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What can you do to get your affairs in order?

Middle-aged couple making plans for later life, reading paperwork at the table

This week, May 8-14, is Dying Matters Awareness Week, bringing end of life issues into the spotlight and getting people thinking about what they want to happen in their final days. In previous years, Dying Matters has promoted the importance of talking about death, dying and bereavement, but now it wants you to turn talk into action.

These five steps are positive, proactive steps towards planning for your future, so that you and your loved ones will know what to expect when the time comes.

Write a will

Writing a will is one of the most important parts of estate planning. It allows you to decide who will inherit what from your estate, as well as appoint an executor you trust.

You can write your own will, using DIY will writing kits available online and from many high-street stationery shops. You will need two witnesses to sign your will to make it valid. Wills are particularly important if your estate is complicated – for instance, if you own property abroad, or have children from a previous marriage. Unmarried couples do not automatically inherit their partner’s estate after their death, so a valid will is vital. A solicitor will be able to help you write a will, taking into account all these factors, with prices for will writing service starting from between £200 to £300.

Consider becoming an organ and tissue donor

Organ and tissue donation saves lives and it only takes a few minutes to sign the organ donor register.

Although most people are aware of organ donorship, tissue donations also improve and save lives in many ways. While very few people are eligible to donate organs upon their death, depending on the circumstances, tissue is more easily donated. Skin tissue can be used for skin grafts, corneas can cure corneal blindness, and heart valves can save the lives of those with severe cardiovascular problems.

If you want to donate your organs and tissue after you die, it’s important that you sign the register and let your loved ones know. This way, they are more likely to respect your wishes after you die.

Write down your funeral wishes

Arranging a funeral can be a stressful process at an already traumatic time. Part of the anxiety can be due to not knowing what a loved one would have wanted.

Talking to your loved ones about what you want your funeral to be like can help remove this stress when the time comes. Better yet, write down your wishes so your family will be sure exactly what you meant. You can also choose to buy a funeral plan to make sure all those wishes are paid for in advance.

Plan for your digital assets

In recent years people are beginning to understand the importance of not just thinking about traditional legacies, but digital inheritance too.

From social media to online shopping, you may have hundreds of usernames and passwords in your head that will be lost when you die. Your loved ones may need these to close accounts and notify organisations of your death.

Using a password management system like KeePass can help you organise and safely store passwords for your loved ones. Alternatively, make a list of your digital information and keep it with your will in a secure place.

Talk to your loved ones about their wishes

Knowing what your loved ones want is equally as important as planning for yourself. It can be tricky to start a conversation about death. Many people feel uncomfortable talking about dying, but it can be vitally important and a positive experience.

If you’re planning ahead and thinking about end of life issues, visit the Dying Matters website for more information. You can also join in the conversation during #DyingMattersAwarenessWeek on Twitter.