Lessons from death…

Finweek English Edition - - MONEY -

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

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