Living Wills

Today I decided to get to terms with Living Wills. This is what I have come up with.

This goes by several names, including the “Advance Decision to refuse medical treatment”. “Health care directive” or “Medical directive” among others.

The simple idea is to write up something declaring your wishes regarding your end of life care. With the help of the internet, I have cobbled together a templete below – feel free to take this as a starting point. I intend doing one, and having my wife also use this to make one for herself. We’ll run them past the lawyer, attach to the Last Will and Testament, and pop a copy into the NHS GP we’re registered with.

Living Will /Advance Decision to refuse medical treatment

I, [NAME] of [ADDRESS] [POST CODE] was born on DAY MONTH YEAR.

  1. I have the following identifying features:
    1. SCAR
    2. BIRTHMARK ETC
  2. Being of sound mind and understanding the implications of refusing life sustaining treatment, I make this Living Will/ Advance Decision now as to my medical care and treatment directed to my family, my doctors and any other medical personnel, institution or authority in the event that I lose mental capacity as defined by the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and cannot make health care decisions for myself.
  3. I DIRECT as follows:
  4. My life shall not be artificially prolonged and no life sustaining treatment shall be administered in the following circumstances:
    1. if I am diagnosed with a terminal disease and am unable to feed or wash myself or move around without being assisted by others. In this situation I will have lost all dignity and will find life unbearable
    2. if I am diagnosed with a degenerative disease or brain damage and am unable to feed or wash myself or move around without being assisted by others. In this situation I will have lost all dignity and will find life unbearable
    3. if I am in permanent pain and my attending doctor, consultant or surgeon and one independent medical practitioner certify in writing that in their opinion there is no prospect of this ever changing or in their opinion there is no real or reasonable prospect of recovery
    4. if I am permanently unconscious, comatose, in a persistent vegetative state or unable to communicate my needs and my attending doctor, consultant or surgeon and one independent medical practitioner certify in writing that in their opinion there is no real or reasonable prospect of recovery
    5. if, as a result of stroke or accident of any sort, I am incapacitated or paralysed and can’t feed or wash myself and my attending doctor, consultant or surgeon and one independent medical practitioner certify in writing that in their opinion there is no real or reasonable prospect of recovery with the current medical options available
  5. In the above circumstances I wish to be permitted to die naturally and to only receive such medical treatment as will alleviate any pain or distressing symptoms so as to make me comfortable, even if this has the effect of shortening my life.
  6. I do not wish to be fed by tube if I am unable to eat and drink.
  7. I do not wish to be resuscitated.
  8. I do not wish to be kept alive by artificial means.
  9. I do not want antibiotic or antiviral medication.
  10. I do not want an induced coma.
  11. I would prefer to die at home, rather than in a hospice or hospital if possible.
  12. This decision does not affect my desire to be treated with care, concern and respect.
  13. In the event of my death, I permit any of my organs to be removed and used for transplant.
  14. I have carefully considered my advance decision and understand fully what it means. This statement has been made of my own free will and describes my specific wishes in the event of the circumstances set out above..
  15. I have full understanding of the statements I have made in this decision. My decisions as to treatment and as detailed above are to apply even if my life is at risk. I confirm that I have understood the implications that this may shorten my life and I have discussed these implications with my GP. I will give my GP a copy of this decision and any reviews, amendments and cancellations.
  16. This advance decision shall remain in force until I revoke it or amend it.

 

This advance decision has been executed on____________________________(date)

Executed as a deed by
[NAME]
in the presence of two witnesses, neither of whom will benefit from my death:
Witness signature
Name of witness
Address
Relationship
and

 

Reviewed and confirmed on____________________________(date)
Signed by [NAME]
in the presence of the witnesses below, who will not benefit from my death:
Witness signature
Name of witness
Address
Relationship

 

Reviewed and confirmed on____________________________(date)
Signed by [NAME]
in the presence of the witnesses below, who will not benefit from my death:
Witness signature
Name of witness
Address
Relationship

 

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Financial Angles

We met up with our long time financial adviser, and it was quite a surprise to hear about the changes to the financial system – insurances and savings are now completely separate.

The present climate is pretty awful for savings and investments, and there really is no with-profits type of insurance anymore.

ALL savings have the same tax breaks  -so Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) are not terribly attractive anymore. Most other types of account have better interest rates!

It was a real eye-opener! What a bizarre world.

It looks like funeral costs will have to be from Term insurance, Whole-Life insurance, or borne at the time from whatever cash is to hand.

The good news is that we’re in a better position that we’d thought (mostly by chance).

Years ago, an incorporated company needed a minimum of two directors. This changed and so my latest business had just me as the sole required director when I started it up.

However, when my daughter was ready for nursery, because my wife was not back at work, and we were not claiming state benefits, a nursery place was impossible!

