There is never a good time to discuss preparing for dying, and one day it will be too late to do so. What research appears to show is that individuals focus their actions on making things easier for those left behind over actions focused on the end of their life and dying itself. So below we would like to outline actions that can be taken which help with both.
topics you may not have even considered
Access to bank accounts & money
When someone in Ireland dies, it is only their personal representative who distributes their money, property and assets according to the law. Please check if your bank or financial institution have arrangements in place to help pay for funeral expenses from the deceased person’s account. Fortunately, the Funeral bill will most likely only arrive one month after the funeral.
It can also happen that a dependent spouse/civil partner or children may need to get access for living expenses, at least until a social welfare payment is awarded. It is not easy to get immediate access to the deceased person’s money unless it is in a joint account. Also many financial institutions when notified of the death will stop all payments out of any sole current account belonging to the person who has died (I.e. direct debits or standing orders). This may affect regular payments such as insurance premiums, domestic utility bills and subscriptions. Therefore, please consider whether your Accounts meet future needs.
If the deceased had a credit union account and has completed a valid Nomination Form, nominating someone as next of kin, the proceeds of the account up to a maximum of €23,000 go to the person or persons nominated on the form. They do not form part of the deceased’s estate.
How a couple are Assessed with Revenue can only be changed prior to death. Knowing this as well as that a notification to revenue (and maybe a tax return) will have to be made post death, then it is worth reviewing the three options for calculating tax for you and your spouse or civil partner. These being:
- joint assessment
- separate assessment
- separate treatment.
You may choose the option best suited to you as a couple with joint assessment the option that benefits most couples. Under joint assessment you are chargeable to tax on your combined total income. One of the most convenient ways to update your civil status and request joint assessment through ‘Manage My Record’ or ‘My Profile’ in myAccount. You can decide which of you is to be the assessable person. You must do this on or before 31 March in the year you want the selection to apply. There is a four-year time limit for claiming tax refunds, meaning that you can claim refunds for this year and the previous four.
Because of its importance, this topic has a separate page see link , but the most important thing is to create one and then to ensure it is kept up to date.
As a general rule, all digital assets that you own and that are transferrable will be included in your estate when you die. E.g funds in a PayPal account or digital music. The best thing you can do to help your executor is to leave clear instructions and access (log-in) information about your digital accounts.
However practically speaking, most of your digital assets won’t pass through your will – usually because you do not have the right to transfer them. As an example :
- your email and social media accounts. You do not own those accounts, rather have a licence to use them.
- subscription accounts like Netflix or Spotify.
- apps on your phone or tablet (and the data they contain).
It is also worth considering future access to your smart phone, tablet and other devices.
Gifting / Swedish Death Cleaning
Estate Management (Your assets) also has its own page See link, but the focus on that page is more post-death and for amounts that more likely impact Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT).
It is also important to understand the Small Gift Exemption. Under this, someone may receive a gift up to the value of €3,000 from any person in any calendar year without having to pay CAT. But rather than an amount it might also be relevant to personal items.
Swedish Death Cleaning was coined by Margareta Magnussen in her 2017 book The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter. Magnussen asks her readers to consider the loved ones who must comb through your possessions after you’ve died, providing suggestions for making their experience as easy as possible. It’s a thoughtful and effective approach to decluttering, but also has the benefit of gifting items to loved ones and friends while still alive and without the need for a will.
Property / Assets – who’s name are they in
It is advisable for couples to check that the family home is in joint names. Historically a common occurrence was the house being registered in the name of the husband. If the husband dies without making a will (intestate) the family would be entitled to shares in the property:
- Surviving wife: 2/3 share in the property.
- Children: 1/3 and if there is more than one child they divide that one third between them.
If the property is in the joint names of the couple and they own it as joint tenants, if either of them pass away intestate the surviving spouse becomes full owner through the right of survivorship.
If you’re married or in a civil partnership, you don’t have to pay inheritance tax on anything you leave to them regardless of the size of your estate. This does not apply to cohabiting couples.
For the implications of this please see Tax return / Revenue on line forms
Immediate care of pet/s
You can use a will to appoint a guardian for your pet, however because they’re legally seen as property, you can’t leave money to your pets in your will. However what is often forgotten is that it can take a while for the will to be found. If it’s not always immediately clear what happens to pets when their owners die or go into hospital. This can result in the pet being put down unnecessarily. Therefore it’s a good idea to tell friends and families what to do, to carry a card in your wallet, and to leave instructions up in the house just in case.
Ensuring they are seen by their/a Doctor at least every 28 days
If the doctor did not see the deceased at least 28 days before the death occurred or if the doctor is unhappy about the cause of death, they must inform a Coroner who will decide if a post-mortem is necessary. If after the post-mortem a cause of death cannot be established, an inquest may be held.
In research by Weafer, J., 2014. Irish attitudes to death, dying and bereavement, actions taken by respondents to Plan for End-of-Life where the views were recorded were
WHAT People do act on
- Organ donation / Get a donor card (Your views on) – 34%
- Will (Drawn up) – 30%
- Contacts (In emergency, have or carry a list of key people) – 21%
- Important documents (Told people where your important documents are) – 10%
- Buried or cremated (Whether you would rather be) – 7%
- Funeral (What you would like at yours) – 4%
- Enduring Power of Attorney ‘EPOA’ (Appointed an attorney) – 7%
A power of attorney is a legal device in Ireland that can be set up by a person (the donor) to allow another specially appointed person (the attorney) to take action on the donor’s behalf. There are two types of power of attorney allowed under Irish law:
- A power of attorney which gives either a specific or a general power and ceases as soon as the donor becomes incapacitated.
- An enduring power of attorney which takes effect on the incapacity of the donor.
A power of attorney can be Specific (purpose or period of time) or General. You can appoint anyone you wish to be your attorney. However, you should get legal advice before you sign a form appointing someone else to manage your affairs.
- Advanced Healthcare Directive (Written up or appointed someone) – 6%
An Advance Healthcare Directive, sometimes known as a ‘living will’, is a statement about the type and extent of medical or surgical treatment you want in the future, on the assumption that you will not be able to make that decision at the relevant time. The Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Act 2015 provides a legal framework for Advance Healthcare Directives in Ireland, but this part of the Act has not yet been commenced. We believe it’s helpful to consider your views on whether doctors should try to keep you alive as long as possible whatever your quality of life.
- Life prolonging treatment (Your views on) – 4%
- Nearing death (where you’d like to be) – 5%
- End of life (What your preferences are) – 4%
- Religious/ cultural preferences or rituals (you would like to be considered) – 3%