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Why you need to talk to your family about death

Why you need to talk to your family about death

It’s one of the most difficult things in the world to talk about, but the one thing that’s certain to happen to us all. None of us wants to think about our death but, when it comes to family and friends being able to carry out your last wishes, it really is better to be prepared.

A survey last year by the Dying Matters Coalition found that we are becoming more comfortable talking about death, with 52% of those questioned saying they found it easier to talk about their own death or that of a loved one than they did five years earlier. Yet just one third of us has made a will and nearly half admitted that thinking about death frightens them. According to the research:

  • 67% of people would be happy to help someone they know organise end of life plans, including planning a funeral, making a will and arranging advance care plans and lasting power of attorney
  • 46% felt confident about where to find information to help someone else or make their own end of life plans
  • Just 35% of us have made a will - and this drops to one per cent of 18-24 year olds
  • Seven per cent have written down plans for future care
  • 45% say talking or thinking about death scares them
  • 15% feel that talking about their death will cause it to happen

Where there’s a will...

Steve DeRoy Jones, of Newport-based estate planners and will writers Kingsman Associates, says: “I always find people don’t really talk about death enough. By the time I get to see a client, they have clearly made that decision, but they very often say they’ve thought about it for years before doing anything. One of the main reasons is that families don’t get together enough for a meeting or conference. Everyone spends time on their own or, when they are together, they are on their phones, but a family conference is something that people really need to have.

“People always say they don’t want to upset relatives by talking about death, but it really helps to talk about three things; what people expect, what they want and what they need. It’s not all about money! When parents ask their children what they want, the answer is very often different to what the parents expect, and if families had these conversations before seeing me, it would enable them to make better wills.”

Peace of mind

It’s also important to get your finances in order and think about how your family would manage in the event of your death. If you have a partner and children, it’s likely that your partner would wish to take as much time away from work as possible while the family adjusts to a new routine.

Life insurance can give peace of mind that the bills will be paid and take at least one worry away at such a traumatic time - and it does seem that this is one element we are, as a nation, good at planning for. According to the Association of British Insurers, almost six million UK households have a whole of life insurance policy, while 600,000 households have term life insurance. And, with 99% of term policy claims being paid - and a daily average of £9.4m being paid out in protection insurances as a whole - it’s certainly cover worth having.

Important decisions

We would all like to think we’ve plenty of time to put these matters on the back burner, but Steve recently made a will for a 19-year-old who realised she needed to plan for her child’s future following the death of a teenage friend. “The best time to make plans is when you’re well,” says Steve. “I work with clients who are ill; they are capable of making a will but perhaps not in the best position to make important decisions. Having these conversations really shows your family that you’re thinking about them.”

Dying Matters Coalition chief executive Claire Henry says: “Talking about death is nothing to be scared of, and won’t make it happen. We all need to start to have this big conversation as part of the way we plan and prepare for all the important things in life - and words need to be followed by action. Putting our end of life plans in place enables us to get on with living. It takes a weight off our minds, and makes things easier for those we love as well.”