BOOK REVIEW Last Orders – The Essential Guide to Your Letter of Wishes
Reviewed by: Stephen Sampson
Author: Patricia C Byron
Publisher: Stellar Books
Most Probate Solicitors will have encountered at some point the estate with little or no paperwork, the funeral to be arranged with no knowledge of the deceased’s preferences, or a family at loggerheads over the destination of mementoes due to differing perceptions of what the deceased would have wanted.
Last Orders is a book that aims to avoid such problems. Properly read and completed, it guides a testator through the matters that will need to be dealt with by their executors and/or family members and asks the testator to provide answers to a series of questions to make dealing with those post-death matters easier for all concerned.
The book takes the format of an introduction in which the author emphasises the importance of a properly drawn Will and reinforces that Last Orders is intended as a supplement to, not a substitute for, a Will.
It then provides a series of questions and helpful guidance, with ample space for answers to be written in.
These questions are divided into various topics: personal contacts, funeral arrangements, burial wishes (including epitaph), cremation wishes, wake arrangements, organ donation, location of Will and details of executors, location of paperwork for and details of assets, location and details of chattels, arrangements for children, arrangements for pets and a final section for any other requests.
At this point as the reviewer I should declare an interest.
Since reading another review of Last Orders and having been struck by just how useful the book could be, it has become a part of the Wills practice at Edward Hayes LLP to provide each client making a Will with a copy of Last Orders.
The feedback has been excellent and even clients who were previously reluctant to think about death and dying have given it high praise.
One of the intended consequences of Last Orders is to prompt the reader to discuss the issues raised and their wishes with their family and friends.
I hope the author appreciates just how valuable this is at heading off potential post-death arguments and perhaps even avoiding costly litigation.
Building on enhanced awareness of testamentary and post-death issues thanks to BBC television series such as Can’t Take It With You and Heir Hunters, this book is a very useful way of ensuring the reader engages with and considers the issues that we in practice perhaps assume clients have considered.
Of course, one of the main benefits to those of us in practice is the great assistance that a completed Last Orders book provides in the administration of an estate.
We are all aware of the frustration and cost involved of having to search through the deceased’s house for the strong box or similar and then sometimes having to conduct a further search for the key which the deceased had put in a ‘safe place’.
There are also the estates where it is only a few months after death that an annual statement reveals the presence of the account that no-one knew the deceased had opened.
All those matters and more are covered in Last Orders and prove invaluable in ensuring the efficient administration of an estate.
I would wholeheartedly recommend this book for both clients and practitioners alike, especially since we practitioners are often the biggest culprits when it comes to making sure our affairs are in order.
The only possible downside of Last Orders is the potential risks inherent in a person having a single document that contains all their financial and personal information.
Our solution at Edward Hayes LLP has been to offer to store the client’s copy of Last Orders in safekeeping with their Will.
At only 80 pages the book does not take up a significant amount of storage space and the client can then let their family and executors know that ‘my Solicitors have everything you need’.
Stephen Sampson is an Assistant Solicitor at Edward Hayes LLP