Stanford Letter Project

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New research at Stanford University shows that most doctors are reluctant to talk to their patients about what matters most at end-of-life. The Standford Letter Project will help you write a simple letter to your doctor about your values and life goals. Many people have written their letters and given them to their doctors. Write your letter now! The link at the bottom of the page will take you to the letter in different languages.

Dear Doctor,

My Doctor’s name _________________________________

RE: What matters most to me at the end of my life

I have been reading and thinking about end-of-life issues lately. I realize how important it is that I communicate my wishes to you and my family. I know that you are very busy.

You may find it awkward to talk to me about my end-of-life wishes or you may feel that it is too early for me to have this conversation. So I am writing this letter to clarify what matters most to me.

My name ______________________________________

What Matters Most to Me
Examples: Being at home, doing gardening, going to church, playing with my grandchildren



My important future life milestones
Examples: my 10th wedding anniversary, my grandson high school graduation, birth of my granddaughter



Here is how we prefer to handle bad news in my family
Examples: We talk openly about it, we shield the children from it, we do not like to talk about it, we do not tell the patient



Here is how we make medical decisions in our family
Examples: I make the decision myself, my entire family has to agree on major decisions about me, my daughter who is a nurse makes the decisions etc.



Here is who I want making medical decisions for me when I am not able to make my own decisions
1._______________ 2._____________ 3._______________

stanford letterWhat I DO NOT want at the end of my life
☐ I do not want to be on a breathing machine
☐ I do not want artificial liquid feeding
☐ I do not want dialysis
☐ I do not want to spend my last days in a hospital
☐ Idonotwanttodieathome
☐ Other


What I DO WANT at the end of life
☐ I want to be pain free
☐ I want to spend my the last days in the hospital
☐ I want you to help me die gently and naturally
☐ I want to die at home
☐ I want hospice care
☐ Other

If my pain and distress are difficult to control, please sedate me (make with sleep with sleep medicines) even if this means that I may die sooner
☐ Yes ☐ No

What to do when my family wants you to do something different than what I want for myself?
☐ I am asking you to show them this letter and guide my family to follow my wishes.
☐ I want you to override my wishes as my family knows best.
☐ Other information you want to convey

Please scan this letter into my medical records in a place where your colleagues can read this and be guided by it. I thank you doctor for listening to me now and for the future work you are about to do guided by what matters most to me.

Your grateful patient, ____________________________

View this full document, and others in different languages HERE

Before Death Checklist


  • Update Your Will
    • Determine who will get your assets when you pass
    • This should be kept with your Power of Attorney (see below) and Advanced Directive (see below)
    • People who should have a copy: Lawyer, You, Power of Attorney (whoever you decide)
  • Designate Power of Attorney (when necessary)
    • Gives someone the power to make financial decisions for you, when you are not able to make those decisions for yourself
      • Ex. If you are in an accident and are left with no ability to think for yourself
    • People who should have a copy: Lawyer, You, Power of Attorney
  • Fill out Advanced Directive
    • Designates your medical wishes
    • People who should have a copy: Doctor, You, Power of Attorney
  • Prepare a Contact List
    • People who should be immediately notified of the death (immediate family, power of attorney, etc.)
    • People who should be notified and invited to the funeral/memorial
    • People who you DO NOT want notified and who are NOT to attend the funeral/memorial
  • Plan and Write Out Wishes
    • What type of service you would like
    • Where you want the service
    • Burial/Cremation/Donation to Science
    • Where you are to be buried/cremated
  • Write an obituary (optional)
    • Allows you to decide what is written
  • Make a list of important account information
    • All accounts so they can be closed after your death
      • Bank
      • Utilities
      • Cable
      • Cell Phone
    • Where your accounts are (bank, phone, etc.)
      • Which bank?
      • Which cable company?
  • Make a list of death benefits & insurance policies
    • Auto insurance
    • Home insurance
    • Life insurance
    • Veteran services
    • Social security
  • Make a list of assets
    • Titles
    • Registrations

Veteran Services: Honoring the Service of the Brave

As a veteran, you fought hard for the freedoms that this country enjoys, and as such you are owed a great deal of gratitude.  Part of the gratitude shown by this country for your service is expressed in the form of Veterans benefits.  Veteran’s benefits include a multitude of things like free health care and increased pension, but perhaps the most important benefits for you and your loved ones to be aware of are the benefits given to Veterans when they pass away.

According to the laws of the United States, families of eligible Veterans who pass away are entitled to full military funeral honors ceremony.  This ceremony includes the playing of taps by a trumpeter, the folding of an American flag, and the presentation of said flag to the widow or a family member of the deceased.  This military funeral honors ceremony is also generally attended by at least two uniformed military Veterans.

Currently there are 131 national cemeteries in the United States which serve as burial grounds for fallen Veterans.  These cemeteries offer to eligible Veterans a full military honors ceremony, opening of the grave, closing of the grave, upkeep on the grave site, a government headstone, an American flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate.  Veteran benefits come at no cost to the family of the eligible Veteran, and they provide the perfect and serene resting place the soldier in your family deserves.  Every Veteran of the United States Military deserves to be honored, and burial at one of the 131 national cemeteries is the perfect way to provide that honor to your loved one.

If you are the family member or loved one of a Veteran who has passed away, or you are a Veteran who wants to make arrangements for your funeral, nearly any funeral home will be able to make arrangements to contact the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and request this full military funeral honors ceremony.  The ceremony will be a fitting way for you to say goodbye to the fallen Veteran in your family, marking the occasion with the pride and honor they deserve.

After Death Checklist

  • Make the Call
    • Notify either hospice of emergency services (911)
  • Contact the funeral home
  • Obtain 5-10 copies of death certificate
    • Enough to send to all major accounts (social security, banks, insurance, Veteran’s Administration, etc.)
  • Locate important documents
    • Will
    • Title Documents
    • Bank Statements
    • Deeds
    • Estate Documents
  • Review funeral plans or begin making them
    • As specified in will
  • Notify social security
  • Notify veterans administration (if applicable)
  • Contact attorney, accountant, and executor of estate (if applicable)
  • Contact the insurance companies & file claim with life insurance company (if applicable)
  • Contact employer
  • Notify credit card companies, pay bills and close accounts
    • Credit Cards
    • Utilities (electric, water, cable, etc.)
    • Subscriptions (magazines, newspaper, etc.)
    • Bills (mortgage, car payments, utilities, cell phone, etc.)
  • Forward mail at the post office (if applicable)
  • Inventory and distribute personal belongings
    • As specified in the will (if one exists)
  • Collect asset and liability information
  • File a final tax return

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