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The Practical Side of Death: Last Will & Testament

Editor’s note: Anita lives in the UK, so some of the terms and laws referenced in this article are not necessarily identical to laws in the US. However, most of the concepts do exist in the US, so we hope that this article is still helpful for all.

Death comes to us all, just some of us sooner than later. What do we need to do, in a practical sense, to prepare for our death?

Getting our affairs in order

What do we need to know? What do we need to speak about? You often hear people talking about ‘getting their affairs in order.’ What exactly does that mean?

First, you need to create a Last Will and Testament. This is a legal document that will ensure that your money, property, possessions, and investments (this is known as your “Estate”) will go to those that you want it to. If you are living with someone but not married, your partner will have absolutely no rights to your estate. A will has to be witnessed, signed, and dated by two people who do not benefit from anything in your will.

Your will does not have to be held at a solicitor’s (a lawyer’s), and it does not have to be registered in the UK. Your will gets registered after you have died; this is called “probate”. However, while you are alive, you can store your will in a safe place that is known to you and your ‘Executor’ (more on this below).

Write it all down

What I would suggest is that you write everything down that you own: your savings, your property, life insurance, any pensions, investments, jewelry, antiques, and other personal belongings, and then decide how you want to divide it all up. You will need to choose an Executor for your estate.

An executor for your estate

An Executor is someone you trust who will ensure that your wishes are met. It can be family or a friend, just make sure it is someone who you have complete faith in. They will, once you have died, sort out the financial side of things and pay any outstanding debts or taxes that you owe. Once that is done, they will then inform anyone who you have left things for.

If you don’t think you have anything of value to leave to anyone, you can do a “letter of wishes” (this can be done in addition to a will). It is not legally binding like a will is, but it can be a guide for your Executor to make sure that your personal wishes are carried out. This letter can state who you want to be informed of your death and how you would like your funeral arrangements to be carried out. Or it can mention leaving your prized possessions to your friends. This can also be written in your Advance Directive or Living Will, which I will go in another article.

It can also contain information about how you want the financial side of your affairs looked after, although this must not contradict your Last Will and Testament. It may also contain any wishes that you have regarding your children’s upbringing, religion and schooling.

Normalizing talking about our wishes

It may seem like a huge thing to do, and I totally understand. However, we need to have things in place in the event of our deaths. We need to speak more openly and freely about our wishes and wants, and we need to normalize death; after all, it is the only certainty in life.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.