Reasons To Plan Ahead
Why plan ahead?
This section sets out some of the things you need to consider when planning for what happens both before and after you die. Planning ahead is not morbid, but is a sensible precaution to make sure your wishes are followed and your loved ones cared for after you have died. It can also save them from the time and cost of having to deal with red tape that might mean your estate is tied up for many years.
Illness, mental and physical incapacitation all need to be considered, as well as practicalities such as your funeral arrangements and how your affairs will be managed after you have died.
Planning ahead is sensible thing to do, whatever your age or state of health. It allows you to think about, and choose, how you want your last days to be and to ensure that your estate is distributed in accordance with your wishes.
Our Planning Ahead Checklist provides a summary of the following information.
Care and Treatment
Quantity or quality – whether it is old age or illness, sometimes life-preserving or life-extending treatments can mean a lesser quality of life.
Who takes the decisions – if you are very unwell, how involved to do you want to be in your treatment? Would you prefer family or a trusted friend to help make difficult decisions and how much do you want to know about your condition and prognosis?
Where do you want to die? – it is not always possible to choose but if you are able to, would you feel safer and more comfortable at home, in hospital or a hospice?
Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment (ADRT)
An Advance Decision, or Living Will, is a document detailing your choices regarding life-sustaining treatment should you need it in the future and if you are unable to communicate your wishes at that time. When completed and signed in the correct way, it is a legally binding document that overrides the decisions taken by other people (health care professionals or relatives) in your best interests.
It states the types and extent of treatments you would or would not want to receive in specific circumstances. It covers do not resuscitate (DNR) and do not intubate (DNI) in the event of cardiopulmonary arrest.
For further details, view the NHS UK information on end-of-life-care and advance decisions.
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)
A lasting power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint a person/s to assist you in making decisions or to make them on your behalf.
There are two types of Power of Attorney:
- Health & Welfare – covers decisions such as your medical care, life-sustaining treatment, your daily care and where this takes place
- Property & Financial Affairs – covers decisions concerning money or property, such as managing a bank account or paying bills
You must be over 18 and have full mental capacity when you make an LPA.
Note: an LPA only remains valid during your lifetime, so does not convey any status or responsibility on the holder after your death.
You can make an LPA online, but the forms will need to be printed out and signed. To find out how, view the Government information on making a power of attorney.
Organ Donor Registration
Laws on organ donation vary throughout the UK. Wales has a system of ‘deemed consent’ and Scotland implemented a similar system on 26th March 2021. This means that if you have not registered you will be deemed to have no objection to becoming a donor. For more information see NHS UK organ donation laws in Scotland and NHS UK organ donation laws in Wales. Northern Ireland continues to follow the ‘opt-in’ system. For more information see NHS UK organ donation in Northern Ireland.
On 20th May 2020, the law in England regarding organ donation changed from an ‘opt in’ to an ‘opt out’. If you do not wish to donate your organs after your death, it is now necessary to make a record of this decision.
Some groups are excluded from the ‘opt out’ system:
- those under the age of 18
- people who lack the mental capacity to understand the new arrangements and take the necessary action
- visitors to England, and those not living here voluntarily
- those who have lived in England for less than 12 months before their death
For more information, go to NHS UK organ donation laws in England.
When the time comes, a conversation with your family will still take place and faith, beliefs and culture will be respected.
To find out more information or to opt out or in as a donor, go to the NHS UK website.
Assets and Possessions
Depending on your circumstances and on the size and value of your estate, as well as making a Last Will and Testament you may want to make an estate plan, which sets down in writing what should happen to your estate after your death.
Or you may wish to create a trust, which enables the control and management of beneficiaries who are children.
Please see Trusts, Estate and Financial Planning for further information.
Many of us are surrounded by a lifetime’s worth of smaller possessions. Some of these will be things that have great sentimental value.
If there are things that you want to leave to a particular person, think about whether it might be nice to pass it on whilst you are still alive. Most of us gradually reduce our belongings as we age and downsize and this can make things much easier for those we leave behind.
If you are giving away or gifting possessions in advance, make sure that you are aware of the rules around inheritance tax. For more information, please see the Government information on Inheritance Tax and Gifts.
Planning Your Funeral
Do you want to plan your funeral? Planning your funeral can provide a sense of comfort and control and can relieve the burden or choice from family or friends, or you may rather let those you are leaving behind decide how to honour and remember you.
Whiteballoon’s Letter of Funeral Wishes enables you to leave a record of your choices. Print it out and complete it, then leave it in a safe place, being sure to let someone close to you know of its existence. Creating Your Own Unique Farewell has ideas and information to help with this process.
Other Information and Documentation
Gathering together as much information as possible will be an enormous help for those charged with the responsibility of sorting out your estate. The following list is not exhaustive and not all will be relevant to you, but you can add to it as necessary:
- financial adviser
- PayPal/other payment systems
- bit coin
- credit card provider
- insurers (household, mortgage, life, health, car, pet)
- mortgage provider
- car details/loans
- utility provider (electricity, gas, water)
- mobile phone
- landline telephone
- newspapers & magazines
- social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc)
- TV and media subscriptions (Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc)
- books, audiobooks, music subscriptions
- on-line gaming subscriptions
- on-line photo/data storage (ICloud, etc)
- home security systems
- antivirus (Norton, etc)
- gym or healthclub membership
- loyalty cards
This information can be kept on your computer in a secure file, in a physical folder or box, or in a digital locker. Make sure that someone close to you knows how and where to find it.
The next section, Important Legal and Administrative Tasks, has information about other basic legal and practical documents, such as Wills, Trusts, Estate and Financial Planning, that can help ensure that your wishes relating to treatment, dependents, inheritance, etc, are known and adhered to.
Here are links to organisations that provide useful help and advice.