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What to do when someone dies - helpful information

03 August 2018

Apparently, 82 percent of Australians think it is important to talk to their family about how they would want to be cared for at the end of their life, but only 28 percent of us have had the conversation.

There are some people, though, who do confront the inevitable head-on. My mother was one. She is the only person I’ve 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 takes precedence over all other Estate documents. 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 and when certain situations arise.

My mother’s Estate was also in perfect order. She was not morbid or obsessed with death but she did believe in being ready.

When the inevitable happened, the conversations we had had with her made seeing to her affairs: closing bank accounts, paying for the funeral, understanding what needed to be done, etc., etc., much easier. (Mercifully, we did not have to resort to the health plan part of her Living Will.)

For many of us (72 percent, it would seem) the conversation about what you want when you die remains unvoiced. This can leave family and friends very lost at a time when knowing someone’s wishes would be very helpful. And then there are the often-complex financial/Estate needs with which to be dealt.

Westpac recently launched a new Help area dealing with the loss of a loved one. You can read about Estate planning and starting a conversation on the often taboo subject of death, as well as view information and checklists aimed to help reduce the stress you may feel at this time.

For example, there’s the six step guide to deal with the administrative details following the death of someone you love. It takes you from gathering essential documents and locating the Will, and what to do if there isn’t a Will, to making funeral arrangements and registering the death, determining who to notify, and the documentation you will need to identify yourself to the bank, etc., as well as how to deal with any Estate.

Adding a further layer of anxiety is a diagnosis of dementia for someone. Sadly, dementia is an increasing possibility for us all, making it important to have made a Will, appointed Enduring Powers of Attorney, etc., while you are still deemed to have the “capacity” to do these things. Once you are assessed as having lost capacity, those who are left to carry out your affairs and wishes will have a difficult time.

August 8th is ‘Dying to know day’; an initiative aiming to bring to life conversations around death, dying and bereavement.

This information does not take your personal objectives, circumstances or needs into account. Consider its appropriateness to these factors before acting on it. 

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