Thanatology Makes Us Think

I am honored that Marian University accepted me into the Masters of Thanatology program this past Fall. “Thanatology? What is that?” is the common remark I hear when I tell people of my new adventure.

A thanatologist is a designated thinker about death. They help people die better than they otherwise might.

I believe every estate-planning attorney is a thanatologist. But we, like many of our clients, allow the underbrush of life, such as tax and probate, to cover up what we really face — our mortality.

In his book, A Commonsense Book of Death: Reflections at Ninety of a Lifelong Thanatologist, Dr. Edward Shneidman sets out 10 Criteria for a Good Death (page 132). Of the 10 criteria, two directly relate to estate planning.

First, it is common sense and good manners to complete the administrative chores associated with death, specifically to have a certified will and, if possible, a living trust. “Every responsible adult should assist his loved ones by doing these thanatological chores.”

Dr. Shneidman refers to the second criteria that directly relates to estate planning as “generative.” He states that a good death has a quality of being generative because, living between your parents and grandchildren, you take pains to relay family stories to the younger generation before you die.

Please consider taking on this thanatological chore of making your estate plan. Take the time to pass on family stories.