End of life planning

End of life planning

It may not be nice to think about, but death happens to everyone. While nobody can avoid the grief and sadness of the occasion, there are some things that you can do ahead of your death to make life easier for your loved ones after you pass.

Make a will

A will is the only way to make sure your money, property and possessions go to the people and causes you care about. Arranging this in advance of your death, means a much smoother process for your family and loved ones meaning that will have the time and space to grieve properly.

Power of attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone to make decisions for you, or act on your behalf, if you’re no longer able to or if you no longer want to make your own decisions. This could be temporary, for example if you were in hospital and needed help with everyday tasks such as paying bills. Or it could be more long-term – such as being diagnosed with dementia meaning that you may lose the mental capacity to make your own decisions in the future.

Choosing a power of attorney will take the pressure of you and your loved ones if the time comes that you are not able to make your own decisions. Your attorney can be given complete authority over all your personal and financial affairs, so you should choose somebody you trust to make the decisions in your best interest. Your attorney could be:

  • Your partner/spouse
  • A family member
  • A friend
  • A professional – you may need to pay a fee for this.

You can have more than one attorney. If this is the case, you will need to specify whether they can make decisions on their own, if they need to all agree for a decision to be made, or if they can make some decisions together, and others separately.

Living wills

An advance decision allows you to express your wishes to refuse medical treatment in future should there come a time when you were unable to make or communicate your own decisions. It allows you to refuse treatment, even if this might lead to your death. An advance decision is legally binding which means that those caring for you must follow the instructions. But it will only be used if you are unable to make or communicate decisions about your care.

Before you make a living will, you should discuss your advance decision with a healthcare professional who knows your medical history and the risks and benefits of refusing certain treatments. You may also want to discuss it with your family and friends.

A living will does not need to be in writing 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. Your GP and medical team must know about it so they can include it in your medical notes. You should review it regularly, and can change it at any time.

If you want to refuse potentially life-sustaining treatment your decision must be in writing, signed, witnessed, and include the statement ‘even if life is at risk as a result.’ It is best to seek legal advice on setting up a living will.