How do you want to bow out?

Maybe you want everyone in black weeping tastefully beside the grave as your shiny casket is lowered to its final resting place? Maybe you want a massive party for your loved ones, where the food and drink flow? Maybe you want an eco burial and a tree planted as your lasting memorial? Not to be too morbid about it, but nothing is surer, one day it will be our turn to bow out.

When we are young and fit death is not something we spend a great deal of time thinking about. As we age we may think about it more but, if we are in good health, probably not that much more. However, if you are part of the LGBT+ community, possibly you should think about it more than others.

Liberate did some training for Pitcher & Le Quesne, funeral directors, this week so we had the opportunity to ask them about some of the things they have experienced when it comes to the death of a member of the LGBT+ community and what we could do that would help them to ensure they give us the send off we would like.

If you have not left a will, letter of wishes, funeral guidelines and/or pre-arranged your funeral then the funeral directors will need to ask your immediate family what the arrangements are to be – and that can be problematic if your family either don’t know that you are LGBT+ or know but don’t accept your identity.

If you are in a civil partnership or, by next year, a marriage, you should discuss your wishes with your spouse as they will be the ones that the funeral directors will take instructions from. Even then, it is still not a bad idea to set down in writing what you would like to happen as, in the turmoil of emotions that accompanies the death of a husband or wife, details can be forgotten.

If you are in a meaningful partnership that is not legally joined, your next-of-kin is not your partner but your immediate family. If you have nothing in writing regarding your last wishes and they don’t accept your partner as your spouse-in-all-but-name, your family could stop them from having any say in what happens to your property (including the home you shared if it is in your partner’s name) and how you depart this world. Similarly, for those people who are not out to their family about being LGBT+, it can be hard for a partner left behind to explain their role in your life and to communicate your last wishes to your family.

Many LGBT+ people feel ill-served by formal religion, even scarred by their experience of it. To them, in life, it would be inthinkable to have a funeral in a place of worship, but this is what can happen when a family member places their own wishes above those of the person who has died.

For trans people, having their death registered as their recognised gender is likely to be important but, if they are not around to confirm their recognised gender, will their next of kin do it for them? It is not uncommon for trans people’s gender identity/new name to be denied by their nearest and dearest. This means that, left up to the family, not only would the death certificate have the wrong gender on it but also the wrong name.

You don’t need a Gender Recognition Certificate (i.e. to have changed the gender on your birth certificate legally) to have your death registered as your recognised gender, your ID documents can be the ones used to put M or F on your death certificate. If you are early in your transition and have not yet changed your name by deed poll and updated your ID documents to your recognised gender, you might end up misnamed and/or misgendered on your death certificate.

Note: For those who are of a non-binary gender identity, there is currently no way to put a non-binary marker, such as X, on a death certificate (or birth or marriage).

All these problems can be avoided if you take some time to think about what feels right for you (and your partner) and to get it down in writing.

In the case of no will existing at the time of death, your property will revert to your spouse or, if no spouse, your nearest family relation (usually a sibling(s)). So, if you are in a meaningful partnership that is not legally joined and you want your partner to inherit your estate, you need to write a will leaving your estate to your partner. A simple will can be drawn up by any of the law firms on the island for about £200 and, importantly, kept safe by them. This document will be in the correct form, legally binding and very difficult to contest.

DIY will kits are available on the Internet for less than this, but we would not advise using them in this instance. DIY wills, unless they are exactly right, could be contested by your family. More advice regarding the pros and cons of DIY will kits can be found here.

A will does not cover your funeral arrangements. This is done separately in a letter of wishes that can be lodged with your will at the lawyers. Alternatively, if you do not have a will, you can pre-arrange your funeral with a funeral directors, who will lodge your details and keep them safe. Crucially, for trans people this includes registration details for the death certificate. Pitcher and Le Quesne offer this service in an easy to complete booklet.

Don’t forget you can change your mind if you decide you would like something different later on and, if your personal circumstances change, don’t forget to update your will and any last wishes.

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