No one likes to think about end of life, but forward planning now can make a difference later.
This guide contains a wealth of information, tips and advice on how to plan the final part of your life to give you complete peace of mind.
One spends much time thinking about the future and planning. You would not buy a car without driving it first, or book the dog into kennels unseen. So why should your end-of-life planning be any different?
This guide covers everything from telling your family your wishes, to making a Will, to planning a funeral and more.
We hope our experience will help you put your affairs in order.
You may be the most organised person in the world; then again, you may not!
Spending 10 minutes to think about what you need to do is ten minutes well spent. Here are some of the things you should ask yourself to get started:
Need to have documents
A valid, up-to-date Will.
Whether you have lots of money, no money, lots of family or no family, you need a Will.
The reason why is very simple: you’ve lived your life making your own choices; why should that be any different after your death? A Will is the best possible way to ensure that your wishes are carried out – to the letter.
If you leave no Will, you are deemed to have died “Intestate” and the government will take control of your Estate.
First of all write down what you have – your house, car, furniture, savings plans etc.
Then put down any personal bequests, ie specific gifts you wish to leave to certain individuals. You may leave items such as a sum of money, a piece of furniture or jewellery. You can also choose to leave a percentage of your estate. You are less likely to have to change your Will as your circumstances change if you choose the percentage option.
Think who else you would like to benefit from your Estate – for example a charity.
You do not have to, but we strongly recommend you use a solicitor to avoid complications later.
Your Will must be witnessed by two people over 18 and they may not be beneficiaries of your Will.
You need to appoint up to four Executors – these might be friends or relatives (but ask them first!), or you may prefer someone quite independent, i.e. your solicitor, accountant or senior bank official. Remember though that a professional may expect a fee!
Keep your Will in a safe place. The original is best kept by the solicitor. Give your family their contact details.
Make sure they also know combinations for locks, and where to find important keys.
Why you should update your Will:
It is sensible to regularly review your Will so that it continues to reflect changes in your life.
You should not write on an existing Will. The solicitor should update an existing Will by adding a codicil or by writing a new one.
A Last Will and Testament ensures your wishes are carried out after your death. A Living Will does the same whilst you are alive but approaching the end of your life.
It is a good way to formally advise people what medical treatment you do or do not want and how you want to be cared for. It does not have to be a formal document, but again, needs to be witnessed.
With new laws surrounding euthanasia coming soon, this is ever more important. As is the decision you make, whilst still of sound mind, to declare your wish not to be resuscitated.
Therefore, you can make your Living Will a legally binding document but only if it is to refuse medical treatment.
Writing a living Will is something we would recommend that you talk about, carefully, with someone close in whom you trust completely.
You may be in charge of your faculties now, but, one never knows what is around the corner.
So, you may want to draw up a Power of Attorney. This is a legal document that nominates one or more trusted people to handle your financial affairs for you if you are no longer able.
There are two types of Power of Attorney:
Ordinary Power of Attorney – this is usually temporary and is used while
you can still make decisions but, for example before undergoing serious surgery and you will be under a general anaesthetic. It could also be used if you need to go away to visit a relative or on holiday abroad and you need someone to act on your behalf in an emergency.
Lasting Power of Attorney – this has replaced the old Enduring Power of Attorney*.
This may be used when you can still make decisions. It comes into effect when you have lost your faculties. It can only be used if it has been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian.
* Existing Enduring Power of Attorneys registered before 1 October 2007 are still valid.
Good health is priceless, so, besides living healthily, everyone should make the most of their good health without worrying about when their health does begin to desert them. However, it is a good idea to give some thought to what you want to happen if your health does fail. You might want to discuss this with your family:
Whether they would be able and willing to look after you?
Some cultures embrace old age as a matter of honour and do so without hesitation, for example, the Greeks, Indians, Romans, Chinese and Koreans. In these cultures, elders are respected for their wisdom and life experiences.
The idea of Grandma sitting in her chair ready to comfort a crying grandchild is a reality and all parties benefit from shared experiences and wisdom. More active grandparents are readily available to provide unpaid baby-sitting services.
A culture is emerging where the elderly end up living “lonely lives” separated from their children and lifelong friends.
You may be entitled to help such as disability living allowance, attendance allowance and carers allowance?
You should contact your local Social Services and/or your doctor to discuss care options?
You could take out a health care plan so you can save towards your long-term care should you need it?
If you have a handicapped relative (such as a disabled son or daughter) to be properly looked after following your death:
Have you ensured that their care can be paid for?
Likewise for pets.
What provision have you made for their welfare when you die?
Thinking about your own demise is hard enough; talking to family and friends about it can be impossible. There are always things we know we should say but cannot.
If you do not feel able to talk to loved ones about how you feel, here are some tips you might find helpful:
At what is a very emotional time, it helps to know what to do. Here are a few guidelines:
Call the family doctor and inform close relatives immediately. The doctor – or the hospital if the person dies there – will give you a medical certificate showing the cause of death and a formal notice that tells you how to register the death.
If the person is to be cremated, you will need two certificates signed by different doctors, but you don’t have to do this straightaway.
Register the death with the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths in the district where the person died within 5 days (8 days in Scotland) unless the death has been referred to the coroner.
If you cannot get to the district office where the death occurred, you can make a formal declaration at the office where you live, and it can be forwarded.
These are the things the registrar will need to register the death:
You may also need:
The Registrar will give you:
What you need to think about when arranging a funeral:
Is there a funeral plan?
Are there any specific instructions about the funeral?
Have you thought about whether you wish to be buried or cremated?
You should consider this carefully since burial involves buying a plot that will then need tending.
A look around many cemeteries indicates that subsequent generations are not always up for this and why many people now choose cremation (75% according to Sun Life)
Coronavirus has already changed attitudes about traditional funerals since large groups of mourners were excluded by HM Government in March 2020. The use of a funeral procession with a shiny hearse followed by several limousines has gone quite out of fashion.
More families are now considering an unattended cremation which is a funeral without ceremony. This is also known as direct cremation.
Direct cremation is simpler than a traditional funeral. It dispenses with the rituals which are no longer appreciated in a secular society. It is no less respectful and is a fraction of the cost.
Typical minimum costs for the various options are:
Traditional funeral with a burial (exclusive of cost of grave plot): £4,500
Direct Cremation: less than £1,500
(Figures: Sun Life)
Regardless of whether there is a funeral plan, you should always obtain quotes from several funeral directors and check what their fees include.
Check how much extra you will have to pay for embalming, flowers, crematorium fees, doctors, and clergy.
You may invite donations for a charity in lieu of flowers.