TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Let's Have Dinner and Talk About Death

DeathBloomberg:  Death Dinners at Baby Boomers’ Tables Take on Dying Taboo:

Over the past month, hundreds of Americans across the country have organized so-called death dinners, designed to lift the taboo around talking about death in hopes of heading off conflicts over finances and medical care -- and avoiding unnecessary suffering at the end of life. It’s a topic that is resonating as baby boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, deal with the passing of their parents, even as they come face-to-face with their own mortality. 

About 70 percent of adults don’t have a living will, a legal document detailing the medical interventions they’d want or not want if unable to communicate, according to the Pew Research Center. As many as 30 percent of Americans 65 and older don’t have a will detailing what should happen with their assets, a Pew survey found. If those discussions don’t happen ahead of an illness or death, it can leave family members conflicted over what to do.

“Having family infighting is horrific,” said Dianne Gray, president of the Elizabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, a nonprofit focused on end-of-life issues. “No parent wants their legacy to be that at the end of their life they created a family divided.”

For the generation that brought on the sexual revolution, led the anti-war movement and turned their midlife crises into a time for reinvention and self-improvement, baby boomers are trying now to have it their way right to the very end. ...

[Death Dinners] are happening largely thanks to a group of master’s degree students and faculty at the University of Washington, who have started a program called “Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death.” It offers talking points, reading material on death, and how to word a death dinner invitation. Since starting last month, about 400 people have signed up to host dinners, the group said.

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