Thinking about death can be hard, but putting plans in place for when you die can make a very difficult time easier for your loved ones.
Around 81% of people haven’t written down any preferences on what they’d like to happen when they die, according to charity Dying Matters. In addition, only 25% of men and 35% of women have told anyone about the funeral arrangements they’d like. But taking the time to talk about death with the people close to you, and planning ahead for the inevitable, can make it easier for your loved ones to cope when the time comes.
Here are 10 things to think about to help you get your affairs in order:
Making a willIt’s the most obvious one, but 54% of UK adults don’t have a will – and around 5.4 million people without a will wouldn’t know where to start if they had to write one. It can cost as little as £150 to get a will created by a solicitor. Alternatively, you can visit a will writing service or buy a do-it-yourself will online or at a stationery shop. You can find more information at Will Aid, or read our guide on making a will.
Caring for loved onesA will isn’t just about listing who will inherit your wealth. You should also include details of who will look after your dependents. This is usually children under the age of 18, but if you have pets, you can also include details of who you’d like to look after them too.
Locating the moneyAnother important document to store alongside your will is a list of your bank account details, insurance policies, investments and details of your valuable assets. Don’t forget to leave details of your online life too, including social media accounts, email addresses and online storage accounts. A simple way to do this is to fill out our ‘When I’m Gone’ list, which records your funeral wishes and your personal and financial details in one place.
Appointing executorsAs part of writing your will, you’ll need to appoint at least one ‘executor’. They’ll be responsible for sorting out your estate and carrying out the instructions in your will. It’s a good idea to ask the person first because if they decide not to do it after your death, you could be left with a government official sorting things out. The MoneyHelper website has plenty of information on how to choose someone.
Inheritance tax planningOne thing your executor will do is calculate and settle your inheritance tax (IHT) bill. It’s worth planning ahead with a financial adviser to see if you could have an IHT bill to pay on your death. Read our article on paying IHT to find out more.
Dealing with debtsDespite what most people believe, your debts don’t die with you. They’re paid off out of your estate. However, the debt might be written off if there’s not enough in your estate to pay them off. If the debt’s in joint names, a mortgage for example, then the other person will be liable for the remaining amount owed. One way to avoid burdening your partner with these debts is to take out a life insurance policy – you can find out more about choosing a policy on the Money Advice Service website.
Making a living willA living will, or advance decision, allows you to outline what you want to happen as you approach the end of your life. An advance decision would become relevant if there came a time when you were unable to make or communicate your own decisions. For instance, it allows you to refuse treatment, even if this might lead to your death. Visit the Age UK website to learn more about living wills.
Power of AttorneyThere may come a time when you’re unable to make your own decisions. If you live in England or Wales, you should prepare for this by setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney (or Continuing Power of Attorney in Scotland), which appoints someone else to make choices on your behalf. Read our guide on Power of Attorney for more information.
Organ donationIf you want your organs to help others after your death, make sure you sign the Organ Donor register and tell your family about your decision. You can sign up via the NHS Organ Donation website.
Paying for your funeralAccording to Royal London’s Funeral Cost Index Report, the average funeral costs £3,837. When you die, your bank accounts are frozen while your estate is sorted out. So it’s a good idea to plan how your funeral costs are going to be covered, meaning your loved ones won’t be left with an unexpected bill. One option is to pay in advance with a funeral plan (more information about these plans can be found on the Money Advice Service website). If you have any specific wishes for your funeral and how (or if) you wish to be buried, it’s important to put these in writing and make sure your loved ones are aware. Read our article to find out more about planning a funeral.
Support and information
Visit our bereavement pages for helpful information on death and money matters, including planning ahead to protect your family, what to do when someone dies and your money after a death.
The death of a loved one is a stressful, upsetting time. Even if you’ve put plans in place, there’s a lot for partners or families to think about when they’re bereaved. If you need support, there are charities and organisations ready to help:
More on end-of-life planning
Our podcast series, ‘The penny drops’, aims to provide you with the information you need to make better financial decisions. Listen to our episodes on end-of-life planning and death to learn more about the things you can do to prepare.
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