10 November 2023

Instructions for arrangements in the event of death: Support your bereaved relatives

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  • Inheritance / Succession

Prearrange your posthumous wishes, from funeral arrangements to memorial service. This guide is designed to assist in creating these end-of-life directives.

In the event of a death, bereaved family members have to deal with many organisational and administrative issues and need to make important decisions within a short period of time ("What needs to be done when a member of the family dies?“). During the difficult mourning period, even "robust" relatives may feel overwhelmed. You have the possibility to help your family members and loved ones by giving them instructions regarding the arrangements in the event of your death. This enables you to determine during your lifetime what should happen after your death. You may state who to inform about or is invited to your funeral, whether you want to be buried or cremated, and how you would like your funeral service to be done. Moreover, you may record where you keep important official documents, such as IDs, testaments and last wills, inheritance contracts, lists of insurance policies and bank accounts details. Additionally, it is recommended to prepare information about your digital estate: you may need a list of social media accounts, email accounts, digital assets (such as cryptocurrencies (How not to lose crypto assets)) and passwords.) Lastly, it is also advisable to note down all contact details which relate to your estate.

Further, you may appoint a trusted person to carry out your instructions in the event of your death - this does not necessarily have to be your heirs or beneficiaries, family members or the administrator/executor. You may appoint any other person of trust.

Keep your instructions in a safe and easily accessible place (not in a bank safe!). Your bereaved relatives will only be able to follow them if they are able to find them. It is best to keep your instructions well labelled with your other documents (such as last will and testament, nuptial agreements and/or inheritance contract(s), lasting power of attorney, patient decree) so that they are easily readable and accessible. You may also hand a copy of the instructions to the designated trusted person. Please note that one should avoid including instructions in the last will or testament. This is because, a last will is only to be opened after several weeks or even months upon death, i.e., after the funeral so that that most of the instructions are no longer realisable.

There are no specific formal requirements for instructions in the event of death. However, written instructions with date and your signature will make it easier for the bereaved relatives to carry out your wishes. You should also make sure that your instructions are clear, feasible and reasonable. Only in this way can those close to you give you the farewell you want. Your instructions are binding on everyone within the legal and financial framework.

Remember to review your instructions regularly and adapt them to changing circumstances and needs. Simply date and sign the amended arrangements or destroy the old version and draw up new instructions.

Please do not confuse arrangements in the event of death with a patient decree. The latter allows you to specify which medical procedures you agree or do not agree to in case of a loss of capacity by illness or accident. However, the patient decree can also include funeral orders, etc. However, to avoid the risk of conflicting instructions, we recommend including such orders only in the instructions for death.

We have prepared a sample document for you to use as a guide for drafting instructions in the event of death. Download the guide now

Download the guide

Would you like more information? Do you want to plan your instructions comprehensively? Our team of inheritance law experts will be happy to assist you with your legacy and estate planning. We look forward to hearing from you.