Make your wishes clear, and known

Wake Smith Solicitors 27 October 2015

Death is one of the most emotional subjects, and many do not like to address the issues surrounding their last wishes and the arrangements. But the plain fact is that everyone will die, at some point, so I am always surprised at how many people do not leave any type of verbal or written instructions for their loved ones to follow after they are gone. I am not just referring to instructions about what they would want to happen to their assets, which should be written down in a will, but what type of funeral arrangements they would want and what should happen to their remains after they are gone. Channel 5's recent series on body donation brought the subject of death and the emotional pain that surrounds it, into the media spotlight. Tens of thousands of people have already made the decision to leave their body to medical science, and about 600 do so each year. We often have clients who request this and we have a specific clause for wills, covering this very issue. It is an important part of the training of medical students that they learn the detailed structure of the body. Many advanced surgical techniques also need to be learnt using actual bodies rather than models. Clearly those who choose to bequeath their bodies to science are not the only people affected by the decision. Their families are also affected and it can take time for loved ones to come to terms with a decision like this. If you wish to donate your whole body for medical training it is essential that before you die, you make your wishes known in writing and that this is witnessed. You should inform your next of kin and the executor of your will, if this is not the same person. Your executor or next of kin will not be allowed to arrange whole body donation if you have not given consent yourself during your life. Locally, the University of Sheffield's medical school can provide information and the necessary paperwork to accept donations. Often the people that we see have already been in touch with the medical school and completed the necessary paperwork. Donation is regulated in England and Wales by the 2004 Human Tissue Act which established the Human Tissue Authority to regulate and license removal, storage and use of body parts and organs. Now potential donors must sign a witnessed consent form stating what their body will be used for and how long it can be kept: donors can say whether their body can be kept indefinitely or for up to three years. Donation is not always possible for a body. It does depend on both the requirements of the medical school at the time, and also the circumstances of the death. Where there is a whole body donation, the funeral is usually arranged by the medical school as there may be a delay of about two to three years before it takes place. Memorial services are arranged regularly to which families are invited. However, if you are thinking of donating your body in this way, it is important to remember that if the circumstances of your death mean that donation is not possible, the cost of your funeral will have to be met by your estate in the usual way. As soon as possible after death, those making the arrangements should contact the nearest medical school, who will provide advice and information on what happens next. Wherever someone has died, it is very important that the professionals are made aware of the wish of the deceased to donate their body. This ensures the necessary administrative procedures are started promptly to meet the timescales required by medical schools. Meanwhile, if the person has not died in hospital, a funeral director should be asked to store the body as soon as possible, explaining what is intended. Whatever decision you reach on what happens to you after death - make sure your family knows what those last wishes are. The best tips are: Make a will specifying your wishes  Your last will and testament is the place where you should record what you want to happen to your property and effects after you die and who should deal with this, i.e. your executors. Really your will should not be the only place where you list your funeral wishes, because by the time your will is located and read, your loved ones may have already made the decisions about the disposition of your remains (burial or cremation) and memorial, if any. Making clear arrangements will avoid any potential disagreements at this stressful time. I have seen the scenario where two sides of a family strongly disagreed about whether the deceased was to be buried or cremated and it took several weeks to reach an agreement. Identify specific instructions Write down a list of specific instructions in a document that is separate from your will. This should include whether you want a funeral or memorial service and where; whether you want a gathering of friends and family and where; whether you want to be cremated, and, if so, where you would like your ashes to be stored or disposed of; and if you want to be buried and where. I have dealt with people who want their ashes scattering with those of their beloved pets, or at places loved by them and their partner - another reason why a will is a good idea. Let your loved ones know that you have created this document and where they can find it, when needed. Talk about your wishes It could be as simple as saying that you would never want to be buried, or you would never want to be cremated. This will go a long way to help ease stress and anxiety during a difficult time and give your loves ones a general idea about idea about what you would want, and not want. If you would like to talk about making your last wishes known and writing a will call Louise Rudkin at Wake Smith on 0116 266 6660.

 

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