These things can be hard to talk or think about, but by making your wishes known, you can save your carers some difficult future dilemmas.

A good way to do this is by putting your wishes in writing:

– An advance decision, sometimes called an ADRT (advance decision to refuse treatment) or a living will, is a legally binding, written decision to refuse a specific treatment – including “life-sustaining” treatments like ventilation and resuscitation. You must be clear about which specific treatments and circumstances you mean. The decision must be signed by you and a witness. It is a good idea to get the advice of your doctor before drawing this up.

– An advance statement is not legally binding. It expresses your preferences and wishes for future care. These may include religious considerations; where you would like to be cared for and die (e.g. at home or in a hospice); if you are willing to donate your organs; practical preferences about the ways you will be looked after; and any other concerns.

Keep these documents safe. Make sure that your family, carers or doctors know they exist and where to find them if they need to in the future.

Sorting out your finances

Your illness may well put strain on your finances. You may be unable to work, and nursing care and medical bills get expensive. You may be concerned about providing for your family after you are gone. Making sure your affairs are in order can give you peace of mind:

– If your financial affairs are complex, professional advice from a financial planner,  chartered accountant or lawyer can ensure that you get the most out of your assets.

– If you have medical insurance, make sure it’s up to date, and that you’re aware of all benefits and coverage. Check the details of your policy with your employer or insurance agent.

– Investigate what government sickness and disability benefits are available.

– You may wish to invest in a prepaid funeral plan.

Update your will

A will is important, especially if you have dependants. In your will, you instruct what should happen to your money, property and possessions after your passing.

You can write the will yourself, but you should get legal advice. You should specify who should inherit, who should look after any surviving children, and who is responsible for handling your estate (the executor). You may have instructions about your funeral.

The will must be formally witnessed and signed. Keep your will safe, and tell your executor or some other trusted person where it is. You can choose to store it with your lawyer or in a safe deposit box.

Power of attorney

If you become incapable in the future, someone will need to make decisions about your care and finances. You can legally appoint someone to do this; this is called an “enduring power of attorney”. This person can also deal with your banking and tax issues when it becomes too hard or inconvenient for you to do so yourself.  Because this person can make financial decisions in your place, you must choose someone you really trust.

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