Aviva‘s latest Family Finances Report highlights very clearly the lack of planning people generally have in place should they die. It also reveals that although families know they should plan ahead for the inevitable, they find it difficult to have those important conversations.
The report suggests that 62% of people feel that death is a taboo subject. These figures are borne out by similar figures issued by the Dying Matters Coalition which suggests that 72% of the public believe that people in Britain are uncomfortable discussing dying, death and bereavement. Furthermore, just 18% of British adults say they have asked a family member about their end of life wishes.
A good starting point is making a Will. Some of the potential issues if you do not make a Will are as follows:
- You cannot be sure that those you would wish to benefit will actually do so.
- Your spouse or civil partner may not inherit all of your estate.
- Although the term "Common Law" husband or wife is frequently used to describe a couple who have lived together for many years, such relationships have no legal recognition. As such, your partner may not be entitled to anything.
- Minor children could be taken into care whilst Guardians are appointed, yet the Aviva report suggests that 54% of parents have made no plans whatsoever, including 28% who don’t think they will ever need or want to plan for childcare if they pass away!!
- There could be lengthy delays for your beneficiaries and disputes.
Despite all of this, only 35% of the public say they have written a Will.
Organ donorship was addressed by only 27% of those surveyed, a decision which can have such a positive influence on someone else’s life. Protocol recently changed in Wales, where a system of deemed consent has been introduced, hoping to increase the number of organs available for transplant. So the Welsh authorities have decided to take the initiative, and save us from finding the right time to have a difficult conversation.
How can we make end of life discussions more comfortable?
Sometimes people feel motivated to talk about funeral and financial planning after the painful loss of a loved one, especially if they experienced difficulties settling that person’s affairs. But can we be pro- active rather than re- active?
Discussions and pre-need planning means families have no doubts about the funeral their nearest and dearest wanted, or how they wanted to distribute their estate. Even if the funeral is not pre-paid, final wishes can be recorded informally in a letter, or formally in a Will. If recording your wishes in a Will, it is worthy to note that those wishes are not legally binding on your executors. However, once the subject of a Will is open for discussion, perhaps related matters follow more easily.
The loss of a loved one at any time can be very difficult, both emotionally and financially. Not only are you left dealing with the grief of your loss, but you are also left making potentially significant financial decisions at a time when you are least able to cope.
The bereaved families we help at Rowland Brothers International after a tragedy away from home are often shocked and numb after receiving tragic and unexpected news, but questions are very similar from one family to another. Do they need to register the death again? Which local authorities will accept a foreign death certificate? Will they need translations? If there was not a Will, are there any surprises in terms of inheritance? Who can or will look after young children left without parents, or who can access financial accounts? Or who will administer the estate and who will inherit what?
In May 2016, we are supporting a nationwide event in the UK called Dying Matters Awareness Week. This year’s event is entitled “The Big Conversation", encouraging families to think about the future, and take responsibility for planning ahead to support their families.
Rowland Brothers Funeral Directors and its sister companies Golden Leaves Funeral Plans and Lifecare Planning Solutions are hosting events to raise awareness and encourage discussion about end of life matters. We hope that our events will break down barriers and encourage conversation about a topic that is easy to ignore, but vital to address.
Written By Steve Rowland, Rowland Brothers International
For further information: steveATrowlandbrothers.com (replace AT with @)