Most people can happily go for years without ever thinking about their own mortality, which is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it means they’re free to ski and skydive with abandon. On the other, it doesn’t actually protect them from the fact that one day their number will be up, and by putting it out of their mind for decades, they’re far less likely to be prepared for it.
Dying Matters Awareness Week isn’t the cheeriest date on the calendar. It kicked off on 2 May, encouraging Brits to talk to their loved ones about death, and all the issues surrounding it, you’d be forgiven for wanting to give it a miss.
But spending a few minutes on these tough topics with loved ones is incredibly important.
There are five key bits of planning we all need to have in place, well in advance of anything nasty happening, which will make a dramatic difference to the lives of you and your loved ones when the worst eventually comes to the worst.
A lasting power of attorney
These are designed so that if you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself, someone you trust can take over and make them for you.
There are two types — one for health decisions and one for your finances — and you should have both.
You’ll need to pay £82 to register each of them, and you might want to pay a solicitor to complete them.
Without one, a loved one will need to apply to become a "deputy", which is more complicated and expensive, and will take time that you might not have.
Research shows that only 40% of people have a will, but it’s the only way to be sure that your estate is left to those you want to benefit from it.
Without a will, everything goes to specific people in a particular order, and they won’t have any say in the matter. The rules around this don’t necessarily reflect the way many people live. So, for example, an unmarried partner could be left with nothing.
A letter of wishes
This should be kept with the will, and can be a really useful way of detailing specific items you want to leave to people.
The big advantage is you can update this whenever you like without having to pay for a new will.
It can also be a good idea to include details you don’t want to be a matter of public record — which a will becomes. Some people, for example, will use it to explain why specific family members have been left out of the will.
A register of assets
Dealing with an estate is a complicated business, but you can make things much easier for your family if you leave a list of all your accounts.
This should include everything from pensions to investments, insurance, savings and current accounts.
It’s also a good idea to make a note of all your utility companies and service providers, to make it easier to hunt these down too.
If anyone is dependent on you, you should consider how they will manage without you, and ensure you have enough life cover.
You may have life insurance through the workplace, and you might have enough to pay off your mortgage, but think about day-to-day costs too.
Protecting your family is the first step in any financial plan — before you even think about things like saving for emergencies — so don’t overlook it.
Nobody enjoys talking about these things. But by having these conversations and putting these plans in place, when the worst does eventually happen — hopefully when you’re in your late 90s and asleep in your own bed — it will protect your family from far more stressful and difficult conversations further down the line.