How to Prepare For Your Own Death
Death is an unavoidable part of the cycle of life, yet so many of us do everything we can to avoid thinking about how to cope with death. Preparing for death means you can make things a lot easier for yourself, but also your family.
That’s not to say you have to spend hours each year considering your mortality - but investing an hour or so now will make a huge difference to the people that you care about.
Clear instructions about your wishes make a wonderful gift for the people you leave behind.
The idea is to consider which things need to be sorted out now to make things easier for the people arranging your funeral and looking after your affairs when you're no longer here to advise them.
This guide aims to get you acquainted with various terms, provide some suggestions, help you get organised, and ensure your death is as comfortable, peaceful, and meaningful as possible.
1. Facing death and acceptance
Most of us like to think we’re in control of our life. We’re able to make choices and decisions and take responsibility for them. We will all die one day, but receiving a terminal prognosis forces you to face your mortality 'head on'. This results in a mix of powerful emotions, including feeling out of control, powerless and unable to accept your death.
Stages of reaction when facing death
These emotions are often similar to those of the grieving process. You’re going to feel shock, denial, guilt, anger and bargaining, depression, reconstruction, and maybe even acceptance.
Coming to terms with death
So many of us live as if we are immortal, which can mean we leave important things undone and unsaid. If you prepare for your own death in advance, it means you can relieve the decision-making burden of those you love and create opportunities for an end of life filled with peace.
However, before you plan how to face death, you first have to accept the reality of your mortality. It’s essential to find your own way to process the reality of facing your own death. We all deal with the news in different ways. But once you’ve accepted the reality, it allows you to take stock of your life, think about the possibilities still ahead, and learn how to cope with the fear of death.
Death is something everyone should talk about because it can help reposition how we feel about our mortality. We all want to experience a good death, but what does that mean for you? Take time to consider what your ideal experience would be, where to be and who should be there with you.
As well as the practical side of dying, there’s also the emotional and spiritual side to consider. Give yourself plenty of time for a calm, contemplative reflection. Such moments should help you see things more clearly, making it easier to take the necessary steps.
2. Make a Will
If you own property or other assets then it is vital to say how you want these distributed.
Lots of companies offer low cost will-writing that will stand up in court, doing it yourself may not be good enough and could be challenged.
Remember too, that the biggest disputes can arise over small things that have little or no financial value but have huge emotional meaning. If you want the best chance of family harmony once you're gone make sure you have clearly stated who should get what!
3. Sort Out Your Finances
It’s usual for the bulk of your assets to be distributed in your will, but there are still financial obligations you need to think about. You should make a clear list of your policies and pensions so that your heirs can easily find the information they'll need.
A list of bank account details will be critically important, and you'll need to list any shareholdings and locate the share certificates.
It’s also a good idea to gather information about any debts, especially big ones like your mortgage, car loans, or credit cards, in one place. This will allow your heirs to continue paying your bills for you while they figure everything else out.
4. Consider a funeral plan and life insurance
Making funeral arrangements eases the pressure on your loved ones. It also ensures that your funeral will be a proper reflection of your personality, relationships and beliefs.
Taking out a funeral plan has many benefits, including freezing the costs at today's prices (do check exactly what is covered in the plan) which can save a lot of money, plus makes your wishes clear. A good plan provider will be able to tell you exactly how they ensure that a prepaid funeral plan is safe and will pay for your funeral even many years from now.
Another option is to take out a life insurance policy that pays out a cash lump sum on death. This can be used to pay debts, pay off a mortgage, leave a legacy, and pay funeral expenses.
There are various types of insurance with different levels of premium and payout so you will need to do some research!
5. Plan your legacy
Your legacy encompasses many things - financial, emotional and practical. This exercise will give you a sense of peace from knowing things are sorted and you've reduced future stress for the people you care about.
Here are some of the things you should consider:
Write your will
For parents of young children appointing guardians is the most important function of a will. A will states your wishes about dividing your property and becomes even more important when 'ordinary' family dynamics now include divorce, second-marriages, step-children and lifelong partnerships that won't be recognised by law.
Many people mistakenly assume that the law will automatically distribute assets in a way that makes sense e.g. a second spouse could inherit the whole estate and has no obligation to share that legacy with the children from your first marriage.
Remember too that the law only recognises life partnerships formalised via marriage or civil partnership. This means that your partner will not be entitled to any of your assets after your death.
Decide on your funeral
You can have the funeral you want by planning your funeral and making your wishes known. You may already know what type of funeral service you want, but if you plan ahead, it saves your family and friends the stress of trying to guess what you would have liked.
Protecting your quality of life before death
What happens if you become too ill to make decisions for yourself? A Lasting Power of Attorney will ensure that your wishes are known and you've nominated trusted representatives to look after your interests, dependents and assets in the way that you have specified.
How to prepare for death digitally
You know where you want your money and other physical possessions to go, but what about your digital assets? How do you want them to be passed on?
Start by making a list of your digital assets such as financial accounts, photos and videos stored online, digital notebooks, email, social media accounts, your phone, and contact list. Some services have built-in features that let you pass data off to surviving members of your family. You identify your trusted loved ones, and the digital services give them access to your account.
6. Plan for extra care or help if needed
Deciding what happens if you’re ill, incompetent, or incapacitated is just as important as what happens after you die. Talk to your family and health care professionals, including your GP, about the sort of care you would like.
7. Review your bucket list
A terminal diagnosis is an opportunity to think about what really matters to you and how best to spend the time you have left. If the things that bring you joy are your friends and family, then this is the time to bring them near and make sure they know they are loved.
Have you got a bucket list? You may have always wanted to go on a world cruise, visit a dream destination, ride in a hot air balloon, or skydive. Pick one or two of your most realistic dreams and prioritise your time so you can achieve them.
Your plans don’t need to be particularly adventurous either. Time outdoors immersed in nature can be very restorative. You don't have to go far - a garden can be a real oasis. Spend more time curled up with a good book. What’s important is that whatever you choose suits your circumstances. You can get just as much joy from the little things.
8. Make your funeral wishes known
It might not feel comfortable tackling such a sensitive subject, but it will make a massive difference to your family when the time comes. It may be difficult to get family members to talk about funeral planning, but it’s much better than leaving them to second-guess your wishes.
9. Create a Living Will
A living will is made up of two parts. An Advance Statement, which is not legally binding and the Advance Decision which is.
An Advance Statement is a written statement that sets down your preferences, wishes, beliefs, and values in case you later become unwell and need care or medical treatment.
An Advance Decision only covers refusals of medical treatment, whereas an Advance State can include any information that you feel is important concerning your health or care.
You don’t need to write a living will down unless you are refusing potentially life-sustaining treatment. However, it is good practice to write it down and give a copy to your loved ones and all involved in your care. You should review it regularly and can change it at any time.
Here at Pure Cremation, we’re proud to work with MyLivingWill. Together we can help you take care of your future. If you want to know more, please get in touch today.