End of life preparation – What are your wishes?

Ethical Will (Tzava’ot)

It is an ancient Jewish tradition to transmit in writing to your children an ethical vision to help guide them. In this vision, you can convey whatever wisdom you feel will be of use to your children and supplement the love that will be diminished when you are gone. Some people have written a book, poetry or a letter, or created an audio or video recording. There is no right or wrong way. Here is a good history of the ethical will and how you can create one.

Living Will (more commonly, an Advance Directive or Medical POA, not a Financial POA)

A living will is a written, legal document that spells out medical treatments you would and would not want to be used to keep you alive, as well as your preferences for other medical decisions, such as pain management or organ donation.

Legal Will (not a Financial POA)

This is the will which outlines how the assets and property of the person who has died will be distributed.

Financial POA (power of attorney)

This legal document can be created at any time, and is activated when a person is no longer capable of making their own financial decisions. It should be created while a person is still able to make these decisions. You appoint someone to manage your finances and property for you. These tasks could include paying bills, making bank deposits, collecting your insurance benefits, and more. The person you name in your POA to make these decisions is often called your agent or attorney-in-fact.

We never know when something unexpected could happen to us, like a sudden injury or illness. With a financial power of attorney, you create peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones by entrusting someone to manage your finances and property in the event you’re unable to care for these things yourself.


There are at least three steps in pre-planning. The first step is to choose a funeral home. The Chevra Kavod haMet has worked with a wide variety of funeral homes in Portland, and has prepared deceased for transport to funeral homes all over the world. Most of our work has been with Holman’s Funeral Service and River View RiverCemetery Funeral Home. We have also worked with many other funeral homes in Portland and can work with any funeral home of your choosing. Sometimes the family asks us to come be with the deceased in their home, and prepare them for transport there. We travel with all of our supplies and can perform the burial preparation anywhere someone needs.

The funeral home you choose can assist you in the second step—how to decide what kind of funeral arrangements you wish to make. There are a number of Jewish cemeteries in the Portland metropolitan area, many of which are operated and maintained by area congregations. Some congregations require membership in order to be buried at their cemetery, while others allow non-members to be buried at their cemetery. Please contact area congregations for further information. A third step is to consider whether you wish to authorize organ donation.

End-of-life medical care planning

These often difficult conversations with loved ones, or thinking about your own death, can be uncomfortable. But they are critical to ensure respect and love continues through the individual’s death. The two forms which must be completed as early on as possible (in fact, every adult should have these on file), are the Advance Directive, which assigns a healthcare representative in the event an individual cannot make their own medical decisions, and the POLST (Physician’s Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment). These forms at and hospice care through Oregon Hospice Association.