Families who refuse organ donation remind us to speak out about our wishes
In Dickensian London, the reading of the Will is normally the big reveal where we learn all of the secrets of the deceased characters. However, today, this is no longer the case. Wills are no longer "read" and may not actually be looked at until several days or weeks after death, depending on who has a copy of the Will and where it has been stored.
As such, there may be issues that you would like the people you leave behind to know about sooner. Instead of making provision in your Will, it is often prudent, both financially and practically, to make arrangements during your lifetime or to let people know your preferences in relation to the following:
- Organ donation: it has recently been reported that over the past five years, organs from 505 registered donors could not be made available for transplant due to objections from relatives. Whilst Wales has already adopted an opt-out system of organ donation, families can still have the final say over their loved one's donation.
Many people have strong feelings about their organs being made available to benefit others after their death but preferences can often be quite specific so it is advisable to make sure that your wishes are communicated to your family and noted on the organ donation register well in advance of the situation arising.
The Prime Minister has pledged that presumed consent to organ donation will be introduced nationwide but until this is approved, if you want to donate your organs, you should register as an organ donor and try to discuss your reasons for doing so with your family.
- Funeral wishes: It is fine to state simple funeral wishes in your Will as long as you have made people aware of this because it can be very embarrassing for your executors to find out that you wanted to be cremated when they have just attended your burial.
If you have preferences about your funeral such as where it should be held, your favourite recitals or hymns or songs to be played and potentially, who you want to be invited (or even who you do not want to be invited) then this should be recorded in a side letter that can be given to your executors, whilst you are still alive.
It should also be remembered that your funeral is an expense that can be deducted from your taxable estate, so why not go out with a big party – better that your friends and family remember you in style than the tax man taking 40%!
- Lack of capacity: Many people consider what they want to happen to their assets when they are gone by having a Will but it is also important to think about what might happen if you are still here in body but not in mind.
To cover that situation it would be well worth considering making a Lasting Power of Attorney. There are two types, one which allows you to appoint attorney's to deal with your property and finances and one which allows them to deal with your health and welfare issues. Read more about LPAs here. Again, it is important that family members know what is included in these, as in the latter, you can give your attorney's the power to give or refuse consent to life sustaining treatment if you have strong feelings about being resuscitated or the types of treatment you do or do not wish to receive.
If you would like more information on any of the above issues or your estate planning in general, then please do get in touch with Laura Harper in the Succession and Tax and team.