It’s a subject we commonly avoid talking about. Death can bring up sad and anxious emotions but, with planning and open conversations, it needn’t be something to fear.
St Leonard’s Hospice in collaboration with Dying Matters recently held York’s first Dead Good festival. The snappy title really gets to the heart of their aim - to encourage people to be more open about dying and bereavement and to explore planning to “die well”.
The Dead Good Festival certainly made me appreciate more how I can talk with clients about how they can plan ahead.
As a Private Client solicitor, every day I meet clients who are recently bereaved and grieving for a family member or who are making Wills and contemplating their death.
The legal parts of planning to die well.
Dying well - that is to say having your wishes recognised, understood and carried out - is all in the planning and it’s never too early to think about what you want.
Simple things like making sure your Will includes your funeral wishes can really help family members who might be unsure about whether you would want a burial or a cremation, or if you would prefer a religious or secular funeral ceremony.
Part of planning ahead can also include making an Advance Decision (more commonly known as a Living Will). This is a statement which allows you to express your wishes and refuse medical treatment in the future if at that point you were no longer able to make or communicate your own decisions. If you wanted to do so, you can also refuse life sustaining treatment.
As long as the Advance Decision has been made correctly and there has been no significant change to your circumstances, it will be legally binding and health professionals will have to follow your wishes.
Whilst a Living Will can certainly give you plenty of autonomy over your medical care, it’s important to note that there are certain things that the Advance Decision cannot be used for:
- You cannot ask your doctors to do something illegal
- You cannot refuse basic care, which keeps you comfortable
- You cannot choose someone else to make decisions about treatment on your behalf (if you want to do this, you should make a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare)
- You cannot demand or request treatment
What’s your plan?
If you’ve read this far, you’ve already shown a healthy interest in understanding how to die well which is an important step in taking control of your own plan.
Talking about death can seem morbid and you might worry about feeling uncomfortable, however it really is something we should all do to ensure that our family members are aware of what we want. Planning ahead can help you make informed decisions and give you peace of mind, having taken steps to make sure your wishes are known, recorded and respected.
If you’d like to learn more about Wills or Advance Decisions, please click here or get in touch with me to discuss your own personal plan.