Planning to die? 8 practical steps to dying well
Why we all need to think about end of life planning…
I know none of us are actually PLANNING to die but… at some point it’s going to have to happen. So, you might as well make the best job of it that you can. By taking the time to do a little pre-death (let’s face post-death is pretty difficult) planning you can protect your family from dealing with a complex and potentially expensive legal situation at a highly emotionally and stressful time.
We are living longer, more complicated lives which brings its own set of challenges – late life remarriage could leave your children accidentally disinherited, foreign property needs to be properly dealt with and nobody mention means testing for care home fees. Then there’s the small matter of your online life to deal with. Have you planned your digital legacy? What even is a digital legacy? It’s never been more important that you have the proper provisions in place to protect your assets and family.
Here’s our top 8 practical steps to ‘dying well’
1 – Leave a Will
I know, predictably for a Will writing company our first piece of advice is to stop thinking about writing a Will and actually do it! Leaving a Will means that the task of wrapping up your estate is a fairly simple procedure. Without one you are leaving your estate to be carved up according to the Governments pre-prescribed rules of intestacy. Meaning that some people may not receive anything – unmarried partners, friends, step children for example. You should also consider writing a Trust into your Will to protect your share of a jointly owned assets from being used to pay for a surviving partners care fees or from your children being accidentally or sideways disinherited should your surviving partner remarry after your death. Marriage of course voids any existing Will.
2 – Talk to your friends and family
As the late, great Bob Hoskins once told us… It’s good to talk. We live in an age of oversharing – Facebook, Twitter – it sometimes seems like nothing is off limits and yet discussing death is still something of a taboo topic. What to say and how to say just seems so hard and we go to great lengths to avoid it all together. Which is why many people die with their affairs in a mess with no one knowing what their final wishes are or, practical things like where paper work is.
We need to normalise the discussion as guess what, death is unavoidable and, speaking about what you want to happen is incredibly important. Does your family know how you would like to be cared should you become very ill? What music would you like at your funeral do you even want a funeral? You can document these details in your Will but as it probably won’t be read until after the funeral it’s pretty redundant.
3 – Get your digital house in order
As the saying goes ‘in cyberspace no one dies…’ or it would if it was a saying. Our entire lives are online these days. A tangle of online accounts, logins, user names, passwords, finger print access… that even us, the living breathing people that set these accounts up can find it hard to keep track of. When you die well, it can become a bit of a horrid mess.
Many people assume that when a person dies they can whip out the death certificate and, Apple will happily unlock the phone, laptop, iPad, iTunes. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that. It’s not as easy as anything, they simply won’t do it. Remember all those HUNDREDS of £££’s that you’ve spent on books and music on iTunes welllllll… all that lovely literature and music doesn’t really belong to you. On death ownership of your entire collection reverts back to Apple. Virtual products = Virtual ownership? Well actually no, what you’ve purchased is a license to listen to, watch or read that content until you die. I don’t know that either!
Some accounts are easy to deal for example retail websites, PayPal and gambling sites with an outstanding credit in favour of the deceased are also simple to value and administer in accordance with existing law. And, online bank/savings accounts are usually wrapped up much in the same was as a traditional accounts.
Then there’s email accounts, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, eBay and, quite rightly, they all have privacy policies that are tied up pretty tight! You’ll find yourself jumping through many hoops dealing with enough red tape to encircle the earth, probably more than once, while trying to access a deceased persons online accounts. However they do have one thing in common – they will all retain all the information stored in those accounts eg pictures, tweets and in the case of Google pretty much your entire life.
Create your digital legacy
Your digital life is divided into – assets, the music and books you’ve purchased and – presence, your social media accounts. Make a list of these accounts and logins and store with your Will. OR….
Create YOUR digital legacy in our brand new DIGITAL VAULT – launching early September – more soon!
4 – Put an LPA in place
There is a common misconception that putting Lasting Power of Attorney place is the reserve of the old and infirm. It’s not. In fact, it needs to be in place BEFORE you become unable to deal with your affairs as an LPA will NOT be granted once someone has been deemed incapable of making financial decisions.
There are two different types of LPA;
Health and Welfare – which will allow your attorney to make decisions about medical care, life sustaining treatment, moving into a care home and your daily routine – washing, eating etc.
Property and Financial Affairs – allowing your attorney to make financial decisions eg managing your bank account, collecting benefits, paying bills and selling your home.
Once you’ve completed the forms it’s advisable to register your LPA immediately as the process can take up to 10 weeks. So if you have an accident and up in hospital for 3 weeks you’ll be out before your LPA is in place! Also, when you register you can choose to allow your LPA to be used immediately – your attorney can produce the LPA and act on your behalf – or, at a time when capacity has been lost – your attorney will need proof that you are incapacitated AND the LPA in order to act on your behalf – it’s entirely up to you.
5 – Your funeral, your way
Whether you want to be interred in the family plot, chucked off the back of a boat or your ashes pressed into a record (who’s got a record player these days?!?) it’s your choice BUT…. if you don’t leave instructions your final farewell may not be what you would have wanted.
6 – Get your paperwork organised
The location of your important documentation may be perfectly logical to you, that doesn’t mean your Executor and/or Heirs are going to be able to find it when the times come. Whilst the bulk of your assets are distributed in your Will you still have a lot of financial obligations that will need to be tied up after death. So, to ensure that everyone can easily find the paperwork they need gather everything up – including life insurance policies and keep them all together.
7 – Loans, HP and credit cards
Unfortunately you still have to pay your debts off even after you’ve died! So, if you have any ongoing loans, mortgages and credit cards your executors will need to pay these from your estate. Make sure your Executors have the details of EVERYTHING that will need paying as, if a debt is missed they will be held personally responsible and will have to clear the balance themselves.
8 – Think of the animals….!
Don’t forget to make provisions for the ongoing care of your animals. In the same way that we name guardians for our children (don’t forget to do that either!) your Executors need to know who will be taking responsibility for any animals you leave behind. There is, of course, a financial commitment to taking on your pets so it’s a good idea to include financial provisions in your Will to ease the burden for your beneficiaries.
For help and advice on all aspects of end of life planning please get in touch on 01322 664885 and we will arrange a free telephone consultation.