We realise that talking about the plans you’re considering putting in place when you die isn’t the easiest conversation to have and many people choose to avoid the subject altogether. We would always recommend that you communicate any plans you have put in place with your family and friends to ensure your wishes are met. However, if you choose not to, here are some practical steps you can take now to make it easier for family and friends when the time comes:
End of Life care
When you are considering and planning end of life care there are certain forms and legal documents you can put in place, to set out your wishes and instructions. One of these is a Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR). A DNR is a legal order written either in a hospital or on a legal form before going in to hospital to respect the wishes of a person not to undergo cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) if their heart were to stop or if they were to stop breathing. The DNR is usually only signed where the quality of life of a person is limited or there is likely to be no quality of life following resuscitation. You can find out more information about putting in place a DNR here.
Lasting Power of Attorney
In the event of losing the mental capacity to make your own decisions, or if you require help with financial decision making at any time, there is a legal document called a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) you can put in place to assist you. There are two types of LPA; a Property and Financial Affairs LPA which covers your financial affairs, taxes, assets etc. and a Health and Welfare LPA which covers medical treatment, care and personal matters. An LPA sets out the person(s) known as Attorney(s) who you have selected that can make decisions on your behalf should you require help with decision making or lack the mental capacity to be able to do so. Please click here for more information about LPAs.
An Advance Decision is a decision a person can make in advance to refuse a specific type of medical treatment at some point in the future, this is sometimes referred to as a Living Will. This document lets family, friends and medical professionals know your wishes with regards to your future medical treatment.
If you would like to donate your organs following your death, then it’s important to make this clear and register with the NHS Organ Donor Register: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/
Some people choose to donate their body for medical research and this needs to be arranged prior to your death and suitable plans put in place. Your consent needs to be given in writing and your signature witnessed, it is advisable that you discuss your plans with the medical school or organisation that you wish to donate to.
The Human Tissue Authority (www.hta.gov.uk) regulates organisations that remove, store and use human tissue. Their website provides lots of useful information about the process and answers some of the important questions.
It’s extremely important to leave instructions to family and friends about your funeral, especially if you have specific wishes, for example if you want to be buried or cremated. Documenting your plans will ensure that family and friends are not left guessing about what you would have wanted. These plans can be included within your Will and Letter of Wishes (see below).
If you have detailed wishes about where your funeral should be held and where you would like to be buried/cremated, then these should be documented within a Letter of Wishes which sits with your Will.
Some people choose to actually pre-plan their funeral to ensure their wishes are followed and to save family the difficulty of deciding what to do, many funeral directors provide this type of service.
Pets are sometimes overlooked when putting plans in place after you die. If you’re lucky enough to have close family or friends that will take care of your pets if you become unwell and can’t look after them, or on your death, then there shouldn’t be any problems. However, for some people this is not an option so they might need to consider other options. Some charities that offer assistance are: The Cinnamon Trust, Dogs Trust Canine Care Card and RSPCA Home for Life.
One of the most important documents to put in place is your Will and make sure this is regularly updated as and when required to reflect your wishes. Often dealing with your personal possessions can be as important as your financial assets and a Will and Letter of Wishes can ensure your plans are documented.
Passwords and Accounts
It can often be difficult for family to access email accounts, social media, online accounts (including online gaming, music and film accounts) after a loved one has died. It’s good practice to consider leaving passwords (in a safe and secure way) and make arrangements for closing down accounts etc. Making sure all your paperwork is accessible and everything is clear for your family, friends, Attorneys and Executors of your Will is also extremely important.
Sorting out some of the points we have mentioned above can really help family and friends at a difficult and stressful time, taking away the worry for them about making the right choices and decisions. For more information about putting in place a Lasting Power of Attorney, Will or Advance Decision please do not hesitate to contact us.