There are a number of things you can do to prepare for the end of your life, to make things easier for you and your loved ones. Such as making a will, planning your funeral, preparing for the possibility that you’ll need care in later life, and more.
In this article, we’ll give you a brief overview of some of the things you should put in place to prepare for the end of your life. We’ll also give you a list of top tips and useful resources, as well as guidance on how to have those often difficult conversations with your loved ones.
Making a will
A will is a legal document in which you specify what you would like to happen to your estate, including your property, money and possessions, when you die. Making a will ensures your estate is dealt with according to your wishes.
A will is not a legal requirement, but it’s the best way to ensure your intentions are known and acted upon.
There are so many reasons to have a will. For example, a will can:
- ensure your children and dependents are financially provided for,
- protect your partner if you’re unmarried,
- safeguard your family home,
- minimise the possibility of family disputes,
- help you avoid paying more inheritance tax than you need to,
- specify who you want to look after your pets,
- and more.
Despite all of these benefits, over two thirds of the UK's population do not have a will in place. If you die without a will, your wishes for your loved ones may not be met. In this situation, the law will determine who benefits from your estate through the rules of intestacy.
You can discover what would happen in your circumstances by visiting the Bereavement Advice Centre website today.
Power of Attorney
A will lays out what you’d like to happen to your estate after you die, but what if you need someone to act on your behalf while you’re still alive?
A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document in which you choose someone to make decisions for you (an ‘attorney’). You can have more than one attorney, and they could be a family member, a friend or a professional, such as a solicitor.
There are different kinds of POA and you can set up more than one. It’s important to know that POAs have different names in different parts of the UK as well.
An Ordinary Power of Attorney (OPA) covers decisions about your financial affairs, but is only valid while you have mental capacity. You may appoint an OPA for a temporary period, such as if you are on holiday abroad.
One of the main types of POA you should consider for later life is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), which we’ll cover in more detail below.
Lasting Power of Attorney
A Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) will allow you to lay out your wishes in a legal document, and to appoint trusted people as 'attorneys' to oversee them. These people will act on your behalf if you become unable to do so yourself through ill health or mental incapacity.
If you don’t have a Power of Attorney in place when you become mentally incapacitated, your family can apply to the courts to act for you. However, this can take time and it will cost money. So it makes sense to set up your LPA while you still can.
Also, remember that LPAs cease on the date of death, so it is important you also make a will to provide instructions on what should happen after you die.
You can learn more about Powers of Attorney here gov.uk/browse/births-deaths-marriages/lasting-power-attorney
Planning for care
As you get older, you may need more support than you did before. It’s a good idea to think about any care you may need in the future and how you can prepare for it.
There are numerous types of care, including:
- care home
- nursing home
- sheltered housing, and
- home care services.
When you're considering the type of care you may need, there's lots to think about.
Many people would prefer to stay in their home as they get older. But is your current home suitable should your mobility decrease?
Think about what adaptations you might need to make, such as fitting a banister or stair lift. You can learn more about home adaptations by visiting the NHS website.
It’s also worth thinking about how you’ll pay for these adaptations, and when you’ll do them. Your local council offers a free home assessment service, at the end of which they’ll recommend changes to help you stay independent for as long as possible.
Whatever care you end up needing in old age, it’s going to cost money. When you consider care for the future, it’s worth figuring out how much each type of care is likely to cost and how you might pay for it.
If you think needing care could be imminent, you could create a shortlist of suitable care providers. This will allow you to compare them and figure out which one offers the service you need for the best price. You can discover advice on how to choose the right care service/home on the Paying For Care website.
It's really important that you explore the options available to you for funding care, such as a care funding plan. You can learn more about care funding plans on the We Are Just website.
As you get older and your needs change it will help to have a good network of family and friends nearby.
It’s a good idea to sit down with your family and discuss what may happen in the future. It will be a good opportunity to prepare them for the future, and to discuss who may be best placed to give you practical support.
The conversation might be uncomfortable, but it’s an important one to have.
Making plans for your funeral can make it easier for your loved ones after you die. You can specify any wishes you may have, such as whether you want to be buried or cremated, if you want a religious service or not, or even the songs or hymns you want sung at the service.
You can include your funeral wishes in your will or lay them out in more detail by writing an Advance Funeral Wishes document. In this document, you can list everything you want for your funeral service, but it’s also a good idea to allow time for your family and friends to make their own contributions if they’d like to.
It’s a good idea to have your funeral wishes signed, witnessed and kept up-to-date. We recommend keeping your funeral wishes with your will, and giving a copy of the document to the person who will most likely be responsible for making your funeral arrangements.
Pre-paid funeral plan
You may want to plan and pay for your own funeral through a pre-paid funeral plan. This will help your family and friends at a difficult time, so they don’t need to worry about arranging or paying for your funeral.
It’s important to carefully read all the details of the plan before you choose. For example, does the plan you’re looking at cover the disbursements? These are the fees paid by the funeral director to others on your behalf e.g. the cemetery or crematorium.
If you decide to take out a funeral plan, let your relatives/executors know. If you don’t, they may organise and pay for a funeral using a different funeral director.
A pre-paid funeral plan is not the only way to help your loved ones with funeral costs. You could take out a life insurance plan, or invest your money in a savings account. However, there’s no guarantee that the interest on your savings will keep pace with increasing funeral costs, and probate could mean that your family don’t get access to this money in time to use it for the funeral.
If you want advice on how to choose a pre-paid funeral plan, visit the Bereavement Advice Centre website today.
Having those important conversations
One of the best things you can do to prepare for later life is to be open and honest with your loved ones. It’s important to talk to them about the issues we’ve raised earlier in this article, so that they’re aware of your plans and your wishes.
You may find that your family and friends don’t want to think about a time when you won’t be around or when you might be unwell, let alone talk about it. So although you’ll be discussing practical matters, you can still approach the subject gently and with compassion.
Let them know that having these conversations, and putting these plans in place, will give them confidence that they are acting in accordance with your wishes when making important decisions in the future.