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The gift of preparation

Growing up, my mother was always organised. She filed everything, never kept things she no longer needed, or thought we no longer needed (my childhood cuddle bunny being one of them) and generally has a practical outlook on life. Her name is Patricia, and she is often appropriately called Practical Pat. None of her daughters have inherited this trait, and she often despairs when she visits me, and there are only two toilet rolls in the cupboard, no long-life milk as a backup, and three lonesome teabags in the tin. We often laugh at her extreme practicality, but in truth, it’s one of the greatest gifts she gives our family.

Her practicality means that she is organised and prepared for most eventualities, including her and my father’s eventual death. Just writing those words sends shivers down my spine and makes me want to close my computer and walk away from my desk, but it’s inevitable, and I could not be more grateful that she is prepared. Being prepared has taken an enormous strain off my and my siblings’ shoulders. When the time comes, we know that she has done everything she can to make the transition to life without them as easy as possible by allowing us to focus on our grief and healing.

My parents became Chartered clients just after I started working there in 2020. My mother spent a lot of time collecting all the relevant documents and putting everything together in the Legacy File that Chartered gave her. Her preparedness means that no matter what happens in their old age, when the time comes, we will not have to worry about where important papers are kept or what they want us to do regarding their care and even their wishes for when they die. This allows us to be fully emotionally present with them now and in the future. This is such a blessing because there are no uncomfortable conversations to be had, only memories to be made.

On the other hand, I have a friend who lives overseas, and her parents live in South Africa. Her parents aren’t well, so she visited them recently. While we were having lunch, the topic turned to their death and what happens when they die. Her answers broke my heart. She has no idea. She has no idea what would happen to the surviving parent, no idea what money is set aside (if any ) for their care, no idea where they keep any important documents, no idea who the executor of the estate is, no idea if they want to be cremated or buried and no idea what the financial implication on her would be should they need care.

They are the most loving and kind family who have always communicated openly except about the uncomfortable topic of death. This is the time when my friend should be soaking up spending time with her parents and making memories; instead, it’s an anxious time filled with uncertainty and fear.

Please have these uncomfortable conversations and give your children the gift of being prepared; they will be forever grateful.

National Wills Week – don’t be daunted by relooking at your Will

September brings the gift of new beginnings, new life and renewed energy. I love immersing myself in the wonders of Spring that bring fresh rain, warmer days, and a bouquet of smells to my garden as the flowers bloom. It’s also a time for family gatherings and outdoor picnics, not to mention lovely candle-lit dinners (not a result of Spring of course, but our relentless load-shedding schedule).

The warmer weather and brighter days are reminiscent of the wonderful gift of families and loved ones. And with National Wills Week falling in September, we are also reminded that the greatest gift we can leave behind for the people we love is our legacy.

This month, even if this is the only thing you get done, I want to encourage you to ensure you have a signed and valid will and talk to your loved ones and adult children about your wishes. It brings so much peace of mind when your children know that your affairs are in order and that your wishes are in place.

Did you know that your will is invalid if you have not signed it? Surprisingly, only 30% of people proactively sign their wills. I recently listened to an interesting podcast on Maya on Money and learnt that 70% of all adults write up their will but neglect to sign it. There may be various reasons for this, but Maya believes that the mere thought of signing a will brings about a sense of mortality. Most people find it far easier to ignore this step altogether rather than bring death into their lives.

Part of being financially responsible is planning for death, and having your affairs in order is the biggest gift you can give to those dependent on you. I always recommend compiling a legacy file or ‘in-case-of-death’ folder. Having all your affairs in order, updated and valid, and sharing this with your family, should reassure you and should bring peace of mind to everyone close to you.

If you’re in any way hesitant or feel daunted by the prospect of relooking at your will, here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Try not to complicate matters. Wills don’t have to be overly detailed, and the best wills are clean and simple. Reach out to your Retiremeant™ Specialist and work with the Legacy & Trust Team to assist you.
  2. Draw up or update your letter of wishes. There may be many details important to you – whether it’s something sentimental you would like to leave for someone special or instructions about your pets. All these very personal and often emotional instructions can be written down in your letter of wishes.
  3. If your will contains sensitive or personal information you would not like to share, don’t be afraid. Your will is not a public document until it is registered upon death.
  4. Think about the cost of winding up your estate and make sure you have the liquidity to cover your debt, executor fees and property transfer costs.
  5. Don’t burden anyone but a professional with the appointment as executor of your estate.
  6. Make sure to have an original printed will and sign it correctly with two witnesses (they may not be beneficiaries or your executor).

Lastly and most importantly: be courageous enough to have this brave conversation with the people you love. These conversations are so important, no matter how difficult they may be. This is your opportunity to outline your wishes, explain your thoughts and eliminate surprises.

Wishing you all the wonderful gifts of Spring,