January 2012 Newsletter

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Welcome to our latest Newsletter.

We hope you have had a lovely Christmas and send you our best wishes for 2012.

Have you made your Will yet?

It is estimated that over 50% of the British public have either not made a Will or, do not have an up to date Will.  In order that your estate may be divided and distributed as you would like, it is essential that you have an up to date and correctly witnessed Will.

I am aware that some clients who have had blank Will forms from me have not completed them and made an appointment for me to get their draft Will prepared.

I realise that it is a very difficult thing to think about, people often push the papers to the back of the cupboard for ‘another day’.

When a person dies without leaving a valid Will (or no Will at all), their property (the estate) must be shared out according to certain rules. These are called the rules of intestacy. A person who dies without leaving a will is called an intestate person.  Only married or civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit under the rules of intestacy.

It is, therefore, very important that you take time to consider what you would like to happen to your estate and possessions and get this information noted, legally, in your Will.

So please can I ask you to sit down with a nice cup of tea, read through the paperwork I’ve given you [I can easily provide a fresh copy if you’ve mislaid it, just let me know], and make some notes about what you would like to happen once you are no longer here.  Then give me a call and we can put the procedure in hand to prepare your draft Will for approval by you.

Something that may concern you is confidentiality.  I can assure you 100% that I operate a strict code of confidentiality and absolutely nothing contained in any paperwork, telephone calls or personal chats between us will be revealed to anyone, without your consent.  I have worked within the legal and funeral sectors since 1978 and confidentiality has always been of the highest priority.

Introducing Denise Jones LLB (Hons) who will be working alongside Linda to prepare Wills and other legal documentation for our clients.  Denise is a fully qualified Solicitor with many years’ experience in Wills and Probate matters.

We are also offering other services which you may be interested in which include:

Lasting Powers of Attorney, Advance Directives (Living Wills), and help with the completion of probate forms and the registration of any Power of Attorney with the Court of Protection should you choose to undertake these tasks yourself

We also offer our Funeral Planning Service which enables you to choose exactly how you would like your Funeral to be held – religious or not; flowers or donations; burial or cremation; cemetery or natural burial ground – the list is endless – we have a unique, detailed and comprehensive Wishes Document which we work through with you and which will enable you to detail as much or as little about your Funeral as you wish.

A little thought and preparation means your loved ones are taken care of when you leave them

Friends and Family Discount Voucher

If you have any friends or family who would be interested in using our services, they will be entitled to 15% off our normal prices until 29/2/2012.  This means that our normal Will drafting price of £80 will be £68 until that date.

All they need to do is contact us by phone or email and quote the code WINTERWILL15 and 15% discount will automatically be applied to their Invoice for works done until 29/2/2012.

The Funeral Company is proud to be a member of Dying Matters, a broad based and inclusive national coalition of more than 15,000 members, which aims to change public knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards death, dying and bereavement.

You can contact Linda at The Funeral Company using the following details:

Email : thefuneralcompany@gmail.com  or  Telephone : +44 [0] 7775430016 


Have your signed your Will correctly?

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I wonder whether you have seen in the press this week, details of a family who have been affected by incorrect signing of two Wills?

Here is the link to the article 

The circumstances surrounding this matter seem to be that a couple’s [unofficially] adopted son, Terry, has not received his £70,000 inheritance due to parents, Alfred and Maureen, incorrectly signing their Wills.  They each signed A Will but unfortunately, they signed each other’s in error and this wasn’t discovered until after their deaths.  This made both Wills invalid and meant the money went to the natural children after all.

I do not propose to comment here on the inheritance of Terry Marley or his siblings, [you may read the full press article for yourself], this post is merely to show how easy it is to invalidate a Will due to incorrect procedures.

For a Will to be valid, it is essential that it is signed and witnessed correctly: 

In order for a will to be valid, it must be:

made by a person who is 18 years old or over; and
made voluntarily and without pressure from any other person; and
made by a person who is of sound mind. This means the person must be fully aware of the nature of the document being written or signed and aware of the property and the identify of the people who may inherit; and
in writing; and
signed by the person making the will in the presence of two witnesses; and
signed by the two witnesses, in the presence of the person making the will, after it has been signed. A witness or the married partner of a witness cannot benefit from a will. If a witness is a beneficiary (or the married partner or civil partner of a beneficiary), the will is still valid but the beneficiary will not be able to inherit under the will.

