Gathering documentation, recording essential information and making your wishes clear 

If you wish to have control over what happens towards the end of your life and after you die, it is important that you make a record of your wishes.

Whether it relates to treatment if you are ill or incapacitated, how your estate should be distributed, or making sure the necessary passwords can be accessed by the right people, it is essential to have the right documentation and records in place.

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.


Some of the things to consider are:

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?

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.

ASSETS AND POSSESSIONS

Most of us are surrounded by a lifetime's worth of 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.

PRACTICALITIES

The next section gives a list of basic legal and practical documents that can help ensure that your wishes relating to treatment, dependents, inheritance, etc, are known and adhered to.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Marie Curie

Age UK

NHS UK

 

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

A Last Will and Testament is a legally binding document which sets out how a person wishes their possessions and assets to be distributed after their death. It may also give details of executors, heirs and guardians for minor children.

If a person dies intestate (without a valid Will), their assets and possessions will be distributed in accordance with the law. For further details, view the Government information on who inherits when someone dies without a Will.

So, if you wish to decide who distributes and recieves your assets, it is essential that you make a valid Will and review it whenever your circumstances change. For more information, please go to Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning.

LETTER OF WISHES/LETTER OF FUNERAL WISHES

A Letter of Wishes is a supplementary document to a Will giving details of what should happen after your death in relation to your funeral, personal effects, etc. It is not legally binding, but in most cases those to whom it is addressed will want to carry out your wishes as far as is practicable. A Letter of Wishes is also a private document, generally seen only by the recipients (unlike a Will, which is publicly available), so is suitable for more sensitive or personal instructions or information (such as why you have distributed your assets in a particular way, or perhaps left someone out of your Will).

In addition, if you wish to plan some or all aspects of your funeral in advance, whiteballoon has a template for a Letter of Funeral Wishes which can be printed out and filled in by hand. Please ensure you let someone close to you know of its existence and where it is kept.

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.

LEGACY WILL/ETHICAL WILL

These are documents that pass on to the next generation outlining your values, life lessons, hopes and dreams for the future. 

OTHER INFORMATION & 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:

        • employer
        • lawyer
        • accountant
        • financial adviser
        • banks
        • 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)
        • landlord
        • mobile phone
        • landline telephone
        • internet
        • 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.

 

ACCESS TO ON-LINE DATA

Most of us now have some sort of on-line presence, be it through multiple social media platforms or just storing photos in the cloud. It is becoming increasingly important to think about what happens to this 'digital legacy', and who will have access to it, when we are gone.

Remember, many of these platforms and services cannot be accessed without the passwords, so make sure someone knows how or where to find these. There are a number of companies who store and manage passwords securely, with arrangements for access by a trusted individual when required.

Each platform has its own terms of service, so it is imporant to look at each site individually. Alternatively, there are companies who can curate your digital presence for you, but they are expensive.

 

Here is a summary of a few of the main platforms:

Apple Devices & ICloud

Apple accounts are non-transferable and rights to content terminate on death unless otherwise required by law. In order to obtain access, Apple requires that the next of kin obtains a court order that names them as the rightful inheritor of their loved one's personal information. If you want to be sure that photos can be viewed after you death, make sure you keep copies on a memory stick or hard drive, or share them with a trusted family member or friend.

For information on how to request access to a deceased family member's account, see Apple Support information.

for information on how to request deletion of a deceased person's Apple ID see the Apple Support information.

Facebook

Facebook allows a person to appoint a Legacy Contact who, on their death, can either delete their account or set up a memorial page.  A Legacy Contact does not have access to messages the account holder may have sent.

For more information, see Facebook Legacy Contact.

Twitter

Next of kin must present a copy of their ID and a death certificate to have the account deactivated. Twitter is unable to allow access to anyone, regardless of their relationship to the deceased. For more information see Twitter's information.

E-mail

Policies regarding access and requirements for closing accounts vary between providers:

Gmail - Gmail require a copy of the deceased's ID and death certificate.  In 'certain circumstances' it 'provides content from a deceased user's account'. For more information, see Google support.

Yahoo - For information on what happens when someone dies and how to close an account see Yahoo support.

Microsoft - For more information on what happens when someone dies and how to close an account see Microsoft support.

DIGITAL MEMORIALS

People are choosing to be remembered, or to 'live on', in new and sometimes quite remarkable ways. This field is developing all the time, but some of the recent innovations are:

Chatbots

Create a 'virtual you' from texts, social media posts and other information, that can converse with friends and relatives after you are gone.

Afternote

Create a message for your loved ones that will be delivered after your death.

Facebook

Your facebook account can be memorialised.

Virtual graves & memorials

Where families can post photos and memories and pay their respects.

 

Please see our Digital Memorials & Digital Legacy Inspiration and Providers pages for ideas and to connect to organisations that provide these services.

For more in-depth information on how to manage your digital legacy, go to:

Digital Legacy Association