Your Guide to Planning for the end of your life

The Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) have released “Five Things to do Before You Die”, a short guide for planning your own end of life wishes. The booklet is intended to help people make decisions about their own end of life care, whilst they are still able to do so.

Planning the end of your life

Whilst the subject of end of life planning is one that very people may be willing to discuss, it is nevertheless a very important one, with many questions to consider. These include:

  • How and where do you want your life to end?
  • Given a choice, would you want to in a hospital or at home?
  • Do you want to be kept alive at all costs?
  • Do you want your funeral service to be in a church or at the local crematorium?
  • Do you want to be buried or cremated?
  • Do you want your ashes scattered somewhere that is special to you?
  • If you have to go into a care home or are incapable of making financial decisions, who should deal with your affairs?

By considering your own end of life choices and even discussing them with close friends and family, you can come to a decision about your end of life planning and record your wishes for loved ones to follow when the time does come.

The booklet outlines five key areas for people to consider, which are as follows:

  1. Make a Will
  2. Record Your Funeral Wishes
  3. Plan your funeral care and support
  4. Register as a organ donor
  5. Tell your loved ones your wishes

1.     Make a Will

The first question to answer is about your will. Today, only one third of the UK population has made their own will, and for many people this may mean that their wishes regarding the inheritance of their estate go unfulfilled. You can also use your will to safeguard your digital legacy.

Other reasons to make a will include:

  1. Unmarried partners may not receive anything from your estate, unless you have made a will in their favour.
  2. If your estate is divided according to the intestacy rules, your spouse or civil partner may not receive as much as you would have intended them to.
  3. If you die without leaving a will and have no spouse or children, your parents or siblings may inherit your estate, even if your preference would be for it to go elsewhere.
  4. The absence of a will can sometimes lead to family disputes.
  5. Without a will, your family could face a larger inheritance tax bill than necessary. A will can help with the tax-planning process.

2.     Record your funeral wishes

This section gives you the opportunity to consider your actual funeral arrangements, including whether you want to be cremated or buried, your preferred choice of venue, and any personal preferences you may have.

Reasons to put a funeral plan in place include:

  1. Funeral costs are rising faster than the interest on your savings.
  2. Savings you have put to one side to pay for your funeral may be taken to pay for your care, leaving insufficient funds in your estate to cover those costs.
  3. Your family may have to pay the cost of your funeral.
  4. Planning your own funeral ensures you have the service you want.
  5. A funeral plan will give you peace of mind knowing it is paid for and that payment is secure.

If you have already purchased a funeral plan, make a note of it here and make sure to include your funeral director or plan provider. You should also write down your funeral plan reference number.

If you have not chosen to purchase a funeral plan, use this section to record details such as:

Ceremony Type

  • Burial
  • Cremation
  • Non-religious, religious or humanist
  • Traditional, more modern or perhaps even a “green” funeral

Venue and Service

  • In a place of worship before the cremation or burial?
  • Would you like a particular vicar or funeral celebrant?

Transport

  • How many limousines will be required?
  • What type of hearse will be required? Something traditional or something more unusual?

Burial Place or Cremated Remains

  • Where you would like to be buried or where you like your ashes to be buried/scattered.

Flowers

  • Would you like flowers? If so, do you have a particular preference?
  • Some people choose to make a donation to a particular charity. If you would like to do this, what is your charity of choice?

Music and Poetry

  • What songs would you like to be played at your funeral?
  • Would you like a loved one to read a poem or say a few words?
  • Would you like music to be played at the crematorium/graveside?

The Reception

  • Do you have a preferred location where you would like the reception to be held?
  • Will refreshments be provided?

Special Requests

  • Do you have special requests that would make your funeral service or reception personal and unique to you? Record them here.

3.     Plan your future care and support

This section outlines any wishes, preferences or choices you may wish to make regarding your future care and support. This information can be very helpful to your loved ones in the future, should you be unable to make these decisions for yourself.

Questions to consider include:

  1. How you might want any religious or spiritual beliefs you hold to be reflected in your care.
  2. If you don’t have a Lasting Power of Attorney, the name of a person or people you wish to act on your behalf at a later time.
  3. If medically there is a choice, where would you like to be cared for: at home, in a hospital, nursing home or hospice?
  4. How you like to do things, for example preferring a shower instead of a bath or sleeping with the light on.
  5. Concerns or solutions about practical issues, for example who will look after your pet should you become ill.

4.     Register as an Organ Donor

If you have not already registered, this section asks you to consider whether you are comfortable registering as an organ donor on the NHS Organ Donor Register. If you choose to do it is also important to let loved ones know that you are on the register.

Things to consider about becoming an organ donor include:

  1. One donor can save the life of several people, restore the sight of two others and improve the quality of life for many more.
  2. The more people who pledge to donate their organs and tissue after their death, the more people stand to benefit.
  3. By choosing to join the NHS Organ Donor Register you could help to make sure life goes on for many others.
  4. Joining the register records your agreement to use your organs and tissue for transplantation after your death.
  5. Decide which organ/tissue you wish to donate.

5.     Tell your loved ones your wishes

Finally, the booklet allows you to pass on any wishes, thoughts and requests you may want to make to your friends, family and loved ones. This allows you to communicate about what you want and when you want it, with clarity and precision.