The only way around this was to employ my wife, and so my children were able to get places at pre-school nurseries.

And that was the way we left it – until the changes in workplace pensions of late meant that she had to become a director to avoid all that.

This is a really good position to be in as it turns out; this is our main income source, so if anything happened to either one of us, the survivor would be able to continue access to the money without having to do anything.

There is no point in opening a joint bank account because our individual accounts are barely used, and are mainly fed from whatever we chose to transfer from the business.

All we have to figure out is what happens to the business should anything happen to us both at the same time.

We do have savings, so we have decided to look at splitting this lump into two – one invested in something ethical but risky (and so higher on our ROI) – maybe something like equity crowdfunding or an angel investment, Crowdcube, or Seedrs type of thing – which may be fun if a wee bit too risky. Then again, it may just be safer yet still better than the high street with  a P2P/ Peer-to-peer social lending set up (the old marketplace lending scenario is getting good press lately eg Zopa is returning a whopping 7% just now), the rest probably ought to be in a bank or building society – a joint account with good access.

The plan is to use the savings account to cover funeral costs, the business account for the day-to-day living costs and bills immediately following a death, and the higher yield investment to take care of the children’s future whatever happens.

A check on Moneysavingexpert shows that the rates are all terribly low, and that current accounts are better than savings accounts! West Bromwich Building Society offers an easy access account at 1.05%, better rates mean locking away the cash.

Anyway… we’re on the case. The limitations and restrictions mean that everyone is in the same boat, and that everything is actually a lot simpler too. So there is that.

Responsible

My response to the lawyer’s email and invoices is as follows:
Hi [Lawyer colleague]
Thank you for the email and attachments.

Everything seems to have got into a bit of a muddle, and we had actually begun to give up hearing back from [Lawyer].

From the outset, we asked for the cost of two wills and the fee, or rate, to act as co-executor so that we could choose who to go with. [Lawyer] responded to our web form enquiry from January – but did not discuss costs. I asked again by email, and I then telephoned and left a recorded message on 2nd February. When I did speak with [Lawyer], we arranged to meet at our home on Saturday 11th February, during which we were told she charged £60 for a will – and that she hadn’t increased this for a while, and that she really ought to raise her prices. She explained that it would be best if she wasn’t formally named as an executor, but that she would rather be informally on hand should one of us require support and assistance on an ad hoc basis in the event of the death of one of us. Despite lacking certain details, she would be able to email through draft wills within a day or two.

On 13th February we received a recorded message from [Lawyer] in response to our enquiry from 2nd February, it was clear that she didn’t realise that she had dealt with this enquiry, and when we did not receive the drafts, after nearly a month, we were surprised to receive your email and invoices out of the blue.

You will surely understand that as we have not heard anything, we have had to start shopping around elsewhere, and now have appointments lined up in this regard.

We had expected draft wills about three weeks ago, and would have expected to pay £120 on completion of the two wills. We are surprised to see invoices for £200 (the most expensive we’ve been quoted to date), discounted down to £160. These are very generic drafts, and are not what was discussed, for example, one of them mentions [Lawyer] as executor – which is a surprise, especially as we do not have an idea about the fees for that would be.

I am sure you can appreciate our position in light of the above. You have asked us to accept your apologies and because of the family bereavement, we are, of course, prepared to do so – as long as you are prepared to stick with the original plan as agreed at our meeting.

If you can remove [Lawyer] as executor, we’ll provide the details required to complete the wills. On completion of the wills, we’ll pay your corrected invoice for £120 all as expected, as discussed and as agreed. If these terms are now unacceptable to you, please let us know as soon as possible because we have appointments and arrangements to consider.

We liked [Lawyer]when we met her, and accept that things can get muddled up in such circumstances. We have no wish to cause [Lawyer]additional distress or concern, and any pains we have taken with this email have been to clarify and nothing more.  Please pass on our heartfelt condolences to her if you can.

Legal Wrangles

All this is a very difficult subject, not merely because of the subject matter, but because it is so difficult to get information.

Then, in addition, is the general lack of focus and care.

I had all but given up hearing from the lawyer, when – quite out of the blue, tonight – arrived an email with two copy-and-paste generic wills along with two invoices!

Not only that, but the invoices came to £200 – but “graciously” discounted to £160 because of the delay. Remember, we were told face-to-face that it was £60 for each will – which makes £120.

Obviously, we replied in the appropriate manner.

Wavering

In my last post I was happy to report that we finally found a lawyer, but now (just a week on), I’m not so sure all is well.

We all have our own personal niggles, and I am no different; I have a problem with people not living up to certain standards. I get disappointed when I am oversold.

