Later life planning
Thinking about what may happen in the event of your own death isn’t a topic most of us like to dwell on. For many, the events that unfold when we pass away are something that will only concern those we leave behind.
But taking some time to plan ahead can make a real difference to the levels of stress and worry that your family may experience at an already difficult time.
Just think about all the decisions that need to be made; how should your estate be divided up? What will happen to your personal possessions? What if you have a pet? What sort of funeral should you have? How will it be paid for?
You might think it’s too early to worry about these sorts of decisions, or that you don’t have an ‘estate’ to pass on, but thinking about later life doesn’t have to be just for older people and the wealthy.
Even if you’re not a homeowner, if you have money in your current account, any level of savings or own a car, for example, then you have an estate. And the earlier you start thinking about planning for later life, the better protected your loved ones will be in the future.
There are many ways you can help ease the burden for your loved ones after you’ve gone. Top of the list should be making a will and planning your funeral.
Making a will
Having a will gives you a choice over how your property and assets are divided up after you pass away. It’s the best way to make sure that your money and your possessions go to the people you really care about, and who you think will benefit most.
If you have a large extended family, making a will could lessen the risk of family members falling out over your estate. Similarly, if you have a small family, you could avoid a distant relative you’ve never met inheriting your estate.
What happens if I don’t have a will?
Not making a will means that the law has its say on who gets what in the event of your death. This is called dying ‘intestate’, which means the law will automatically pass your estate on to your spouse or civil partner, if you have one. If you don’t, then an order of precedence among other family members takes over, with any children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles inheriting in that order.
It’s important to remember that if you have a partner you’re not married to, or in a civil partnership with, they won’t inherit any of your estate unless you make a will, even if you’ve been with them for a long time.
What’s available and what will it cost?
If you are considering writing your own will, there are plenty of DIY kits available that provide a template to follow. This could be a alternative option for a will but you would not benefit from legal advice about your estate.
Will-writing services are also available, which provide an additional level of support in putting your will together, although these services lack both legal assistance and regulation, which could become a problem if anything goes wrong.
If arranging your affairs is likely to be complicated or if you think your estate is likely to need to pay inheritance tax (this could apply if your estate is valued at more than £325,000), you could decide to use a legal specialist This may be a more expensive route to take but you would receive advice on your situation.
In either case, you may feel you would benefit from professional legal advice. A solicitor can also make sure there’s no confusion over legal terms, helping reduce the time it takes to administer an estate.
Planning your funeral
It may seem difficult to contemplate but, aside from making a will, planning a funeral is the single best thing you can do to ease the burden on your family at an already difficult time.
If you’ve ever had to plan a funeral yourself, you’ll know that both the cost and the amount of organisation needed in a relatively short space of time can be extremely stressful, particularly when you’re already trying to cope with loss.
Planning ahead can help your family avoid having to have difficult conversations or make heart-wrenching decisions over what your last wishes may have been. It could also ensure they don’t overspend on your funeral, thinking they should perhaps include elements that you may have wanted.
What is a funeral plan?
A funeral plan provides the reassurance of having expert support from a funeral director paid for and in place straight away. That means your family won’t have to worry about money, or any of the details of the service itself because you’ll have already made those choices for them.
Is it worth it?
Perhaps the single biggest advantage of a funeral plan is that it allows you to pre-pay for your funeral ahead of time. The average cost of a funeral has risen steadily over the last few years, and stood at £3,937 in 2016.☆
A funeral plan could help protect you from rising costs in the future, and make payment more affordable, by giving you the choice of spreading the cost over a longer period or making a one-off payment.
☆ Source: Matter Communications independent research.
What does a plan include?
As well as covering the choice of funeral director and the details of the service, a plan might cover the coffin and hearses, and the minister’s fees. Burial or cremation fees may be included, although plans often treat these differently - some may cover these costs completely, some partially and some could exclude them entirely.
You should always check exactly what a plan covers very carefully and consider whether it’s flexible enough to meet your needs. You should also make sure that any provider is putting that money into the National Funeral Trust, which holds it securely until it’s needed.