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How do you want to be remembered?

24 January 2018

Wbc News Article F M Knox Play 1010X568

Michelle Knox on TED Talk, click to see

Sometime before my mother died, an event neither foreseen nor expected, we were at Sunday lunch at my brother’s place when she launched into a discussion of her intention to create a Living Will. It was a darkly humorous few hours of nutting out what her plan was to be if she was to suffer a medical emergency that rendered her incapacitated – specifically, unable to eat and communicate. I think, actually, she stipulated, unable to swallow herself.

My mother is the only person I’ve ever known to have what is referred to by the legal fraternity as a Living Will – a document that dictates an individual’s future medical treatment in circumstances where they are unable to provide their consent.

Correctly prepared and executed, the Living Will she told us took precedence over her other estate documents that appointed another person to make decisions on her behalf – for example, her executor(s).

The key to the enforceability of these documents is that they are made voluntarily, with an understanding of their legal effect and they usually list the specifics of how the person wishes to be treated medically if certain situations arise. My mother was nothing if not ready for the inevitable.

For many people the conversation about what you want when you die, let alone before you die, is never broached, often leaving family and friends at a time of great loss even more lost.

In 2017, Westpac and TED Talks joined together to open the TED@Westpac stage. Michelle Knox (above) from Westpac’s Finance Transformation was one of 15 speakers to take to that stage with her “Talk about your death while you’re still healthy”. Michelle’s “big idea” - to approach what you want done after your death sooner rather than later - was so well received it was featured as a TED Talk of the Day on January 17, 2018.

(A diagnosis of dementia can add further layers of anxiety to the process for many people. In this case, it is important to have made a Will, appointed Enduring Powers of Attorney, etc., while you are still deemed to have the “capacity”. Things can get messy for those who are left to carry out your affairs if you haven’t got them in order and you are deemed to have lost capacity.)

Exploring the Westpac corporate site, Ruby also came across this clear, helpful guide for when you lose a loved one. The six step guide helps you deal with the administrative details following the death of a loved one. Taking you from gathering essential documents and locating the Will (if there is one) and what to do if there isn’t a Will, to making funeral arrangements and registering the death, determining who to notify, and how to identify yourself and the documentation you need, as well as dealing with the Estate. Guiding You Through the Loss of a Loved One helps make what can be a confusing and difficult time much easier to navigate: the checklists and explanations, for example, taking some of the stress out of the processes.