • Be personal and reflective. This is your chance to share your story with the world, so don't be afraid to be yourself and speak in your own voice.
  • Include biographical information. This could include your date of birth, place of birth, education, career, and any other relevant information, with a focus on what is most meaningful to you.
  • Identify family members and close friends. This is a way to let people know they are important to you.
  • Share any special memories, pictures, or sentiments. This can be anything that you think would be meaningful to your loved ones.

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