Although it will be legally valid even if it is not dated, it is advisable to ensure that the will also includes the date on which it is signed.

As soon as the will is signed and witnessed, it is complete.

If someone makes a will but it is not legally valid, on their death their estate will be shared out under certain rules, not according to the wishes expressed in the will.

How to change a will

You may want to change your will because there has been a change of circumstances. You must not do this by amending the original will after it has been signed and witnessed. Any obvious alterations on the face of the will are assumed to have been made at a later date and so do not form part of the original legally valid will.

The only way you can change a will is by making a codicil to the will or, a new will.

Codicils

A codicil is a supplement to a will which makes some alterations but leaves the rest of it intact. This might be done, for example, to increase a cash legacy, change an executor or guardian named in a will, or to add beneficiaries.

A codicil must be signed by the person who made the will and be witnessed in the same way. However, the witnesses do not have to be the same as for the original will.

There is no limit on how many codicils can be added to a will, but they are only suitable for very straightforward changes. If a complicated change is involved, it is usually advisable to make a new will.

Making a new will

If you wish to make major changes to a will, it is advisable to make a new one. The new will should begin with a clause stating that it revokes all previous wills and codicils. The old will should be destroyed. Revoking a will means that the will is no longer legally valid.

Challenging a will

A person may want to challenge a will because they believe that the will is invalid; or they believe that they have not been adequately provided for in the will.

There are strict time limits for challenging a will and if you want to challenge a will, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible.

If you do not yet have a will and would like to discuss making one, I would be very happy to help you.  It doesn’t matter where in England or Wales you reside, I can provide you with assistance.  Feel free to contact me on 07775430016 or email thefuneralcompany@gmail.com 

Our prices range from £70 for a single basic will.  Persons requiring financial or Inheritance Act advice will also require an enhanced will at a greater cost – we can discuss your requirements when you contact us.

Source CAB

Funeral Concierge ™ – A Helping Hand

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What is a Funeral Concierge  ™  ?

The concept of a Funeral Concierge  ™  is a new one in the UK and one which we hope will grow in coming months and years. The introduction of such a role is being pioneered by myself, via my company – The Funeral Company.

A Funeral Concierge  ™  is someone who provides outstanding service tailored to meet the needs and requests of the client.  They are dedicated to ensuring that their clients and their families receive personalised assistance to prepare for and deal with all aspects of administration and assistance following the funeral.

When a person passes away, the Funeral Director will take care of a lot of the funeral planning such as church/crematorium. flowers or donations, presentation etc. However, once the funeral has passed the Funeral Director does not have such a hands-on link with the family. They do not generally assist with the administration that results from a person’s death.

This is where the Funeral Concierge  ™  comes in!

Here are examples of some of the duties that can assist the family, this is by no means a comprehensive list!

  • Taking instructions from a family member of representative
  • Regular liaison with family
  • Assist the family to arrange collection of cremains, if appropriate, from Crematorium.  Once family have decided on distribution of cremains ie. scattering etc. assist them in making arrangements for this to take place.  If distribution has not been decided upon, you will be able to offer the family information about various means that are available
  • Obtain further copy Death Certificates to send to relevant asset and liability companies such as local council, banks, employers in order to surrender policies, accounts etc.
  • Preparation of Change of Name Deed(s)
  • Liaising with family and Funeral Director to collect donations on behalf of deceased, onward transmission to appropriate charity
  • Press Notices, Obituaries, Memorial Notices
  • Cancellation of household services ie. cleaner, gardener etc.
  • Arranging for disposal of unwanted personal items to charity shop, or as required by family
  • Assisting family with a ‘small estate’ (ie less than £5,000 in total value)
  • All correspondence and administration relating to the deceased
  • If estate is more than £5,000 then liaising between family and approved legal professionals to apply for Grant of Probate or Grant of Representation, as appropriate
  • Researching Memorial Masons and advising family of same
  • Arranging Grave Tending services
  • Arranging appropriate care for survivor
  • Financial Support options
  • Distribution of Bequests
  • Children and Grief
  • Arranging Memorial Service
  • Arranging online memorial site
  • Drawing up a new Will and/or Wishes Document  TM

The Funeral Company are running more Funeral Concierge TM courses [both online and at several venues in the UK] during 2011/2012.

If this is a field of funeral assistance you’d either like to explore and qualify as a Funeral Concierge TM  or, you’d like to find a Funeral Concierge TM to assist you – please don’t hesitate to contact me via email to thefuneralcompany@gmail.com or +44 [0] 7775430016 – I’d be more than happy to help you.

