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Planning for the future

It can be really painful to think about the realities of what would happen if you were to die, but the coronavirus has made many people anxious about the future – and as WAY’s Membership Manager Colette Scarbrough-Jelfs explains, it can be helpful to think ahead to make sure you have plans in place for all eventualities…

“My husband Andy had always been the practical sensible one, which is why, when he was diagnosed with cancer, although he was fighting to survive, he also made sure that his wishes had been discussed. Although I was only 32 at the time, I sat down with him and we wrote our wills. It was so painful to discuss all the details – from who would look after the children to our preferences for burial or cremation. When Andy died, less than three months later, I was so thankful for his foresight because it helped me to navigate an already impossibly difficult time as well as making sure that his wishes were honoured.

As a society, we try and keep a stiff upper lip and pretend that death doesn’t exist, but unfortunately, as members of WAY know only too week, it is a sad reality of life and we need to ensure that our loved ones know our wishes, as they will be acting for us when we are gone.

It is really important to write a will to ensure those you leave behind receive any monetary gift you intend for them easily and quickly. But a will touches on many other areas too that it’s good to consider carefully to avoid future problems:

Guardianship – If you have children, in law, a person can be appointed to act as a guardian for a child in the event of a parent’s or a carer’s death. Read more about Guardianship.

Digital Legacy – Almost every person now has a digital footprint across social media and emails. Who will be responsible for this digital legacy? Read more about digital legacy.

Funeral Plans – Would you prefer burial or cremation? Would you like a religious service or a natural ceremony? Read more about funeral plans – and read our special section on funerals during the coronavirus crisis.

Writing a will

If you wish to make a will yourself, you can do so. There is no need for a will to be drawn up or witnessed by a solicitor. However, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau recommends that you should only consider doing this if the will is going to be straightforward.

It is generally advisable to use a solicitor or to have a solicitor check a will you have drawn up to make sure it will have the effect you want. If you have thought through some of the key decisions beforehand, this cuts down a solicitor’s time and costs. Find out more about Wills.

As a parent, the most important part of my will was where the children would go if something happened to me. After Andy’s death, I understood how important it was that these details were shared with my oldest children, so if I had to be hospitalised, these details could be passed over and acted on immediately. My eldest child was 13 at the time, which made this easy. Other widows and widowers who have younger children instead keep details on their fridge so these can be found easily if required, or give the details to a close friend or neighbour.

Although it can be painful to think about some of these things, it’s much better to be prepared to help your loved ones honour your wishes, if the worst should happen. And if you have children, particularly if they have already lost one parent, it can be reassuring for them to know what would happen to them if something should happen to you.”