Essential steps to ensuring you and your family are prepared for when you die
End-of-life Preparedness: Being prepared — both financially and factually — for your own death is an essential part of life. Here are five simple steps to take
1. THINK ABOUT YOUR FUNERAL
“This may seem a sombre and depressing thing to do but the first step to helping your family, and also ensuring your wishes for your funeral are followed, is to write them down,” says Executive Director of Red Apple Law, Angie Wilson.
“It may be easier to start by thinking about what you don’t want — maybe even write this down as this provides some guidance and reassurance to your loved ones that they won’t choose something you wouldn’t have wanted.
“Then think about what you would like. Flowers or donations to charity perhaps? If flowers, which type? If donations, which charity?
“What kind of service would you like? Ensure you talk through the individual parts of the ceremony with your loved ones.
“If you don’t feel the traditional or religious options are for you, there are now plenty of other options, from a Green Burial at a natural burial ground to a non-religious ceremony, often performed by a celebrant, able to conduct your ceremony the way you decide you would like it to be.
“What about transport to the ceremony? How would you like to travel, traditional hearse, horse-drawn carriage? Maybe even a motorbike side car?! These are all possible, along with a branded coffin if that takes your fancy? Don’t forget about the music you would like played during the ceremony either.
“The most important thing is to make sure you’re aware of all the choices that are available to you… and that someone knows what your choices are.”
2. START SAVING NOW
“Dying is actually a fairly expensive business,” says Angie. “And even the most simple of funerals can cost thousands of pounds.
“So what can you do about this? The short answer is not much but you can be aware of it and start planning now. There are a few options, from putting money into a high interest savings account, to a ‘later years’-type life insurance plan or a pre-paid funeral plan.
“Although any steps you may have taken along these lines will help, you must be aware of any shortfalls. With the sharp rises seen, year-onyear, how can you possibly know how much to save and for how long? How much is enough?
“If you have a pre-paid funeral plan you’re fully covered though aren’t you? Sadly, not necessarily — if you have purchased a pre-paid funeral plan, you may have paid for this in one go, you may have paid a deposit and be paying monthly instalments for a set period of time or you may be paying subscription style payments.
“Regardless of how you are paying, I urge you to check one thing — how much of your disbursements, such as doctor’s certificates, flowers, newspaper notices etc, are included/ covered by your plan?
“There are a couple of providers of pre-paid funeral plans who do include major disbursements, like cars and crematoria fees, but the majority of providers include a specific amount in the hope that this will cover your disbursements — currently this figure is usually around £850-£1200, although it varies greatly from one provider to another.
“If, when your funeral is held, there is a disbursement shortfall — your Estate (everything you leave when you die) will hopefully cover it. But — and there is a but — firstly your Estate may not allow your family the money to pay the shortfall initially (as a Grant of Representation may be required) so often your family and loved ones have to make up the shortfall in the first instance.”
3. ENSURE YOU’RE INSURED
“We’ve all seen the adverts and given fleeting thoughts around ‘what if ’ and many of us have life insurance in place, so we’re ok right?,” says Angie.
“Maybe so but when was the last time you checked the suitability of your policy or policies? If your circumstances have changed and you haven’t informed your insurance provider, you could well be paying monthly for something that wouldn’t actually pay out to your loved ones should you pass away!
“You owe it to yourself to dig the policy out and check through it, especially the exclusions section, as well as what your provider deems ‘a change of circumstances’ to include?”
4. PASS ON YOUR PASSWORDS
“Ok, so who knows your password for Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, internet banking, your TV subscription accounts and just about everything else you sign into online — other than you?,” asks Angie.
“What happens if no one knows how to access these after you’ve passed away? The answer is an administrative, cumbersome nightmare and all this at the worst possible time for your family to be dealing with it!
“In order to work towards your hard-earned cash not becoming part of a forgotten account, what can you do?
“One solution is a ‘digital asset vault’, essentially a digital filing cabinet where you can store passwords, important documents and other sensitive pieces of information all together, in one place. It gives you the ability to list and log your assets (accounts, property, memberships etc.) to create your own Asset Register. You then appoint 2-4 trusted people with whom you can share this encrypted password with either during your lifetime or only when you choose for them to have it.
“If you do come across one of these ‘digital asset vaults’, make sure you check its security capabilities, which should be at least ‘bank level’, ‘military grade’ where possible.”
5. WHERE THERE’S A WILL…
“How many people have suggested you should make a will? Probably many people over the years, but in my experience people leave it around 10 years before actually getting a will made,” says Angie.
“Essentially, until your will is signed and your signature has been witnessed (this is termed the attestation of the will) your will is simply a piece of paper, upon which your wishes are written — what goes where, in what share, to who etc. You name those you would like to care for any children you may have under 18 years of age (guardians) and finally you name the people you trust to deal with everything you own and follow the wishes in your will (your Executors).
“Once you are happy with everything written/typed on your will, you sign it in the presence of two independent witnesses. Your witnesses don’t have to read your will or know its contents but it is advisable to tell them it is a will they are witnessing your signature on. Your witnesses then have no further involvement. It is essential to remember that you and your witnesses MUST ALL be present as ALL sign, you first, then your two witnesses after you.
“Once you have signed your will and had your signatures witnessed correctly, your ‘piece of paper’ then becomes your Last Will and Testament. It cannot be reproduced and must be presented in pristine condition, by your Executors after you have passed away.
“Why bother? Well, you could leave it and let Intestacy kick in — this is the set of rules governing what happens to your Estate (everything you own) if you die without a valid will in place. This may suit you and your circumstances but partners may get nothing, you won’t get to choose who you would like to care for your children or who you would like to deal with your affairs after you have gone. Worst of all, if you have no relatives, your Estate goes to the Crown.”