Queen Elizabeth II Honours War Heroes

Following on from our earlier post showing the names of the fallen being engraved into the Memorial Wall, HM Queen Elizabeth II will today be visiting both Lichfield Cathedral and The National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas.

The Queen is to present medals to soldiers from the Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry in Staffordshire.

She is visiting Lichfield Cathedral for the regiment’s homecoming parade and thanksgiving service before going to the National Memorial Arboretum.

The arboretum is holding its annual service of commemoration for those killed on duty in the previous year.

An arboretum spokesman said the 112 deaths in 2010 represented one of the largest tolls of the last 20 years.

The Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry is the armoured regiment for the West Midlands and north west of England, with four squadrons based in Dudley, Telford, Chester and Wigan.

These are A Squadron (Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry), B Squadron (The Shropshire Yeomanry), C Squadron (The Cheshire Yeomanry) and D Squadron (The Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry).

The ceremony at Lichfield Cathedral is to recognise the contribution of the Territorial Army regiment who spent five months in Helmand, Afghanistan.

Click here for media coverage from today 

Get Talking and Plan Ahead

We need to talk more about death and dying.

The Funeral Lady, Linda, is a member of a national organisation – Dying Matters.  I thought it might be useful to share some information from one of their factsheets, information which I thoroughly endorse and encourage you to read and use. 

We need to face the fact that many people aren’t dying as they would wish to.  They may have been kept alive longer than the wanted or they may die in the place they would wish. A Will may not have been left nor Wishes left for their funeral, care or arrangements for dependents or organ donation.  Or, they may not have said what they wanted to say.

This isn’t just sad for the person dying but for those left behind – there may be difficult loose ends to tie up and sadness and regrets which can live on for a long time.

It is in everyone’s interests to deal with these subjects, to talk about the practicalities and emotions surrounding dying – before it’s too late.

So, if you’re close to someone who may die within the next few years, you’re right to want to raise the subject.  The irony is that the other person probably wants to raise it too.

If the subject isn’t raised, it’s more likely that you’ll feel emotionally isolated from each other.  Dealing with the practicalities, and sharing feelings and anxieties, can bring you closer.

Talking about death doesn’t bring it closer – it’s planning for life – because it allows you to make the most of the time that you have.

           “I’ve tried to have a conversation with my family but they won’t take me                             seriously.  They say: ‘Mum, you’re fine.'”

There’s no right or wrong way to start talking about dying – it will come down to not only your style and personality, but also those of the person close to you.

  • Look for the little invitations to talk from the other person.  If you’re talking about future holiday plans, for instance, and they say “Who knows where I’ll be then”  it may well indicate that they are ready to discuss the subject.
  • Encourage them to say more, with open ended questions, “Do you really think so” or “How do you mean?”
  • Provide them with the obvious opportunities to talk about what’s worrying them – turn the conversation to the future or stories of friends who have been ill and died might help, ask how they feel.
  • Choose the right time and place.  No one finds it easy to talk when they are rushed or in a stressful situation.

For some people, raising the subject directly and honestly is a good approach – particularly if opportunities to talk rarely seem to appear.

  • Try and be sure that it doesn’t make the other person feel uncomfortable.  If it does, don’t pursue it.  They may decided they want to talk at a later date.
  • It can help to start with something direct but reassuring like “I know that talking about these things is never easy … ” or “We’ve never talked about this before   but … “
  • It can also help to start the conversation with something, from your own experience, rather than telling the other person what they should do.  “I’ve always worried about what I’d do without you” or “I’m beginning to think whether I should start making plans for when I die.”  That may encourage them to talk in a personal way too.
  • Be honest about how you feel.  Many of us find it hard to get emotional, but it’s often the only way to deal with important things.

Once you’ve started talking about the future, try and make sure that you don’t close the conversation down straight away.

  • Listen to what the other person is saying, rather than always steering the conversation yourself.
  • It’s good to be reassuring, but you can over do it, for example, “Don’t worry Dad, you’ll be fine”, might stop the other person from talking and being open about anxieties.
  • Keep encouraging the other person to say more.  You can do this by saying the same thing yourself, in a different way or by asking a question.

One last thing – remember, we that actually, we are all dying.  Conversations about dying can be held on an equal footing, with both participants talking about plans, fears and hopes for their own death and after.

