Call us now on 0203 937 7707

Guide TO:

Wills & Living Wills

Death is rarely a simple affair. The aftershocks of a passing can throw up all sorts of questions about what the deceased wanted. Hence, it’s common practice to write a will – a document, legally binding, that lays out a template of what to do with the money, property, investments and belongings we leave behind, as well as (potentially) how we want to be treated in a life-or-death scenario.

Yet while the majority of us know this, few are given the right information to gear up for writing our own. What makes a ‘living will’ distinctive? How do powers of attorney get involved? And what, in the barest terms, should you include?

Let’s jump into this knowledge breach together, tracing a full guide to regular and living wills.

So, what makes a standard will official?

Every new will should begin with a denouncement of the last one, if you’ve made any previous versions. It has to be singular and definitive; all that’s required, however physically able you are, is the mental capacity to define the rules, and two witnesses who’ll watch you sign the document. Whoever you choose, make sure they don’t benefit from the will directly: this will remove their eligibility.

It’s not as easy, though, as listing what’s going to be shared between relatives and friends. Solicitors are often hired to double-check any missteps. These may comprise of unclear language, not having a note of confidence from your GP, or failing to appoint an executor i.e. the person who’ll direct the requests upon death. It’s advisable to get a solicitor’s perspective, even for the sake of routine.

You also need to take account of everything you own. Uncertainty can seep in when possessions are left out of the inheritance pot. Pensions, bank accounts, offshore funds, antiques – all of these coalesce into the total nature of your estate.

If you can’t think of a capable executor, you may nominate a bank, accountant or legal advisor to fill the role. The will should then be locked away (separate from other paperwork) at a suitable place, where only a handful of trusted people know about it.

The separate qualities of a ‘living will’

So, those are the standard will practices you’ll run into… But what about the chance – scary as it may be – that you’ll have reduced control of your faculties at some point? Dementia, disability and brain damage are just some of the realities that can hound us in old age, or any time we least expect them to.

Recognising this, society has developed the concept of a living will. It declares how a person should be treated if, for whatever reason, they can’t make their own choices anymore. We compose them pre-emptively – in that sense, they’re a protective measure for a future we might inhabit, detailing how we wish to deal with tough circumstances.

There are two types of living wills: an advance statement, and advance decision. Realising their differences is central to preparing for what may come in your lifetime.

The intricacies of living wills

Let’s look to an advance statement first. Generally, it can solve issues like:

– Where you want to be cared for

– How you like to be dressed/entertained

– Which visitors you’d be comfortable receiving

– Sleeping with a light on or off

– Whether any religious rites are relevant to you

– Favourite meals and beverages

There are more, of course, if you can conceive them. Advance statements are not legally recognised; instead, they’re more like a wish list pertaining to your quality of life.

The other kind – an advance decision – is a firm, lawful statement, that which explains the living standards you can abide, and those you don’t want to experience. It can cover:

– The refusal of treatment, even if it contributes to your death

– Illnesses that you don’t want anyone to intervene with

– Stopping any prolonged, artificial life extension (this has to be written down)

If the last point is relevant to you, it’ll have to be witnessed, again, by two people, and stored somewhere a medical/care team can reach. Describe your hypothetical wishes in as much detail as you can, because they have to line up almost perfectly with the situation, should it ever happen.

One more thing – the power of attorney

By this point, we’ve established that getting your demands across before death, and after it, shares equal value.

To fortify your estate and end-of-life care even further, it’s worth exploring a power of attorney, which you can grant to a close friend or relative. It allows them to make decisions on your behalf, as a proxy, should your thought process debilitate.

The power of attorney is delivered in another document, supported by a physician’s letter. The attorney in question (son, daughter, partner, childhood pal etc.) may gain the right to manage your finances, business, home and living arrangements, depending on what you specify.

Like a living will, there are several variations on the power of attorney, flitting between the durable and springing categories. The first goes into effect as soon as the papers are signed: direct from that very moment. The other, handily, can be enacted at a date of your choosing, or (more often) within the prospect of a serious illness or accident in the years to come.

With careful deliberation, you can identify certain privileges the attorney will have, and leave other duties beyond their control. It might be wise, for example, to merely anoint them as the official bill-payer, as opposed to selling your physical assets to fund treatment. Regardless, most people prepare their power of attorney as they finalise their will; it means you’re ticking two boxes in one go.

What else to plan for the end of a life…

Hopefully by now you’re feeling a little more clued up about wills, living wills and powers of attorney. So while you’re getting organised, why not take another step, and start pulling together a funeral plan? If you need any help, simply fill out our enquiry form or call our team on 0203 937 7707 for further information.

Funeral Plans

Find out more about funeral plans

Share This