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Shhh..……Don’t talk about dying: Confronting the taboo


Covid19 has brought the subject of dying to the forefront of our minds like never before.  Typically as a nation us Brits are masters in avoiding talking about topics that make us feel uncomfortable- many of us have experienced the relative that hastily rushes to make a cup of tea whenever there’s a kissing scene on Corrie!  Dying and talking about it fall in to the same category and are often avoided because it’s miserable, morbid or depressing! But as Benjamin Franklin once wrote “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

The global pandemic means that many of us now are thinking about dying more than we ever have before, but we need to make decisions now and act on those decisions to ensure that plans are put in place in these times of great uncertainty and risk to ensure our loved ones are taken care of when the inevitable happens- whether that occurs in 2020 or 20 years from now.

So what should be on the agenda for discussion?

Have you made a living will or considered an advance directive? What about a power or attorney?  Have you already made one but could do with updating it?  Nowadays we have health and care power of attorney documents so it might be worth a review if you did one years ago, are the people you chose still the best people for the job?

Have you made a will? Do you want to spell out where your assets should go after you die?  Do you have any idea how messy things can be if you leave assets but no will? Should you update your will?

Have you taken any legal advice about inheritance tax?

Have you reviewed your title deeds with a professional?

Do you need advice about gifting assets in your lifetime or protecting rights of occupancy or guarding against the risk of divorce in the family?

Do you know what a discretionary trust is?

Have you a relative that has a disability whom could benefit from a disabled person trust?

All of the above topics are matters that a solicitor can help with, and whilst it may not be a topic to discuss over Christmas lunch it is important that we do have these conversations with our relatives, young and old, and more than once.

In Mexico annually on the 2nd November there is a national holiday ‘The Day of the Dead’ when the passing of loved ones is marked and celebrated with a festival and whilst I am not suggesting we too start a national celebratory festival with a focus on dying, we are after all in the middle of pandemic so large celebratory gatherings are best avoided for now,  we should at the very least put the kettle on and sit down for a chat (or a phone call or a Zoom call) and talk about dying and how we can do it tidily.

Kerry Davies

Head of Department 


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