What is Death Positivity? 0

Death positivity is an attitude towards life and death that emphasises the importance of open and honest discussion about death and a re-familiarisation with end of life processes. Rather than treating death as something that should be hidden away and not talked or thought about, death positivity argues that individuals should take a more open approach to death, break down the taboo surrounding the topic and not shy away from the difficulties of thinking and talking about it. In recent years, death positivity has become increasingly popular, even solidifying into a burgeoning movement of activists and practitioners that hope to spread the message about death positivity and what it can do.

 

What death positivity is not

Death positivity does not involve the glorification or trivialisation of death, nor does it consider it a good thing. Instead, it preaches that death is an inevitable part of life that we all will experience at some point. It does not aim to force people toward a certain perspective or world view, but does encourage an open approach toward the subject of death. Death positivity is not associated with any single organisation or religious authority and can be considered more of an attitude than a doctrine or rigid set of beliefs.

 

Why is death positivity important?

For many, the taboo surrounding death prevents them from openly discussing their feelings or grieving in a way that suits or benefits them. This taboo means that we often hide death away and don’t confront it directly – an attitude that can have profoundly negative effects on our ability to make essential end of life choices and ensure everything is prepared for someone’s eventual passing. The fear surrounding death can lead to individuals bottling up emotions and thoughts that really do need to be released, potentially making a tough time even more difficult.

 

While everyone must be allowed to grieve in their own way, death positivity is about removing barriers to healthy grief; with the intended consequence that people are able to deal with the challenges and trials of bereavement in a constructive way.

 

Many also find that choosing to take on a more positive attitude when it comes to mortality can liberate them from anxiety when it comes to their own death, and as a result feel that they are free to make the most of their finite lives.

 positive attitude to death

Why is death positivity emerging now?

The attitudes reflected in the philosophy of death positivity are hardly new ideas. They are ideas that are re-emerging now as a response to modern society’s detachment from death. As medical treatment and methods have improved over the years, death has intruded less on our everyday lives and we are not faced with its reality as regularly as past societies would have been. This has resulted in a detachment from the reality of death and a desire to avoid it as a topic. Similarly, the way in which we respond to death (our end of life customs and traditions), have changed significantly, limiting our exposure to death even further. The death positivity movement has emerged in an attempt to provide some perspective on death and to encourage greater interaction with the issue.

 

What can you do?

Although there are a number of organisations, such as The Order of the Good Death, which provide a more focused outlet for the ideas of death positivity, it’s more akin to a state of mind that can be adopted by individuals at any time than it is to a movement which you can join. You can start by beginning to talk with loved ones about their end of life wishes and asking a number of important questions. For instance: Do you have a will? How do you want to spend your last moments? What kind of funeral would you want? What do you think happens after death? These are a just a few ideas but are a good place to start if you wish to open up discussions about death. There are also death cafes around the country that allow individuals to talk openly about mortality. If you or a loved one is approaching end of life, you may wish to enlist the services of an end of life doula. A doula can often be an enormous source of comfort for someone who is unwell.

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Can you leave it all to your cat? Pet beneficiaries explained 0

A cat who has been left an estate in a will

Somewhere in Germany, there is a dog with more money than most of us could ever dream of. 

Gunther IV, the world's richest dog
The real Gunther IV at home.

Gunther IV owns property in three countries. He spends afternoons by his private pool. He summers in the Bahamas. He has a butler, and a maid, and a limo. He apparently lives with a team of supermodels.

Gunther IV has all this because German Countess Karlotta Leibenstein left her entire $80 million fortune to her dog, Gunther III. Who left it to his son.

Now, most pet owners would deem this a bit extreme. After years of letting the cat out, and in, and out again (ad nauseum), he really owes you — right?

But some of us do wonder: could I do that?

 

Can you leave your entire fortune to your pet(s)?

If you’re reading this in the UK, the answer is … sort of.

You can’t directly leave all your money to your cat, or dog, like you would a normal human beneficiary. In UK law, a pet is a possession, not a person (don’t look at me like that, I don’t make the rules).

But that doesn’t mean you can’t make sure your furry (or feathered, or scaly) friend will live in style without you. Here are the options.

 

The popular choice: Pet guardians

If you’re a parent, you can use your will to choose legal guardians for your kids, just in case. A lot of people know about this. 

Don’t forget to show the guardian your chin-scratching technique.

What they don’t know is that you can do the same thing with your pets. 

It’s a standard service we offer here at Beyond. When you make your will, you can pick someone to take in your beloved pet. Someone you trust to give them the love (and constant door opening) they need. 

You can also leave your chosen guardian funds and equipment to help them in their new role of pet-parent. After all, pets can be pricey. The lifetime cost of owning a cat is £17,000, and dogs can cost us up to £31,000 over the years.

