Noble Living, Noble Caring, Noble Dying · Noble Dying: The Final Steps

Practical Matters: Death and Paperwork

If we have a loving discussion about practical matters about dying now, we can avoid putting more stress on those who might be grieving later.

Practical matters preparing for death involve prior planning. We’ve included this in the Noble Living section to encourage you to discuss these topics and plan for your own inevitable death. Consider this also a noble process because it is a kindness for others to put things in order as best we can. This preparation helps those who are left behind make sure that they are respecting the wishes of the person, and avoids confusion. The following list is not exhaustive but provides an important starting place and a check list for you to review.

Many of us prefer to ignore these practical matters, but preparation can be a big help for those who wish to carry out your wishes. If we have a loving discussion now, we can avoid putting more stress on those who might be grieving later.

Practical Matters: A Check-List

  1. Financial documents: Prepare a will that is recognized in your country of residence. You may also wish to consider a durable financial power of attorney, designating someone to perform financial transactions on your behalf if you are no longer capable.
  2. Medical documents: File a health care power of attorney, allowing a trusted family member or friend to make medical decisions if you are unable to do so yourself.
  3. Investigate if it is possible in your country of residence to file a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order. This may also be known as “no code” or “allow natural death”.  Some US states and countries also allow filing of a DNI (Do Not Intubate) order. These are legal orders, and may be written, oral, or electronic depending on country. Often these allow medical providers to withhold cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) in case of heart failure or arrested breathing.
  4. Specify where you prefer to die if possible. Discuss this honestly with your loved ones, and investigate the availability of a hospice link.
  5. Funeral Directive: What type of ceremony do you want? Specify if you prefer cremation or other. And who do you want to lead a service? What type of memorial would you prefer?
  6. Spiritual directive: Instruct sangha members about your preferences regarding contacting teachers and spiritual friends. Share any information about shrine offerings or donations. what practices you want people to do while you are dying, and after death. Are their specific texts that you would like to request people to recite?
  7. Write your own obituary, or share the information you would like included with those who you would ask to write it. Also think about any postings that you might want to include on social media accounts.
  8. Know that most countries require a death certificate filled out by medical personnel. Depending upon the country, someone must file these within a short period after death.
  9. Prepare a notification letter for government  and financial authorities. In many cases an official copy of a death certificate must be sent as well.
  10.  Where would you like your Dharma practice materials: statues, thangkas, texts, etc. to go? Is there a sangha member or Dharma center that you would like to receive these?
  11. Discuss with your family and friends any wishes you might have concerning the 49 day ceremony. Customarily Tibetan Buddhists mark the conclusion of the bardos with final prayers and ritual activities.