Putting your affairs in order if you have advanced cancer
It’s natural to be concerned about who will receive your possessions after your death. It’s a thoughtful and effective way of taking care of the people you love.
Putting your affairs in order may also spare the people you love painful decisions and even financial difficulty that could occur if you do not make your wishes clear. You may also find that putting your affairs in order clears your mind of many concerns, leaving you free to concentrate on the present.
There are things you can do to put your affairs in order:
Make a will (or update your will if you have already made one).
If you have children under 18, discuss arrangements for their future with your partner, and appoint guardians, in the event that you both die.
List where you keep important documents (for example, the title deeds of your house) and details of such things as your bank account or insurance premiums.
List the people who should be told when you die (for example, anyone who has been named as executor of your will, your employer, your solicitor, if you have one).
Some people like to make plans for their own funeral, or discuss whether they would prefer cremation or burial.
There may also be some everyday tasks that you have always done. You should note these down, so that there is some record of, for example, where you got the car serviced, how to turn the central heating boiler on or how to use the washing machine.
Making a will ensures that you have control over what happens to your property. It makes sure that your loved ones and people or issues you care about are looked after and that your wishes are carried out. If you die without making a will, the state decides who gets your possessions and they may not be shared out in the way you wish. You may find making a will a painful and upsetting thing to do. However, you may also gain a sense of satisfaction and relief at sorting out your affairs and knowing that you are safeguarding the future of your family and friends.
Making a will is not always as difficult or expensive as you might think, but it is a legal document and should be properly prepared. It’s advisable to go to a solicitor to make a will.
A solicitor will know the precise wording to use to make your wishes clear and ensure they are carried out exactly as you want. If you don’t use a solicitor your will might not be clear, which may cause delays and unnecessary legal expenses later on.
You can find a solicitor by asking a friend for a recommendation or looking in the phone book. The Law Society has a website with a ‘find a solicitor’ search facility you could use, as well as helpful information on making a will. It’s a good idea to telephone a few solicitors and get quotes before deciding which one is best for you. Solicitors will sometimes make home or hospital visits.
You can find a solicitor by asking a friend for a recommendation, or look in the phone book. Alternatively, contact the Law Society for England and Wales, for Scotland or for Northern Ireland. It is best to telephone a few solicitors and get quotes before deciding which one is best for you. Solicitors will sometimes make home visits.
If you’ve already made a will, you can update or alter it quite easily by adding a codicil. This is an extra instruction to your will which can be added at any stage, and alters it in any way you want. Again, it helps to prepare a list of the changes you want and then go to your solicitor, who can easily draw up the codicil for you.
In addition to dealing with your practical affairs, you may find that there are also emotional loose ends you want to tie up - for example, old friends you want to see or perhaps arguments you want to make up. If you want to contact someone you have not been in touch with for some time, you could try writing to, emailing or phoning them. You could tell them about your illness and ask them to visit or get in touch with you. Approached with this sort of openness, old arguments can often be healed.
You may find yourself thinking a lot about the past - about joys, regrets and fears and going over events in your mind, or perhaps going through old photo albums. You may want to visit places again, such as somewhere you used to live. If you’re no longer able to get around by yourself, you can ask someone to go with you.
You may also find yourself thinking about the future, and grieving for a time when you will no longer be there. You may like to write letters to people who are dear to you, or perhaps prepare an audio or video/DVD recording, to be given to them after your death. Some people like to write down some of their family history for the next generation or to prepare a scrapbook for their children or grandchildren, perhaps getting the children to help.
These are sad things to do, but they can also be satisfying as they give you a chance to think about the things that have happened to you, both good and bad. They can also give you some pleasure. The important thing is to do what feels right for you, when it feels right.
Family members or friends may feel that you are being morbid and gloomy and try to cheer you up. Though this may be difficult for you, it is a sign of their love. It may be that they are not yet ready to accept what is happening. If you can, it can help to try to explain that you need time to yourself, to think and to feel sad.