I was pretty relaxed about the funeral arrangements but as various family members had differing ideas on where I should be laid out causing a few active discussions and I found myself in the unexpected role of peacekeeper.
I found it useful to discuss this openly, and voice my preferences. This resulted in a clear decision that everybody was aware of. These wishes were then incorporated into my Will.
Things to consider
What type of service do you want (religion, denomination)
Burial or cremation (or other)
What is the budget (average cost can be around £3,000)
Where do you want to be finally laid out
- Is there a family place of burial or a hometown
- Consider the ease of access for loved ones.
Do you want a headstone or memorial
If you want to be buried abroad, what is the procedure
Information on green burials can be found on the internet
End of life care
On diagnosing my condition as terminal, my oncologist advised us to start looking into palliative care (end of life care) facilities and meet a Macmillan’s nurse to start up a relationship. I decided to hold back on this until my health showed signs of extreme decline but my wife made contact with Macmillan’s and found their counselling service very supportive
Your GP can arrange for a social worker to provide information about community resources and help you with other needs including finding temporary lodgings for your family
I found discussing ‘the end game’ openly with my wife both painful and therapeutic, for both of us. But once we had agreed on a plan, it released a lot of tension and emotion as we shifted our focus from the present to the more positive subject of maintaining my wellbeing.
We considered a couple of scenarios if my health did start to decline
Moving into a palliative care facility (hospice)
- Ease of visiting for daily visits
- Ease of access for other visitors
- Discuss practical matters with your GP or Macmillan’s nurse
Make necessary alterations to our home
- Wheel-chair access
- Special apparatus
- 24 hr care – (my wife was willing to learn how to be a carer).
- Availability of domiciliary (in-home) care
- Macmillan’s nurse for last few days /weeks
Wills & trusts
If you die without a Will your assets may be distributed according to the law rather than your wishes. This could mean that your partner receives less or nothing, or that the money goes to family members who may not need it.
My existing Will was woefully inappropriate, and needed to be rewritten, to take in the latest circumstances. However, I encountered problems in getting the will writer to make alterations because of my ‘terminal’ circumstances. The will writer wouldn’t accept changes without my GP’s confirmation that I was in a sane state of mine and then he wanted confirmation of my wishes from a solicitor too. In the end it was easier to get a fresh Will written by a completely different firm, but then I had to make sure that the existing one was terminated……it was a bit of a hassle.
You can advice on how to draft a Will from:
- A solicitor
- A professional Will writer www.willwriters.com
- A DIY Will from a good stationers or via the Internet
Letter of wishes
This document, although not a legal requirement, lays out some of your wishes. It is often used to alongside and read with a Will to handle the distribution of possessions etc. But it does rely on the integrity of your trustees as it is not legally binding
Advance directives (formally Living Will)
You can decide whether to accept or refuse medical treatment that artificially prolongs your life. This document provides clear instructions regarding your choice of extended medical care and takes away a lot of anxiety for relatives. It is prepared when you are fully competent, in case you become unable to make such decisions at a later time. When you have recored this document (usually with a solicitor) make sure your next of kin and relatives are aware of its existence or it could be over looked….and your wishes not carried out.
This is also where you can state your desire to be an organ donor or leave your body to science etc. I definitely think that we should all commit to being donors….however, I was informed by my oncologist that cancer patients body parts cant be used for transplant.
Durable power of lawyer for healthcare
This is a document in which you appoint a trusted friend or family member to speak on your behalf if you should become incapable of expressing medical treatment preferences. A lawyer should create this document so that it conforms to state laws and other legal regulations.
As well as making a Will, you can use a family trust to pass on your assets in the way you want to. You can also use a trust to look after assets you want to pass on to beneficiaries who can’t immediately manage their own affairs (either because of their age or a disability). Setting up a trust is complicated and you’ll need to get specialist advice, so it’s normally only worthwhile if you’ve got a large estate. Ask a solicitor for more details.
Sorting out financial affairs can be overwhelming. If possible, get some help from someone who you trust. My wife and I discussed most issues many times before we made our decisions.
If you have a family solicitor or know a friendly one they can provide guidance
Alternatively, your doctor can put you in touch with a social worker, who can provide information and counseling on financial benefits and referrals to community or national agencies and support groups.
You could also try CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau)
I took independent and specialised advice on the following topics which paid dividends when a life policy paid up in full (on confirmation that I was diagnosed with less than a year to live)
- Pension advisor – Should you cash in the policy, assign it or freeze payments?
- Debts, Mortgages & Loans - Get advice from your financial advisor
- Life Assurance - They may consider an early payout. When can you stop paying the premiums
- Savings - You may need cash, so consider converting long-term deposits into shorter ones
Your Will should address issues regarding major assets but if you are strong enough (and of mind to do so), you might review your assets and leave clear instructions on any issues that you are aware of. Ideally your executor and next of kin should not have to deal with any messy issues.
Benefits & assistance
You (and the person who is caring for you) probably qualify for benefits and allowances.
You can get details from
Further information can be downloaded at: www.dwp.gov.uk/publications
- Going into hospital (what happens to your benefits and pension – DWP1029).
- Support if you are ill or disabled (DWP003)
- Support after a death (DWP004)
- Support for carers (DWP006)
- Support for arranging Child Maintenance (DWP007)
Ask your doctor to set up a meeting with a social worker, as they can provide information about community resources and help you with other needs.
If on disability allowance you may qualify for discounted fares on public transport, museums, cinemas, art galleries etc.and some hospitals provide free parking……but you will have to ask for it. You may also be entitled to a disabled badge if you have mobility problems.
The Macmillan’s Trust has an excellent team of experienced counsellors who are both impartial and caring and they gave my wife tremendous support.