Book review of Last Orders by Patricia Byron
Last Orders – Your Executors’ Guide to Your Letter of Wishes (2nd Edition)
Author: Patricia Byron | ISBN: 978-1910275245
First published to wide consumer acclaim in 2010 this is an updated version of an original book aimed at enabling family and friends ensure they cope with dealing with the difficult questions surrounding death and its aftermath.
It was developed out of Patricia Byron’s personal experience acting as executor for a number of friends and discovering how hard that role can be if the deceased had not considered what they wanted for their funeral and beyond.
Its stated purpose is to assist anyone and everyone develop not their Will but a Letter of Wishes to deal with the more personal, practical and intimate issues which executors and family members have to address after death.
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Patricia obviously encourages everyone to make a Will and keep it up to date. As she says; “Having looked at three of the options for making your Will, and with all things considered, there really can be no better solution than consulting a solicitor for a professional, water-tight Will which leaves nothing to chance. Solicitors are legally qualified, robustly regulated and, most important, covered by insurance for the rare occasions when some form of recompense is required.”
Last Orders is divided into 14 sections. It covers immediate concerns and provides useful contacts, suggestions for different types of funerals, burials and cremation. There is a section on medical matters to help as a person’s health fails before death as well as considering organ donation in the Will.
There is a section for executors to establish whether a Will has been made and where it is stored. Section 9 deals with assets and liabilities including digital assets. There are sections too dealing with business assets, personal chattels and pets. Section 12 provides some useful reminders of helpful issues relating to children.
Given this book is aimed at an individual and constitutes their Letter of Wishes, section 14 is for them to confirm the contents of the book they have completed as their letter of wishes by signing and dating it.
Structure & Layout
The structure of the book is one long series of questions divided up under different headings as mentioned above. This enables an individual, who may be unwell, to tackle the discussion and debate with their executors and family in manageable chunks. It can also help to inform the sort of questions a professional might consider adding to their repertoire, particularly where a firm is acting as executor for a single person with no family members to help fill in the gaps about a person’s life after they have died.
There are useful lists, checklists and addresses throughout the book. For example, if anyone has had to organise a funeral for a client you will know it can be tricky to know which hymns or contemporary music should be included if you know little about the deceased personally. There are some suggestions listed in section 3 on funerals.
Clarity & readability
The book is aimed at the lay person so it is written in plain English. As the Cancer Nursing Practice said “Almost anyone will find this guide helpful in ensuring their explicit wishes after death are committed to paper…. while family members or friends have lots of information and support.”
Relevance to practitioners
As legal practitioners, we can learn from Patricia’s clear style and her hard work and research in providing practical questions which will result in useful answers in managing the estate of a deceased client.
We could recommend its use to some of our clients, particularly where the firm are appointed as executor. Its completion would make the executor’s job easier. As was stated in the STEP Journal: “The detailed guidelines and checklists represent an indispensable aid to anyone who has to tackle the affairs of a loved one especially at a time of grief. For the executor it will be a tremendous time-saving exercise.”
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