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End of life planning

If you’re retired or approaching retirement, you may be using this time of winding down to think about your future and get your affairs in order.

There can be so much to think about and organise for this stage of life. When is the right time to retire? How are you going to prepare financially? Do you opt for a pension drawdown or convert your pension into an annuity?

It can seem overwhelming, but one thing is clear: it’s important to plan ahead for later life.

Although it’s hard to think about, one important part of planning ahead is making preparations for your death. It’s an uncomfortable and often distressing thought but putting things in place now can make it a little easier for your loved ones when the time comes to say goodbye. It can also give you valuable peace of mind, knowing that that your wishes are documented.

In this guide, we’ll give you an idea of some of the things you should think about when planning ahead.

Talk to your family

Whether you’re simply thinking ahead, or you’ve been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, it can be helpful to talk to your family, so they are aware of your wishes and preferences as you reach the end of your life.

Having this conversation with your loved ones will be difficult. Don’t rush; give yourself enough time to discuss the subject properly. If it becomes too upsetting, you can always come back to it another time, but try not to give up entirely.

If you need any help steering the conversation or would find it easier to ask your loved ones to read about it, Age UK have a handy booklet called ‘Let’s talk about dying’ that you can download from their website for free as well as an online video.

Make a will

Making your will is one of the most important preparations you can make. It can prevent family stress by setting out who will inherit your assets after you’ve gone. Should you die without a will in place, it can take much longer to deal with your estate, and the people who inherit your money and possessions may not necessarily be those you would have chosen.

Making a will may be a wise decision especially if any of the following apply to you:

  • You have dependent children. As well as making financial provisions for your children, you can nominate a legal guardian or guardians to look after them if they are under 18.
  • You aren’t married to your partner. If you aren't married or in a civil partnership, your partner won't automatically inherit anything if you don’t make a will.
  • You own property with someone else. If you own property on a ‘tenants in common’ basis, where you each own a specific share of the property, the co-owner will not automatically inherit your share without a will.
  • You are worried about inheritance tax. If your estate is worth more than £325,000, it could be subject to inheritance tax when you die. A will can make sure you do not pay more tax than you need to, for example, by leaving everything above the £325,000 threshold to your spouse. (Money and assets inherited by a spouse are not subject to inheritance tax).

It may be a good decision to use a lawyer when making a will. The Law Society can provide you with a list of local solicitors. Use the scroll bar to find ‘Wills, trusts and probate’, and input your post code for a list of appropriate solicitors near you.

Appoint a power of attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that allows someone to make decisions for you, or act on your behalf, if you're no longer able to. It’s a sensitive issue, but if you were no longer able to make or communicate your decisions due to a stroke, for example, who would you like to take control of your finances or medical decisions?

Without a power of attorney in place, if anything were to happen to you and you couldn’t make decisions for yourself, your family, friends or carer can apply to the Court of Protection for permission to act on your behalf, but this can be a slow and expensive process.

Plan your funeral

Planning a funeral while grieving for a loved one is harrowing at the best of times but planning a funeral with no guidance can make a difficult time even harder. Making a few decisions now can be really helpful to your loved ones when the time comes to organise your send off.

Some of the things to consider could be:

  • Where you’d like your funeral to be.
  • Whether you want a burial or cremation.
  • What you’d like to be done with your ashes if you choose a cremation.
  • Whether you want a religious or humanist service.
  • Who you’d like to be invited (particularly important if attendees are restricted for any reason).
  • Which songs or readings you’d like to include.
  • Whether you’d like flowers or would prefer donations to a charity.
  • What clothes you’d like to wear.
  • What you’d like your guests to wear.

The Dying Matters website has a leaflet called ‘My Funeral Wishes’ that you can download and record your instructions on.

You may also want to consider how the cost of the funeral will be met. The average cost of a funeral can range from £1,700 for a direct cremation (with no service) to over £4,300 for a burial. You’ve then got the wake to consider if you want to plan for one, which can come with additional costs including catering and venue hire. You may want to put some money aside each month or take out a funeral payment plan to help cover the costs.

Manage your documents and accounts

It can be helpful to gather key documents together in a safe place, telling a family member or the executor of your will where they are.

Some of the key documents you may wish to gather or let your loved ones know where to find them are:

  • Your birth certificate
  • Passport
  • Driving licence
  • Bank account details and recent bank statements
  • Pension plans
  • Insurance policies
  • National Insurance number
  • Your will

If you use the internet for online shopping, social media or banking, you may want to think about what would happen to your digital accounts after you die. Consider creating an up-to-date list of all your online accounts along with clear instructions about what you want to happen to each account after you die.

If you have an online bank account, your executors can arrange for it to be closed down and claim the money on behalf of your estate. Don’t leave details of your passwords or PIN numbers though, as someone using them after your death could be committing a criminal offence.

Age UK's free LifeBook has a section that lets you note down details of your account information and can be sent to you in booklet form or via email.

Further reading

If you’d like to read more about retirement and later life planning, visit our website, where you’ll find useful guides to help you prepare and make informed decisions about your retirement.