Lessons from death…
It is almost six weeks since my good friend had a fatal heart attack on the beach and died. It’s been a tough few weeks but even in my sadness, I have learnt some great lessons that can be shared. It was Benjamin Franklin who famously quipped that the only two cer- tainties in life are death and taxes… tax evasion may be illegal and we can’t evade death, but we might at least be able to avoid it a bit longer in much the same way that we can sometimes avoid paying unnecessary tax by making add-itional contributions to an RA or pension fund.
Make sure you have a (current) signed will and make sure that your spouse knows where the original will is kept. We have struggled to find his will and as a result are having to approach the High Court to have the unsigned copy declared to be his last will and testament. This is not an easy or cheap process and it has caused unnecessary and additional stress at a time when it is least needed. If you have kids or dependents and don’t have a will: you are going to die one day and drafting your will does not increase the probability of this happening. To not have a current and valid will is just reckless – your dependents will have enough to deal with without having the added stress of the mess you leave behind when you die intestate.
LESSON 2: Despite what the ‘experts’ say about not writing down your passwords anywhere, make sure that you (and your spouse) have a list of each other’s passwords and account information. Just stop and think about how many different passwords we use each day from banking accounts to even just activating your cellphone – and without these you are pretty stuffed! So write them down and put them in a safe place that you both know about – use some form of code, if you like, but make sure that you both know where the information is kept and make sure that it is current as well.
I was reminded again of the importance of each person in a marriage/long-term relationship having their own bank account. There is a perception that at death your bank account is automatically frozen. This is not true – banks do not peruse obituaries looking for account holders whose accounts they should ‘freeze’. On the contrary, they will only freeze the account once they have been notified of the death and provided with a death certificate as well. This leaves time to arrange to have debit orders and payments sorted out (but you won’t be able to do this without all the banking passwords). Even though a new account can still be open, I think it is important for each partner to have their own account and not to have to go through the added stress of having to open new accounts during this emotional time.
When you die, your spouse/partner is going to need funds for things like your funeral. As a rule, funeral parlours operate on a COD basis – no cash means no funeral. You need to plan for this. Many life insurance products have funeral benefits as part of the cover. Typically this is around R10 000R20 000 and gets paid out within a day or two of submitting the death certificate. Either make sure your policy has this benefit or make sure that your partner/family will have access to the cash that will be needed for this expense.
Forget all the hype around low-carb, high-fat diets… science still tells us that high cholesterol is dangerous and is responsible for the increased likelihood of heart attacks. Make sure that you get yours checked at least annually and, while you’re at it, you might as well get a stress ECG done. A stress ECG can reveal blocked arteries, which are responsible for fatal heart attacks! The ECG may cost a few hundred rand but with the benefit of hindsight that would have been a very small price to pay if it had saved/extended my friend’s life.
Gregg Sneddon is a certified financial advisor for The Financial Coach