Planning ahead for our future care and for after our death is something all of us can do to make sure our wishes are known. It is never too early to start planning ahead and making practical arrangements - you do not need to wait until you are unwell or over a certain age.
Making a Will
If you want to be confident that your wishes will be followed after you die, it is important to make a will.
Your will lets you decide what happens to your money, property and possessions after your death. If you die without a will, the law decides who gets what.
If you have a child(ren) under the age of 18, making a will allows you to appoint a guardian(s) for them. If you do not have a will that outlines this and both parents die, the Council or the courts will decide who should look after them.
Will Aid is a special partnership between the legal profession and nine UK charities. Every November, participating solicitors volunteer their time and waive their fee for writing a basic will. Instead, they invite individuals to make a voluntary donation to Will Aid (suggesting £100 for a single basic will and £180 for a pair of basic ‘mirror’ wills).
For more information visit: www.willaid.org.uk
An Advance Statement allows you to record your preferences, wishes, beliefs and values around your future care.
The aim is to provide a guide to anyone who might have to make decisions in your best interest if you have lost the capacity to make decisions or communicate them.
It may include:
- where you would like to be cared for (e.g. at home, in a hospital, in a care home, in a hospice);
- how you like to do things (e.g. if you prefer a shower instead of a bath, or like to sleep with the light on);
- how you want any religious or spiritual beliefs to be reflected in your care;
- concerns about practical issues (e.g. who will look after your dog if you become ill).
There are charities, such as Compassion in Dying that provide free support to complete an Advance Statement over the phone or by email.
An Advance Statement is not a legally binding document.
Advance Decision (Living Will)
An Advance Decision (sometimes known as an Advanced Decision to Refuse Treatment or Living Will) allows you to record any medical treatment you do not want to be given in the future, if you're unable to make or communicate these decisions yourself.
An Advance Decision is a legally binding document and must be followed by healthcare professionals.
You do not need a solicitor to make an Advance Decision. There are charities that provide free support to complete an Advance Decision over the phone or by email.
Lasting Power of Attorney
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) allows you to give someone you trust the legal power to make decisions on your behalf in case you later become unable to make decisions for yourself or communicate them.
The person who makes the LPA is known as the 'donor' and the person given the power to make decisions is known as the 'attorney'.
There are two different types of LPA:
- a LPA for Property and Financial Affairs, which covers decisions about money and property;
- a LPA for Health and Welfare, which covers decisions about health and personal welfare including medical treatment.
A LPA can only be drafted when you have capacity and can only be used, unless stated otherwise, when you lack mental capacity.
A LPA can only be used after it has been registered and sealed by the Office of the Public Guardian.
If you do not have mental capacity to make decisions for yourself or understand the consequences of your decisions and do not have a LPA, another person (e.g. a close relative or friend) or organisation (e.g. the Council, an accountant or a solicitor) will need to apply to be your deputy.
Being a next of kin does not give you the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of another adult.
Organ donation in England has changed to an opt out system. This means that all adults agree to become organ donors when they die, unless they have made it known that they do not wish to donate. If you have not recorded an organ donation decision and you are not in one of the excluded groups, it will be considered that you agree to donate your organs when you die.