This lawyer has a nice website, and even little videos. She’s nice in person too. It’s all as I outlined in my last post. But there’s a but. Maybe there’s always a but.

My first action was to send a message via the contact form of her website – I specifically outlined what I wanted. She emailed back pretty promptly. I immediately replied with more detail, including my phone numbers, and asking what she would charge for two wills and executor duties.

Then I waited – for days – so I phoned and left an ansafone message with my name and phone numbers.

I got a phone call from her a day or so later, and we made the appointment for Saturday morning, I gave my address and postcode. I was a little bit irked that she hadn’t just given me the cost information – if she was going to be expensive, I wouldn’t waste anyone’s time on an appointment, but hey, perhaps she needs to see us to decide to take us on – and maybe then she would come up with the prices on the spot.

On Saturday morning she called early to make sure we had remembered about the meeting – a good sign in my book. However, she was quite late anyway – a good 25 minutes – and remember this is is the day of my daughter’s birthday party.

When she arrived, she was in jeans and a jumper, which was a surprise, but then it made it less formal, after all, it is the weekend and a home visit. But she began by saying that she didn’t read the email, and couldn’t remember the form stuff.

So I had to begin again with the whole story. She even asked my name, email address, and phone numbers, and jotted them down on her pad.

By the way, I have to say that I noticed all this, but was happy to let it slide. I made allowances that she may be very busy, and get a lot of enquiries that come to nothing. I assumed that now that she’d met us and taken notes, it would be all right.

We were expecting her to email draft wills within a few days to get the ball rolling.

Mid-week my wife noticed we had a new ansafone message – this lawyer had called and left a voice message.

The message was replying to the message I’d recorded on her ansafone before our meeting. She clearly didn’t realise that it was me – she was wanting to set up an initial appointment.

It hurts me to think this, but maybe this lawyer is scatter-brained.

You know, over the years, I’ve worked with quite a few lawyers, and none of them have come up to scratch; they all seem to fly by the seat of their pants – reading cases minutes before court, minimum effort and preparation.

I have had to do loads of work on contracts or conveyancing myself – and then hand it over to them. It’s always sloppy, and disappointing if you have been brought up with Hollywood movies and TV dramas where solicitors are up all night combing through evidence and trying really hard to make everything legally airtight.

Website advice is always about seeking professional help – see your GP before doing exercise or going on a diet – get a lawyer to check fine print, small print, and detail of contracts and documents.

Anyhoo. This one seems just the same as the rest of them. I’ll have to go through whatever she comes up with and fix it myself – and pay her the fee just to have the “check with a solicitor” tickbox ticked.

 

Meeting The Lawyer

I know that there has been a lack of posts to this site – and that has been because the quest has been on for finding a solicitor.

I searched the internet, and emailed three firms. One didn’t respond, one responded with an email that showed they hadn’t read our email, and the third responded positively and quickly – and, importantly for us, could meet us outwith standard office hours of 9-5 weekdays only.

The internet search was pretty comprehensive to get it down to the three I tried to contact. I weighed up all the information pretty carefully; we need a lawyer that we feel comfortable with – someone we can actually talk to in a real and frank way, straight-up.

We think we found that in the end. We went with a female solicitor – about the same age as my wife, and from the same neck of the woods too.

Her website was really cool, and informative too. Not a big firm, not a fancy office. Perfect. Let’s face facts: I am logically and statistically the most likely to go first, so my wife has to have support at a pretty harsh time – she needs someone she can relate to properly. So I arranged for a meeting.

On top of all the plusses, this lawyer does home visits! How good can it get? She came over on Saturday at 11am, and we chatted round the kitchen table. She’ll email us draft wills and we’ll go forward from there.

It’s all really positive. The wills are only £60 each too.

She talked down being an executor or co-executor as we are not terribly complicated – but offered full support to my wife (or I suppose myself) as required – that might be even better.

In the meeting we talked about what would happen with our children should my wife and I come to a sticky end. My family is really not in the equation – too old for one thing, but my wife’s parents are 70, and her only sister lives hours away and hundreds of miles – which would uproot the children.

My wife’s father remarried a woman 23 years his junior, so I took the opportunity to have a chat with her (one on one) about this morbid topic – and, to my surprise,  she was “flattered” and “honoured” to be considered to bring up the children in the sad event of our joint demise.

It has to be said that if my wife and I died today, it would only be for 7 or so years, so it is not really a commitment per se. But it is really nice to know we’re covered. I even asked the unthinkable – would you still feel the same if something happened to your husband? After all, the oldest and infirmest person here is my father-in-law… and she still said she would be delighted to oblige us.

This is a great relief – this would provide stability and continuity to the children. Of course, it is an unlikely event – but that’s what contingencies are all about, and so we feel a lot happier that we have an idea of the what-ifs.