End Of Life Planning
Timms Wills & Probate Solicitor, Charlotte Day discusses what end of life planning means for you and what we can do to help …
When you or a family member receives a terminal diagnosis, it is hard enough having to deal with the impact of the diagnosis itself, but there are also some legal and practical issues that you should bear in mind.
First and foremost, you should ensure that you or your family member has a Will and Lasting Powers of Attorney in place to ensure the smooth management of their affairs later on.
Why Do I Need A Will?
A Will is a document which takes effect on death and sets out what you want to happen to your assets.
Wills can be used to offer some protection against the impact of care fees or the remarriage of the surviving spouse or civil partner.
A Will can also allow you to decide who your Executors and Trustees will be. These are the people who will deal with your estate following your death and may be required to hold money on trust for others.
If you do not prepare a Will then the Intestacy Rules will apply. These are rules set out in law as to who should deal with your estate and where your assets will go. The risk is that the people who will be required to deal with your estate under the Intestacy Rules may not be who you would have otherwise chosen and you also have no say as to the direction in which your assets will pass.
Unmarried partners and stepchildren do not inherit under the Intestacy Rules.
Why Do I Need Lasting Powers Of Attorney?
Lasting Powers of Attorney are documents which allow you to nominate up to four people to act as your Attorneys who can make decisions on your behalf in respect of your financial affairs and/or your health and welfare. Attorneys will usually act if there comes a time when you can’t make these decisions for yourself i.e. because you have lost your mental capacity, or in respect of your financial decisions, if you just need help from someone else even though you may still have your mental capacity.
Lasting Powers of Attorney need to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before they can be used, and this process is currently taking around 5 months. If Lasting Powers of Attorney are likely to be needed, it is better to get them prepared and registered sooner rather than later. Once registered they can then be put away until they are needed.
Other Practical Matters
As well as preparing a Will and Lasting Powers of Attorney, you might want to think about the more practical aspects of your affairs, such as:
– Showing or telling your Attorneys and/or Executors where to find paperwork such as your Will, bank statements, bills, life insurance etc, whether this be at home or on your computer.
– You may need to think about how your Attorneys and/or Executors are going to access any information stored on your computer or online – do they need login information such as email addresses and usernames?
– You can prepare a memorandum to keep with your copy Will at home detailing your usernames and email addresses
– Setting up household bills etc to be paid by direct debit or standing order
You may also wish to make a record of your funeral wishes or discuss these with your family and Executors.
Your funeral wishes can be included in your Will as an expression of your wishes (not legally binding), but it would be advisable to make sure that those who are likely to arrange the funeral know what your wishes are. Alternatively, you can arrange a pre-paid funeral plan and keep the relevant documentation somewhere where it can be easily found at home.
End of Life Treatment
You may wish to speak to your GP or hospice (if there is one) about DNRs and ReSPECT forms which allow you to set out your wishes in relation to the care and treatment you do or do not wish to receive.
It is also possible to prepare an Advance Decision (also known as ‘a Living Will’) which is a legal document that can be prepared to enable you to refuse treatment that you do not wish to receive.
If you do prepare any of these documents, then you should tell your Health and Welfare Attorneys about these and discuss them together so that they are also aware of your wishes, should they ever need to make decisions on your behalf.
When on end of life care you may also become entitled to benefits and there are fast track applications that can be made by those who only have a short life expectancy.
If you have a registered Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Affairs in place, then your Attorneys can help you with these applications.
Other Support Available
Finally, you may find that once you have exhausted the legal support available to you that you need other emotional support for yourself or your family. Often your GP or the hospice will be able to discuss support groups or counselling options with you.
If you have any questions in relation to Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01283 214 231 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.