Let’s start the conversation: putting your affairs in order

Thought for the week

Each year in May ‘Dying Awareness Week’ takes place. And yes, you did hear correctly. Not something we commonly talk about, and we are a few days late, but it might be that the issues covered need thinking about? Dying is, after all, the one thing we can be sure of.

Dying Matters, the charity behind the annual event, believe if death wasn’t such a taboo subject then people could lead happier lives (by designing their death they are freed to get on with actually living), and by preparing well ultimately help their families in their time of need. The aim is to get people talking about a subject that is, for so many of us, taboo. But it is inevitable and will affect all of our lives at some point. 

At this time, due to COVID-19, it’s more important than ever that everyone begins to think about putting their own affairs in order. Perhaps it is time to have these conversations, and enjoy the luxury of time to prepare, even if it does feel as if it is ‘before my time?’ Death has sadly become a big part of public life; it is no longer simply synonymous with age or terminal illness. Something those in the frontline knew before but a message we are now all too well aware of.

Although a uncomfortable subject we can actually empower ourselves by being prepared: by talking, listening we can gain a better, deeper understanding of each other, and by getting our affairs in order we can rest assured we have taken positive steps to protect our families and get on with life with peace of mind. 

Difficult as it is, it’s better to deal with it head on than face the consequences of having done nothing! So, don’t leave your family, finances and funeral to fate, start planning now. Here are some tips.

  • Start the conversation
    Talk with your partner/spouse/dependents etc about what you would want.  Make sure they understand what you want, and why, and that they are comfortable with your choices too.
  • Draw up a financial factsheet
    What do you have and where?  Age UK have a free LifeBook which can help you keep track of this information.
  • Consider inheritance tax planning
    You need to start planning early, especially if you have an estate worth more than £325,000. Martin Lewis’ guide is a good place to start. 
  • Think about power of attorney
    This will allow someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to. Read Martin Lewis' guide.
  • Sort your will
    Make sure your money and your possessions go where you want them to. Don’t leave a financial nightmare to those you love. Take control now and make sure you have a full, and legal, will.  There are many organisations who offer free or cheap wills (Free Wills Month takes place every October anyway!) and at the moment there are many offers being made for NHS staff.  For those who didn’t know, Unison also offer their members free wills.
  • Think about your dependents
    If you are not around, who would you (and the person in question) want to look out for them? Would you need a legal guardian? This is tough, but you will want them to be safe and well looked after by someone you can trust to share your values.
  • Your funeral
    Make your wishes known now; it will be so much easier for those you leave behind not to have to make endless decisions at a difficult time. And you get to have what you want! So research the options, work out what works for you. A celebrant? The cheapest option? To not be embalmed? A coffin you have designed yourself? Did you know you don’t have to have a black hearse for example?  You can download a funeral wishes form here.
  • Spending your money while you can
    Many people scrimp and save, but you need to live while you can! You can’t take it with you, so find your balance now.
  • Draw up a bucket list
    We all know what these consist of - anything you want/need to do before you die however ridiculous. Again, from Martin Lewis, but I couldn’t resist: Chris, 45 years old, dying of cancer wrote his bucket list. One item on it stated ‘Get my darling wife a nice gold chain so she can wear my wedding ring near her heart’. And next to it, the word DONE.


 Life, and people, are precious. Grab every joyous moment while you can!

Take care of yourself and each other.

For more information on any of these subjects please contact wellbeing@eastamb.nhs.uk

Published 4th June 2020

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