Don’t fill sentences – gaps in conversations can provide people with the opportunity to bring up subjects that are important to them.

        “She said it was such a relief that I’d brought it up – she said she’d wanted to raise              the subject herself, for such a long time!”

[Dying Matters #2]

So, how can The Funeral Lady help?

We have lots of information to help support you when you are talking to a person about their funeral plans and wishes.  We’re happy to visit and discuss things through with you. We offer an excellent service for pre-planning your funeral and recording these details in our unique Wishes Document TM.  Just give me a call on +44 [0] 7775430016 or via  Skype to “thefunerallady” or via email thefuneralcompany@gmail.com or the funerallady@gmail.com and I’ll be more than happy to help you and guide you gently through the necessary steps.

Heroes added to Memorial Wall

Work starts today on the somewhat daunting task of adding 112 names of the fallen to the National Memorial Arboretum’s Armed Forces Memorial.

The month-long process of engraving the names of 112 UK Service men and women who were killed on duty or through terrorism in 2010 will start at the National Memorial Arboretum on Monday 11 April 2011.

Engraver, Nick Hindle, will start work on the Armed Forces Memorial, carefully tracing the characters of the first names to be engraved, before then picking up his hammer and chisel to make the first mark in the Portland Stone. 

The 112 deaths in 2010 represent one of the largest tolls of the last twenty years. The names of those killed will be read out and dedicated in a special service for families later in the year.

The National Memorial Arboretum, part of The Royal British Legion, is the UK’s year-round centre for Remembrance. The Armed Forces Memorial, dedicated in the presence of HM The Queen in 2007, is the UK’s tribute to the 16,000 men and women who have been killed on duty or as a result of terrorist action since 1948.

Doing it naturally

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Usk Castle Chase Natural Burial Ground

Usk Castle Chase Natural Burial Ground

What could be more pleasant on a beautiful summer’s day than going to spend some time, in the countryside, with a loved one?

Even when you are alone, after they have passed away, there is no problem with doing this if they are buried in a natural burial ground such as Usk Castle Chase in Monmouthshire.

I was lucky enough to visit the burial site yesterday on the best day of the year, so far.  It was very warm; sunny and clear blue skies – the ideal conditions to show off the site to its best advantage.  I was kindly shown around the site by the owner of Native Woodland Ltd., James Leedam.

For information about Usk Castle Chase, please visit the Natural Burial Grounds website and you’ll find everything you need to know there.

Save to say, the site is set in beautiful picturesque Monmouthshire countryside with rolling hills, sheep with newborn lambs and is pure delight.

So, why consider natural burial as opposed to your local cemetery, graveyard or crematorium?

Well, I feel that the obvous beauty of the site is a plus point.  When you visit the site for a funeral it must feel so gentle, unrushed, peaceful etc. the fact that you are not in a 20 or 30 minute time slot when everyone must vacate the premises and move on; you can take your time with a natural burial – nice and s l o w l y – appreciate and celebrate your loved one.

There are no visible lines of graves or memorials – the burial plots are allowed to grass over and nature takes its course – no grave tending is required.   There are reference pegs on site so that plots can be easily identified.  Though it’s just as easy to make your own reference point using landmarks such as the beautiful old oak trees on site.  Like the funeral, just do your own thing.

More than three quarters of funerals in the 21st Century are cremations.  These use up valuable fossil fuel; emit large quantities of CO2 and cause pollution; leave you with the decision of what to do with your loved one’s ashes and, leave you and the other mourners feeling rushed because of the tight time constraints at the crematorium.

Now, the nitty gritty – how much does this cost?

We are talking specifially about the Usk Castle Chase Burial Ground here, their site states that the plot cost is around £450 (plus 5% increase from 1 April 2011).  Again, details here. There are also fees for interment and gravedigging – details on the website.

Why not take a look at the excellent slideshow – Why Go Green? click here

I’d certainly consider a natural burial, I am seriously doing so myself, there are bound to be questions you want to ask so finally, I’d refer you to the FAQ page here

Farewell Innovators – Dying to Care

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What a wonderfully informative and interesting day I’ve had today meeting in Birmingham with 25 fellow Farewell Innovators who all have their own funeral sector businesses.

It’s amazing what services and skills are out there that aren’t known to the public at large.

From being able to have a video and/or photographs of the service, wake and beyond to montages; celebrants; diamonds made from ashes to a book telling you the way of funerals just as they are – no nonsense.

