Time To Think About Dying – Dying Matters Awareness WeekMay 8, 2017
It is a subject very few of us want to think or talk about, and yet death happens to us all. To mark Dying Matters Awareness Week, Macks Solicitors suggest five things you can do to make life easier for your loved ones when you pass away and give you confidence you have made proper arrangements.
1. Write your Will.
Making a Will should be at the heart of ensuring your loved ones receive your money, home and possessions. Only 36% of people have made their Will. If you do not have a Will, your loved ones will have to rely on the rules of intestacy – which might mean your home and belongings do not go to the people you want them to. It would appear the pop star Prince has not left a Will and this is creating considerable problems for his sister.
“Very few families are straightforward these days, with second or third marriages and unmarried couples. It is essential to make a Will,” says Lynda Monks, a Wills and Probate expert at Macks Solicitors. “One of the main reasons people with small children should make a Will is to appoint guardians to look after your children. What would happen if something happened to both you and your spouse? Who would you want to look after your children?
2. Record your funeral wishes.
Make sure your family and friends know what your wishes are. Only 29% of people have let someone know their funeral plans. What hymns and readings would you like? Do you want a religious or humanist service?
“These can be heartrending decisions for your executor or administrator if they do not know what you would have wanted,” says Lynda. “Some people pre-pay their funeral, which makes it easier. “It may be painful and distressing, but if you talk things over with your family and explain your wishes or leave a letter, this will take a lot of stress away from them and give them the comfort of knowing they are carrying out your final wishes.”
3. Plan your future care and support.
This includes expressing your wishes for care during your lifetime, while in hospital and at the end of your life. It is not just a decision for the elderly. The Law Society suggests everyone aged over 50 should consider making a Lasting Power of Attorney, to appoint someone as an attorney to look after your property and financial affairs, or your personal health and welfare if you are unable to do so.
“If you cannot get out and about to look after your own financial affairs or make decisions about your health, you have a problem if you do not have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place,” says Lynda. “You would have to rely on someone applying to the Court of Protection to be your Deputy and this is a cumbersome, expensive and lengthy process. People think you only need a Lasting Power of Attorney if you have Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, but that is only part of it. You could have an accident or a stroke. The news has recently highlighted strokes affecting working-age people. If you are making a Will, it makes sense to consider also making a Lasting Power of Attorney. I always equate it to having an insurance policy. You do not expect to have to claim, but it is there if you need it.”
A recent audit published by the Royal College of Physicians highlighted that thousands of patients are having “do not resuscitate” orders placed on them without their families being told, even though the guidelines state medical staff have a duty to discuss this with relatives wherever possible. By having a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health & Welfare this could be avoided.
4. Consider registering as an organ donor.
Transplants depend entirely on donations. Would you want to give someone else the gift of life by donating your organs for transplantation after your own death?
“There was some research suggesting there would be more donors if being on the register was compulsory, unless you asked not to be on it,” says Lynda. “Everyone should carry a donor card – I do.”
If you register as an organ donor it is important you tell your family or doctor about your decision.
5. Tell your loved ones your wishes.
Talking and thinking about dying is a very difficult subject, but there are small steps you can take to make things easier for your family. You can make a list or a letter of wishes with your Will for family or friends, indicating who you want to have your personal effects, why you have made the Will in the manner you have and what funeral directions you want.
“We are living in the digital age,” says Lynda. “Would your loved ones be able to access your online banking, investments, insurance and other accounts after you have died? Again, you can put this in a separate letter of wishes. It’s all about making things easier for those who are left behind. Death is a taboo subject and people do not like talking about it. With most major events in your life, such as giving birth or marrying, we make plans and consider carefully what we need to do. When it comes to death, we do not. Most of us have no control over when or how it will come, but it happens to everybody and everybody should take steps to make it easier for those they leave behind.”
Macks Solicitors have an experienced, caring team of experts who can help you plan for the future. Call us on 0800 980 9390 or visit Macks Wills and Probate.