Books & FAQs


Here are the answers to the top 10 questions we get asked:

1. How do I tell someone I’m dying?

Telling friends and family that you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness is never an easy task. Decide to share the news when you are ready. Be as honest and open as you can with the people who are closest to you and are likely to be caring for you. Expect differing reactions – some will fall apart, some will be your closest support system. How you handle telling people is a very personal decision that only you can make, although how you deal with telling people can have a long lasting effect on your loved ones.

You can find more information in our Telling People section.

2. Is hospital care the only option at the end of my life?

No. You can have care in hospital, at home or in a hospice. It is often known as palliative care. Palliative care aims to give the best quality of remaining life rather than finding a cure for a life-limiting illness.

If you would like to explore your palliative care options then you should first talk to your doctor or a healthcare professional who knows you and your condition. The Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS) provide information, advice and support to help patients, families and their carers. You can find their details from your local GP or by looking on PALS.

You can find more information in our section on Palliative Care.

3. What is a living will?

If you have specific wishes about how you would like to be treated during your illness or at the end of your life then you should consider making a living will or advanced directive. Under UK law you have the right to decide what type of medical treatment you want to have or to refuse treatment. If you want to be clear about what you want in a legally binding way then you need to prepare a written statement.

You can’t instruct a doctor to do something that would mean ending your life such as giving you an unnecessary drug or fatal dose of medication this is known as euthanasia. Although you can refuse invasive treatment doctors will continue to provide basic care including cleaning you, managing pain and nutrition through oral means such as nasal tubes.

You can find more information regarding living wills here.

4. How do I plan a funeral?

Planning a funeral is a rare event in most people lives. Faced with making arrangements at a time when we are under emotional pressure makes the task more difficult.

A funeral is an event which is unique to the individual and by planning your funeral before you die you can ensure it reflects your personality, desires and needs. There are many different aspects to consider when planning a funeral and we have created a funeral planning checklist and a funeral expense calculator to help.

You can find more information here about different types of funerals here.

5. Do I need a will? Surely my wife will get everything when I die?

It is estimated that about 50% of people in England and Wales die without a will. Not having a will can cause untold misery for family and friends left behind to sort out your assets.

Your money and assets will not pass automatically to your spouse or children. If you don’t leave a will there are laws governing the amount your wife or husband can inherit. For example, in England & Wales, if you are the surviving partner and you have children the estate will be split in the following way.

The surviving spouse or civil partner receives personal property (known as chattels), a statutory legacy of £125,000 and an interest for the rest of their life in half of the residue (what is left after legacies, debt payments, funeral expenses and inheritance tax.

If the estate is worth less than £125,000 the surviving partner receives it all. If it is more - then the children get the other half of the residue, divided equally.

You can find more information about making a will here.

6. What do I do when the death happens?

There are a series of processes that have to happen once someone has died. They are reporting the death, registering the death, announcing the death and and organising the funeral.

The first step in this process is reporting a death which is usually the responsibility of a person who was with the deceased at the time of death or a medical professional.

You can find comprehensive information on reporting a death here.

7. What is a death certificate and why do I need one?

A Medical Certificate of Death (sometimes called a Medical Certificate or a Cause of Death Certificate) must be issued before a death can be formally registered. There are two types of certificate commonly associated with death – these are sometimes both called death certificates and this is where confusion arises.

Once a death has been registered a Certified Copy of an Entry in the Register of Deaths (white form), known as a Death Certificate, is produced, this is what you will be asked to produce for companies such as banks to prove someone has died.

You can find more information about registering deaths here.

8. What is inheritance tax?

Even after death there are tax issues to resolve. The most common one is inheritance tax which is a tax payable on the estate of the deceased.

Inheritance tax does not apply to everyone. Currently inheritance tax is only payable if the taxable value of an estate is above £285,000. In the 2007 budget it was announced that the Inheritance Tax Threshold (IHT) will rise from £285,000 to £350,000 by 2010.

You can find more information about inheritance and capital gains tax here.

9. How do I remember the good times?

After someone dies even thinking about them can hurt so much you can’t face it. It is easy to keep re-living the final distressing memories and forget all the good things you experienced together.

Remembering is very important. Continue to celebrate and remember anniversaries. You shouldn’t run away from your memories but you can face them in your own time, you can even choose a special place where you go to. Some people like to make a donation to charity as a lasting positive memorial to the person who has died.

You can find more information about positive memories here.

10. I feel guilty about moving on with my life. Is this normal?

After someone has died and you have accepted their death you will find the time and energy you have spent grieving slowly declines. You will find that you gradually start to be able to enjoy life again, laugh with people, feel genuine happiness and finally begin to make positive plans for the future.

This can initially be very painful; you may feel guilty at moving on. There may be relapses along the way. Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to enjoy life again secure in the knowledge that it is what our loved one would have wanted.

You can find more about moving on after bereavement here.