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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

End-of-life decisions

Whakataunga hinganga

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You may be reading this page because you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Or maybe you are near the end of your life because of a long-term illness or old age.

We all have things we think about and want to act on as we near the end of our life. Some are things we want to do on our own. Some are things we want to involve our loved ones in. Others are things we need to involve professionals such as doctors or lawyers in.

This page is about some of the things you might be thinking about or need to make decisions about.

Legal and financial matters

Your will

It is important to have a will that clearly details what you want to happen to your belongings after you die. It makes the process much smoother for your relatives and avoids any drawn-out process or unpleasant disputes.

Your will can specify who you want to receive any personal items, such as special jewellery or heirlooms. It can also specify if you want to make a special gift of money to any individuals or charities.

You can arrange a will through your lawyer, or the Public Trust.

Enduring power of attorney

Arranging an enduring power of attorney means appointing someone to make decisions for you if you cannot. For example, if you are unconscious. You can even arrange a specific medical power of attorney. This is someone who can make decisions about your medical care if you cannot do so.

The people you appoint to either of these positions need to be people you can trust. Talk to your lawyer about how to arrange this.


If you have dependent children and there may be issues about who will care for them once you have gone, talk to your lawyer about arranging for formal guardianship. This will make it clear who you want to make decisions about your children's care.

Planning for your medical care

While you can still make your wishes known, it is good to let people know what medical care you want at the end of your life. It is best to do this formally with the help of your medical team. They can talk to you about advance care planning and medical care guidance plans.

This discussion can include issues such as what resuscitation or active medical treatment you want. You can also talk about if you want to donate your organs (if that is possible) and where you would like to die.

The Nurse Maude brochure on Decisions about treatment has more information about what to consider.

Making – and working through – a bucket list

As people approach the end of their lives, they often think about things they wished they had done or experienced. They can be as simple as trying a new food or as adventurous as travelling to a place you have never been before.

Achieving some of these things can become more important when you know you have limited time left.

Planning a bucket list can help you focus on the things that are most important to you – and the things you can achieve – in the last years, months or weeks of your life.

There may be some things you can no longer do. But by making a list, you can choose the things you can achieve and which are important to you, such as calling someone you have not spoken to in years.

Planning for your funeral

Talk with your friends and family about what you would like at your funeral. This will make it easier for them to arrange this at a time when they will be grieving for you.

Your funeral will be a time when people come together to celebrate your life. It can be important for your friends and family to reflect on your life and how you affected their lives.

Some of the things you might want to arrange are:

You may find this leaflet on funeral planning helpful in guiding you.

Planning how you will be remembered

People want to be remembered in different ways. These are just some ideas.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed June 2020.


Page reference: 349385

Review key: HIDLT-326665