You will probably have seen my earlier post listing a large number of the Farewell Innovators and links to their sites, I would strongly recommend you to take a look and see whether there are services that that are or could be useful to you if you are involved in planning a funeral.  One thing in life is certain – we will die and we will probably have to assist in planning at least two funerals in our lifetime.   There is no need to have a ‘traditional’ funeral – if you want change, there are ways and means out there so that the funeral can be individual, special and wonderful.

Loss of a child

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You may have seen an article in today’s press about families who have had stillborn babies and some of them are now seeking their child’s final resting place.

I had occasion to help a client recently in a similar situation.  This lady lost her daughter and it was still very raw almost 40 years on.  She hadn’t got the courage to even call the local council to enquire about the grave, to think about visiting – infact she’d done all she could to avoid this huge, momentous thing that she knew could help her grieve but the courage just wasn’t there.

Having lost her husband two years ago, the heartstrings had been tugged and she was wondering whether to find out more, to establish whether she could get her daughter exhumed and buried with her father (the two were in separate cemeteries).

I was asked to make inquiries, which I did.  I got the location of the grave and the documentation.  I visited the cemetery on a beautiful sunny day (although freezing cold!). I took photographs to show my client where abouts the grave was situated; surrounding area; the fact that there was, unfortunately, no memorial.

She told me that the only memory she had and what had kept her from starting to make inquiries was the fact that her daughter was buried on a cold, wet, miserable winter’s day and in her mind’s eye was the scene from that day – so sad, cold and negative.

When I showed her the photographs of the grave 40 years on, her face lit up.  She didn’t realise that the cemetery was so full, well tended and peaceful.  Her impressions were immediately changed.

She still hasn’t decided whether to exhume her daughter or place a memorial – that will take time, she’s taken a huge step in even acknowledging the grave and loss.  We will go and visit soon, on a beautiful sunny day so that the positives are not lost.  This is all part of the grieving process, doesn’t matter whether it’s 4 years or 40 years, many of us just can’t cope with or deal with death and loss.  This lady is taking a big step and it will help her.  She is very grateful to me and often tells me so.  I am just happy to help her and others like her.

I can help families locate stillborn babies and child graves – this is one of the services I offer.  If you’d like more information please check out the contact page of this site and I will be happy to help.

A Child Loaned
“I’ll lend you for a little time
A child of Mine.” He said.
“For you to love the while he lives
And mourn for when he’s dead.
It may be six or seven year
Or twenty-two or three
But will you, till I call him back
Take care of him for Me?
He’ll bring his charms to gladden you
And should his stay be brief,
You’ll have his lovely memories
As solace for your grief.

I cannot promise he will stay
Since all from Earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there
I want the child to learn.
I’ve looked this wide world over
In my search for teacher’s true,
And from the throngs that crowd life’s lanes,
I have selected you;
Now will you give him all your love,
Nor think the labour vain
Nor hate Me when I come to call
And take him back again?

I fancied that I heard them say,
“Dear Lord, They will be done,
For all the joy Thy child shall bring,
For the risk of grief we’ll run.
We’ll shelter him with tenderness,
We’ll love him while we may,
And for the happiness we’ve known,
Forever grateful stay.
But should the angels call for him
Much sooner than we planned,
We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes
And try to understand.”
Anonymous

Don’t drop the Coffin!

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Some of you may well remember Don’t drop the Coffin when it was aired on ITV in the UK a few years ago.  The series told the story of Bermondsey Funeral Director Barry Albin-Dyer and his firm FA Albin’s.

So, it was especially nice this morning to find the series on the internet (whilst I was looking to buy some funeral books for review from Amazon!).

This is a link to the series click here

Watching the series again, I suppose it does kind of reinforce the views I put forward in my first post this week – the Victorian ‘type’ funeral, black clothes, severe mourning etc. Hopefully the contrast between that and the more contemporary choices available will be shown by other posts/videos I will be sharing in the next few days.

Finally, there was a scene at the end of episode one (and subsequently episode two too) that makes me sad – so many flowers – whilst beautiful, they would look better still growing and, think of the cost of them all.  Personally, I feel that the money could have been put to better use as charitable donations – it’s personal choice and a discussion for another day – but flower wastage is something that is very dear to my heart.  To visit a crematorium and see flowers from that very week’s services thrown into a skip, still almost fresh (not even hidden from public view) is so wasteful and sad.

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