You went to a friend’s funeral the other day and you were shocked at how little the service had to do with the person you knew. You heard from a neighbour that her mother, who had advanced dementia, had been kept alive by being given CPR after a heart attack, even though her daughter felt she wouldn’t have wanted that. You saw your cousins fall out when their dad died, because he hadn’t left a will. So how do you make sure this doesn’t happen to you? It's something none of us really want to think about, but making an effective end of life plan can really make a difference.
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There are all sorts of reasons to put off planning for the end of your life, from fear of upsetting people by discussing it, to not knowing what your options are. But failing to plan can cause distress for you and your friends and family. Planning for the future can:
Sometimes people become unable to make decisions about how they want to be cared for or what medical treatment they would want. For example, this might happen because of a condition such as dementia, or if you were unconscious. If you have opinions about your future treatment and care, it’s a good idea to record them in writing. Consider making an advance decision and an advance statement.
Have you told people about your wishes for your funeral? There are lots of things to consider, so you might want to write down your preferences. Try Independent Age’s downloadable funeral planner to get started. You should also think about how your funeral will be paid for. If you have funeral insurance or a pre-paid funeral plan, make sure people know the details of this. Relatives are often left trying to trace these plans after a death.
Have you made a will? Nearly 60% of UK adults haven’t, but leaving a will puts you in control of what happens to your money and property. Otherwise, it will be dealt with according to intestacy laws and this may not reflect what you wanted. For instance, if you have an unmarried partner, they won’t inherit anything.
Have you made a lasting power of attorney (LPA)? And did you know there are different types: an LPA for property and financial affairs and an LPA for health and welfare. LPAs let you appoint someone to help you make decisions or make decisions on your behalf in certain situations. The property and financial affairs LPA covers things like managing you bank accounts and selling your home. The health and welfare LPA covers things like your medical treatment and where you’re cared for. It’s worth considering setting up both types to make sure you’ve covered all eventualities.
Have you spoken to people you’re close to about your plans? Recording your wishes is good, but it’s also sensible to talk to family and friends and make them aware of your wishes. This helps make it more likely that they’ll be followed, and also allows you to say everything you want to if you know you’re nearing the end of your life. It can also help you to remember any smaller, practical matters you might have overlooked. You might have talked about your medical treatment and your funeral, but do they know where to find a list of your bank accounts or what you want to happen to your pets?
If you don’t have family, or don’t feel you can talk to people around you about your end of life plans, you might want to talk to your GP. They can help you to consider your future treatment and care options and record your wishes. They can also tell you about local services, such as palliative care and counselling services.
For more information, read Independent Age's new free guide, Planning for the End of Life. It looks at how you might be thinking and feeling after a death, and tells you where you can find sources of comfort and support. Order it from the Independent Age website or call 0800 319 6789 for a copy. Independent Age wants us all to talk about death. Find out more here.