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Dying matters

James Radcliffe, a solicitor specialising in personal tax and estate planning issues has recently joined our team and will be posting regular updates about some of the key issues he encounters”

The Dying Matters Coalition was set up in 2009 to promote public awareness of dying, death and bereavement in the UK.  As part of the Coalition’s efforts, this week (13-19 May 2013) is being promoted as ‘Dying Matters Week’.

Research shows that the majority of people in the UK have not discussed or made any plans for when they die.  For example, 89% of people have not written down their funeral wishes, 60% have not made a will and only a third of people have registered as organ donors.

By putting in place appropriate measures during our lifetime, the emotional burden on those left behind after our death can be significantly lifted.  As part of Dying Matters Week, all adults in theUKare being encouraged to take five steps considered to be crucial to living and dying well.  These steps are:

  1. Make a will – Signing a will ensures that your wishes are carried out following death. In the absence of a valid will, a person’s estate devolves in accordance with theUK intestacy rules, which can result in assets passing to unintended beneficiaries, or giving rise to unfavourable tax consequences.  A properly drafted will is the opportunity to ensure that people you trust are appointed to look after your minor children or administer your estate, and ensure that your assets pass in accordance with your intentions. By making a will, inheritance tax liabilities are minimised and steps can be taken to defer the inheritance of young children if there are concerns about them receiving too much too young.
  2. Record your funeral wishes – Many people have strong preferences about funeral arrangements, including whether they are to be buried or cremated and where their funeral is to be held.  There is plenty of scope to set out your wishes in this regard within your will.
  3. Plan your future care and support –  It is important to have discussions with those you love, or your GP, about the type of care you would like in later life.  Ideally, safeguards should also be put in place to cover the possibility that you may one day lose the mental capacity to make your own decisions about your health and welfare. These safeguards can be achieved by signing a Lasting Power of Attorney appointing people you trust to act as your attorneys in the event of your incapacity.
  4. Register as an organ donor – An organ transplant can dramatically improve or save someone’s life and you may wish to allow other people to benefit from your organs after your death. This is an entirely personal decision and an extremely difficult one for a family to make. By registering as an organ donor and telling your family about your decision, you can be sure that they are aware of your wishes and make it easier for them to agree to your donation.
  5. Tell your loved ones your wishes – Discussing your thoughts with relatives and loved ones will give you the opportunity to express your wishes and understand the views of your family.  It is also an opportunity to give family members some input about events after your death.

Our specialist estate planning lawyers have experience in dealing with all of these issues.  For more information please contact us for advice.