End-of-life planning – 5 important steps to take before you pass
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Failing to plan for the end of your life could cause problems for your family when you pass away. Expert Will writer, Nicola Richardson of Richardson’s Wills recommends that you ‘take the time to put plans in place.’
Why is end-of-life planning important?
“It’s mostly about making sure your loved ones are looked after,” says Nicola.
“Having everything in place before you go helps loved ones grieve your absence in their own time, without the added stress of making decisions on your behalf and searching for key information that hasn’t been clearly documented.”
Here, Nicola shares five key things you should do to plan for the end of your life:
1) Write a will
Writing a will ensures that your assets are issued to the right people.
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“The key thing is to describe the assets clearly to avoid any confusion, and if you’re splitting assets between people, what percentage each person gets. Your assets can go up and down in value. And nobody knows exactly what they will be left with at the end of the day so gifting in percentage shares rather than amounts ensures your beneficiaries receive the percentage you intended. Remember cash gifts will always be paid first prior to distribution of the remainder of the estate,” Nicola explains.
“It’s obviously also really important that you detail who the recipients should be, ensuring you have full names and up to date addresses, so there’s no guessing work involved.”
2) Appoint an executor of estate
The executor is responsible for granting the wishes of the person who has passed by honouring the instructions in their will. The executor is legally and financially responsible for the deceased’s estate, for example, it's their responsibility to ensure any property is adequately insured, so they are covered in case of a fire or other unpredictable event.
“Your chosen executor can be anyone you like, but it should be someone you really trust, and ideally you would choose a minimum of two and a maximum of four people to act as your executors,” Nicola says.
“Although they won’t have control over what is written in the will – they simply put it into action – they are responsible for making sure deadlines are met with HMRC, applying for the Grant of Probate, and ensuring all debts are paid prior to distributing the estate in accordance with the Will.”
It’s crucial to take into account the responsibilities of this role when appointing someone.
3) Create a power of attorney
“If you know you’re going to lose mental capacity (following a diagnosis of dementia, for example) make sure you’ve got a lasting power of attorney in place,” stresses Nicola.
Failing to do this could result in loved ones having to work with local authorities, such as social workers, to make decisions on your behalf. These people may have your best interests at heart, but they won’t know your preferences, and as there will be no legal document to refer to, your loved one has no power over the way your health or finances are managed.
4) Get life insurance
Taking out life insurance ensures that the people you leave behind aren’t left to struggle on their own when you’re gone.
“I can’t believe how many people don’t have life insurance. It’s so important to make sure there’s money there for your family when you pass away,” says Nicola.
“If you haven’t got life insurance you should really consider getting it sooner rather than later, especially if you’re a parent of young children and have a mortgage.”
5) Fill out instructions for your next of kin
“Our ‘Instructions for my Next of Kin’ document allows you to share key details for your partner or loved one. This includes who you bank with, the location of your spare house key, passwords for computers, among other information,” Nicola says.
Nicola recommends that you also disclose any important information that you may have held back to at least one person if it may affect your loved ones when you pass.
“I know sometimes it’s awkward to talk about certain things – you may be keeping the fact that you gamble from your partner, for example – but you must make sure at least someone you trust is in-the-know so this can be passed onto the relevant people when you go.”
What can people do to take these steps for end-of-life planning?
It's recommended that you speak to a professional to ensure you have everything in order.
Richardson’s Wills can help you write a will, appoint someone as executor, put a lasting power of attorney in place and document the key instructions for your next of kin. If you’re the family of someone who has died, they can also support you with the administrative work, assisting you with the legalities and notifying the relevant people and companies that your loved one has passed.