A recent survey conducted on behalf of the National Council for Palliative Care has revealed that – rather unsurprisingly – the majority of people are uncomfortable talking (or even thinking) about dying.
It’s not usually something we chat about over the breakfast table, but death is an unavoidable part of our lives, despite the fact that we are generally living longer, in better health, and with more options for care in old age. As scary, morbid or daunting it may seem, avoiding the subject altogether is not really a sensible option. Instead, face up to the future by putting together some practical end-of-life plans with your solicitor. Having up-to-date will and probate arrangements in place will help to avoid your family having to negotiate difficult legal issues after you’re gone, and ensure your wishes are taken care of.
According to those taking part in the NCPC survey, only 35% of people had written a will, 27% had discussed funeral wishes, and a startlingly-low 7% had written down their preferences for future care, despite a third of respondents admitting to thinking about death and dying at least once a week. If the subject is so regularly on our minds, why is talking about it such a taboo? And why don’t more of us prepare properly for the future?
There are some fundamental decisions that need facing when approaching the subject of death, and a professionally made will can help to set these down – not only for your own peace of mind but to ensure there are no legal issues to deal with. Additional plans, such as arranging power of attorney or making decisions about your funeral, will also allow you to make decisions about how you are cared for later in life as well as taking the pressure off your family after you’re gone. Before making an appointment with your solicitor, think about the following questions:
- How would you like to be cared for if you find yourself in need of support as you grow older, or if you become ill or disabled? Would you prefer to stay at home or be looked after in a care home or hospice? Who would you trust to handle your finances or decisions on your care if you are unable to do so?
- Do you have any preferences about your funeral arrangements? Perhaps you have a special piece of music in mind, or a particular kind of ceremony. Who would you like to handle these arrangements? Do you have the means to put money aside to help finance your funeral and take the pressure of your family?
- If you don’t already have an up-to-date will, have you thought about how you would like your assets (property, finances, personal possessions) to be divided after your death? Are there any specific items you’d like to leave to certain family members or friends? If you have dependent children, who would you prefer to look after them? Would you like to donate a portion of your estate to charity?
- Is there anything else you’d like to make a note of? For example: organ donation, or religious/personal preferences regarding medical treatment or funeral arrangements.
When you meet with a solicitor to draw up a will you will need to consider all these questions, as well as putting together details of your assets, liabilities, and any beneficiaries you’d like to include in your will.
Sorting out end-of-life legal arrangements needn’t be morbid or difficult – in fact, you might find the simple act of preparation makes you feel less uncomfortable about the subject. Making a will is usually straightforward, quick and inexpensive, and is a vital document to have if you want your family to avoid financial disputes and upheaval after you’re gone. And with the added reassurance of power of attorney arrangements personally tailored to your wishes, you can ensure that you will be supported according to your wishes should the worst happen.
No matter how far away we hope the finish line will be, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared, safe in the knowledge our loved ones will be provided for. To speak to an experienced, down-to-earth solicitor from our Wills & Probate department, call 01628 634677 or visit www.franceslindsay.co.uk.
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