We live in a death-averse society which doesn’t talk about dying, often until it’s imminent or too late. But by thinking ahead and planning for it now, you’ll get what you want, be able to pass on your hard earned cash to those you love and save your family a lot of stress at a difficult time.
Here we take a look at how to plan for your own funeral – the sorts of things you need to think about, plus of course, how to look your best as you approach the pearly gates.
Make a living will
No, it’s not a nice thought, but when you’re dying it’s good to know your care team will be fully apprised of your wishes in respect to your treatment. If, for example, there are certain circumstances under which you would not wish to be resuscitated or, given a blood transfusion, you can say so now before you’re faced with the reality of needing either.
Make a living will. Also called an Advance Decision, the NHS provide details of how to go about it. And while you’re at it, consider appointing a power of attorney – a person or people who agree to make financial and / or health-related decisions on your behalf should you lose your marbles or become otherwise incapacitated.
Got dependents? Don’t assume they’ll have flown the nest before you shuffle off this mortal coil. It’s always best to make arrangements for their care, even though you hope to be around for a long time to come.
You can make a will for nothing – there’s a plethora of templates available online for free, but if in doubt it’s probably best to employ the services of a local solicitor. If don’t already have one, use The Law Society’s online tool to find a solicitor in your local area. The consequences of failing to leave written instructions for the disposal of your estate can be severe for those left behind.
Arguments over inheritances cause nothing but bitterness and resentment; you want to be resting in peace, not turning in your grave. Plus there’s also the matter of estate planning – if you’re loaded, giving money away before you die is a great way to nibble at the taxman’s share of your money – as long as you live for seven years after making the gift, it’s not taxable.
Do leave a list of your accounts, the savings and investment products you own, as well as details of secured loans as these remain payable after your death; unsecured loans peg it along with you. Don’t leave passwords for online accounts because your heirs will be breaking the law if they use them to access your accounts. It’s slower but better if they use your death certificate to request access.
Plan your funeral
You might think, who cares what they do for my funeral? I’ll be dead. But your funeral is for your friends and loved ones, not you. You want them to raise a glass, and have a wry chuckle at your Life of Brian-inspired exit song. Better for them to say “it’s what he would have wanted,” before getting started on the curled-up cheese sarnies, than arguing the toss over whether you really wanted your favourite Winnie the Pooh poem read out in public.
If you can, do pay for your funeral ahead of time or take out insurance to cover the cost. Last year, the average cost of a cremation was £4,271 – a sizeable sum for many and an extra headache for relatives. Remember, you won’t be able to pay for your funeral once you’re dead because your estate could be in probate for 9 to 12 months and the money unavailable.
Choose your final wardrobe
Thirty years ago, your average dead fellow would be dressed in his Sunday best for his final journey, but times have changed. Wear a formal suit or a tweed jacket if that’s your thing, or opt for your favourite football shirt, jeans and trainers – just bear in mind that modern emissions regulations mean if you’re being cremated, some kinds footwear will have to be removed before combustion.
Dressing well in death – or at least in your favourite clothes – is more than casket dressing. Knowing they complied with your wishes will make those closest to you feel a bit better about the whole thing. It’s not just a matter of leaving instructions to be nattily dressed in chinos, crisp cotton shirt and cord jacket either…
It’s an unpalatable truth that having snuffed it, your nearest and dearest might be forced to go clothes shopping for you. That’s because if you’re embalmed, the fluid can make you swell somewhat – you might not fit your suit. Solutions include allowing the undertaker to cut your clothes at the back, or leaving a set of clothes in a larger size.
Sign up for organ donation
In 2020 a new law comes into effect in England, which assumes you don’t mind donating your organs to someone who really needs them in the event of your death. If you don’t want this to happen, you’ll have to opt out of the scheme.
Having said that, your family still has the final say and can veto the automatic removal of body parts. Save them a whole lot of agonising by making your organ donation wishes clear now.
Get on with living
It might seem a bit of a drag to have to sit thinking about and making arrangements for your demise, but it’s well worth the effort. Not only will your family and close friends be grateful for it, but it’ll be off your mind so you can get back to concentrating on living the best life you can.