For most people, the pet guardian option is perfect (purrfect?). It means your pet will go to a loving home, rather than a shelter. And it prevents vicious family debates over their eventual fate.

But for others, something more tail-ored is required.

On Beyond, it costs just £90 to make a will that protects your pets. That’s hundreds less than most traditional solicitors! Click here to make your will with us today.

 

The full-throttle option: Pet trusts

Pet trusts are relatively new to the UK, but they’re catching on fast.

A dog with money from a pet trust fund
Dogs are famously rubbish with money. Photo from Training Academy on Flickr.

A pet trust is a pot of money that can only be used to pay for your pet’s care after you die. You choose a carer, and lay out a set of things the money can be spent on (vet’s fees, food, etc.) You also choose trustees. Their job is to make sure the money is actually spent on your pet, and not on holidays in Bali. 

When your pet joins you in the great beyond, the remaining money goes to your chosen beneficiary.

Now, pet trusts can be complicated to set up. Compared to naming guardians in your will, it’s a more expensive option. But if you’re interested, we recommend talking to our complex wills team. They’ll be able to help you out.

Interested in setting up a pet trust? No problem. Call our complex wills team on 0800 054 9793.

 

The catch

As you can see, making sure your pet will be cared for is easy.

But if you want to leave everything to them — the whole shebang —  there can be issues. 

Basically, your disgruntled relatives can (and probably will) dispute the will. 

While they likely won’t be able to snatch the whole fortune back, they can claim “reasonable financial provision”. So, if you don’t want them to drag poor old Fluffy to court, it’s best to leave at least something to your human loved ones.

 

The long and short of it

So, here it is in a nutshell. You can’t bequeath your dog or cat (or lizard) money in your will. But you can appoint guardians or set up a trust for them instead.

If you do this, maybe don’t leave everything to your pets. After all, what would a dog do with all that money?

A dog whose owner left him her whole estate

Oh, right.

 

Beware the Curse on Shakespeare’s Grave 0

William Shakespeare grave with curse

Of all the possible ghosts to be haunted by, William Shakespeare would have to be one of the worst. With an epic collection of ye-olde insults (Shakespeare pioneered ‘your mum’ jokes, by the way) and an aptitude for lengthy monologues, the Bard would definitely find a way to make you very, very sorry. 

It’s perhaps for that very reason that scientists examining William Shakespeare’s grave in 2016 were very careful not to disturb his rest. After all, the Shakespeare grave curse is perhaps the most famous in the world. It’s even written on the Bard’s tombstone, to really spell things out for would-be plunderers.

And yet … it seems someone has ignored it.

 

What is written on Shakespeare’s grave?

A quatrain made up of iambic tetrameter couplets, the curse on Shakespeare’s grave is as follows:

“Good friend for Jesus’ sake forbeare,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.”

Brrr! Spooky. But not actually that unusual.

In Shakespeare’s day, it wasn’t uncommon for graves to be dug up and the bones moved to make room for new burials. Perhaps concerned about starring in a re-enactment of the ‘Yorick’ scene from Hamlet, Shakespeare (as the story goes) penned the verse above to prevent anyone from disturbing his rest.

And up until 2016, it seemed as though the curse had done its job. Keen to respect Shakespeare’s wishes themselves, the scientists even used radar technology to take a gander at his grave, leaving his bones untouched. 

But they made a shocking discovery: Shakespeare’s skull was apparently missing.

 

Who risked William Shakespeare’s grave curse?

We say ‘shocking’ ⁠— but there have been rumours about someone plundering the Bard’s grave over the years. 

So, who was it? A story in Argosy magazine from 1879 may have the answer. The rambling account from ‘A Warwickshire Man’ lays the crime at the door of a young doctor named Frank Chambers. “A wild, rather dashing young fellow,” Chambers supposedly stole the skull with three accomplices in 1794. 

The 17th and 18th centuries saw a lot of body snatching. The heads of famous thinkers were of particular interest to scientific minds of the day. But it seems Shakespeare’s skull was too hot to sell. Unable to find a buyer, Chambers attempted to return it, only to have the skull spirited away by a lackey. 

The account ends with the fate of Shakespeare’s skull unknown. 

 

Where is Shakespeare’s skull now?

It’s still a mystery. Rev. Patrick Taylor of Holy Trinity told reporters that he was “not convinced” that the skull had actually been taken in the first place. And it’s true that the 2016 scan of Shakespeare’s grave wasn’t entirely conclusive. 

Without actually digging Shakespeare up, we’ll never know for certain — but would you risk the curse?

 

Shakespeare’s grave location

If you’d like to visit the grave of William Shakespeare, it can be found in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Entrance is free, but do check the church’s opening times before you go.

Photo credit: Image of Shakespeare’s grave taken by David Jones and used under Creative Commons licence 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.