It is fair to say that in the UK, we are not comfortable discussing death. However, that appears to be gradually changing.
A poll by ComRes looking at attitudes towards discussing death and dying, conducted for the National Council for Palliative Care, found that around half of Britons have become more comfortable talking about death over the past five years.
This can only be a good thing as it means that important protections like Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney are being discussed more openly and acted upon. At the time of the survey, one quarter of people had spoken to someone about their end of life wishes; around one third (35%) had written a Will; and about one third (33%) had registered to become an organ donor.
Not talking about death and dying can cause great problems and heartache for families, and it can mean those who pass will not have their wishes carried out. More than three quarters (78%) of people agreed that feeling more comfortable discussing dying, death and bereavement would make it easier to have their end of life wishes met.
As Dying Matters Awareness Week begins in the UK, running from 14 to 20 May 2018, it serves as a timely reminder for people of all ages to talk about the eventuality of death and what they might like to happen both for themselves and their loved ones left behind.
Creating a Will, and talking about the contents of your Will with family or friends, is the only way your last wishes can be legally protected. A Will gives great peace of mind for loved ones and allows a person to detail exactly what they want to happen with their lifetime’s assets after they pass on, as well as their preferences in terms of burial choices and organ donation. Without a Will in place rules of intestacy will apply, which are strict government guidelines that restrict who can inherit and the amount they can be given.
Another important item to openly talk about is the decision to give a trusted person Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). As we continue to live longer and longer, there is an increased chance of being affected by issues generally associated with long age, such as incapacity issues or degenerative conditions.
A Lasting Power of Attorney is a way of giving someone you trust the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf if you lack the mental capacity to do so at some time in the future, or if you no longer wish to make decisions about your health, care or finances. It is important you do not leave taking out an LPA too late; this important choice can only be made when you have the mental capacity to make it.
An unexpected accident or sudden decline in health could leave you vulnerable without an LPA in place. Furthermore, families can endure nightmarish bureaucratic processes to try and gain control over your affairs in these circumstances in order to act in your best interests. This would include making decisions about your property and financial affairs, and your health and welfare to ensure you get the care and any day-to-day treatment you might have wanted.
It is worth emphasising that once a Lasting Power of Attorney is in place it does not mean the person can no longer make decisions for themselves; they can continue just as before, but the appointed Attorney is there just in case. You can choose to appoint more than one person to have the LPA, where they can either act independently or must decide on your affairs jointly.
We hope Dying Matters Awareness Week will help many families discuss subjects which need highlighting, but are too often not talked about. If you wish to talk to experts about making or updating a Will, or appointing a trusted person with Lasting Powers of Attorney, call us today on 0808 278 2475.
Key ComRes survey findings:
- About one-third of British adults have written a Will (35%) and registered to become an organ donor (33%)
- A quarter (25%) of people have talked to someone about their end of life wishes
- Around half (52%) agree they have become more comfortable discussing their own death or dying, or that of people close to them, over the past five years
- Of death and dying related topics, British adults are most likely to discuss whether thy have made a Will, with around half (48%) having discussed this with someone
- More than three-quarters (78%) agree that it would be easier to have their end of life wishes met if they felt more comfortable discussing death and dying
- More than two in five (43%) agree people they know have become more comfortable discussing death and dying
 Source: ComRes and The National Council for Palliative Care, Dying Matters Coalition – Public Opinion on Death and Dying (April 2016).