By Karen Silverthorne
It seems there are so many extra difficulties to face at the moment and the idea of making end-of-life plans may be something you find difficult. But by giving consideration to this now, it can lessen anxiety if you become unwell and can help those you are close to if you’re not in a position to make your wishes known.
For example, a lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a document that allows the person you appoint to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf. There are two types of LPAs:
- Health and Welfare LPA: this can be used to make decisions about things like life-sustaining treatment, your medical care, when to move to a care home or even your daily personal care routine. A Health and Welfare LPA can only be used once you are no longer able to make your own decisions.
- Property and Financial Affairs LPA: this covers decisions about your finances, such as managing your bank account(s), collecting benefits and paying bills, as well as about your property, such as when to sell your home. If it is what you want, it can be used from the time it is registered and means that the person you appoint can help you with decisions or can act on your behalf.
You can appoint more than one person in an LPA. You should think carefully about the person or people you might want to nominate.
A solicitor will draw up a Power of Attorney for you, but you can also download a form from the government website: https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney for free. Once this is completed, it has to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. There is a charge for registration.
It may be, should you become seriously ill, there are some types of life-sustaining medical treatment you would want to refuse, such as being put on a ventilator or receiving cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Provided you are 18 years or older and deemed to have sufficient capacity to decide your own medical treatment, you could make a Living Will or Advance Decision so that healthcare professionals are able to follow your wishes.
Unless your requests are written down and signed by you and a witness, they cannot be carried out, should you not be in a position to make or communicate those decisions yourself. It is important to state clearly which treatment(s) you want to refuse and in what circumstances. You might want to talk to your GP to discuss options before you make up your mind. You can make a Living Will through your solicitor or the charity Compassion in Dying has a form you can use for free on their website. There is also advice about who to give a copy of your Living Will to once it has been written and signed.
Making a will is another way to ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death because you can write down what you want to happen to your possessions, money and property. You can write a will yourself, but if it isn’t straightforward, it might be prudent to get legal advice. If you pass away and you don’t have a will, the law will decide what happens to everything you own.
As many of us rely heavily on technology these days, you might also want to ensure that anything you store digitally such as photos, or accounts you might have such as eBay or PayPal, will be available to those who you would like to have access.
The Law Society recommends keeping a Personal Assets Log that includes information about your digital assets. You might want to store information on a USB drive or set everything out on paper and keep the USB or document in a safe place known only to you and those others you wish to tell.
The Bereavement Advice Centre gives more information about dealing with digital information and the British Psychological Society (BPS) has produced a video on digital legacy planning.
Funeral arrangements are something else you might want to plan in advance, although with the current Covid-19 pandemic, all funeral arrangements are subject to guidance put together by the government and can be found their website: www.gov.uk.
If you make plans now, it can give you a sense of control and cause less anxiety both now and in the future.
Bereavement Advice Centre, digital legacy: https://www.bereavementadvice.org/topics/registering-a-death-and-informing-others/digital-legacy/
British Psychological Society, video on digital legacy planning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Y3JSpGkXFI&feature=youtu.be
Covid-19: Guidance for Managing a Funeral during the Coronavirus Pandemic: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-managing-a-funeral-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/covid-19-guidance-for-managing-a-funeral-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic
Make, Register or End a Lasting Power of Attorney: https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney
Making a Will: https://www.gov.uk/make-will