Every year at Easter time, the Arrive Alive campaign reminds us how precious and fragile life really is. We watch the road death toll climb over the holiday weekend, and feel thankful that we are spared and deeply sympathetic towards those families who have lost loved ones.
But other than being grateful for their lives, very few people ever stop to think about the real impact that a terrible accident could have on their families. This is an important conversation that every family should have – so that if something happens to you, at least your loved ones know what should be done.
Discussing the worst possible outcome is never easy, but it helps everyone to take action now that could save a lot of pain and heartache later.
Here are some of the things that you should talk about:
If you are the main breadwinner in your family, it is very important to have life cover so that if something happens to you, your family doesn’t suffer financially as well. If you are healthy, life cover is relatively inexpensive, so arrange to sign up for a policy if you don’t already have one. It is also important to name a beneficiary – the person who receives the insurance money – so that there is no confusion about who it belongs to.
Whether or not you are the main breadwinner, it is a good idea to have a funeral policy in place so that your family doesn’t have to use their savings or borrow money to cover the costs of a burial. Again, this type of cover isn’t very expensive.
If you can possibly afford it, it is also worth considering disability and dread disease cover and income protection, which pay out if an illness or disability befalls you that prevents you from earning an income.
Talk to your family about the need for these kinds of policies, and find the type of cover that suits you and your circumstances, so that they know they are taken care of if the worst should happen.
Families feel bound by tradition and duty to give their loved ones the best funeral that money can buy – even if that means eating into their savings or borrowing money that they can’t really afford to pay back. But most people would rather that kind of money be spent on the living – on education or deposits on a new car or house.
Talk about what kind of funeral you would like – and write it down so that there can be no question about your wishes. Discuss this at length. Remember: the best funerals cost the most money and leave your loved ones with nothing to live on.
I am sure you also don’t wish for your children to start fighting like cats and dogs over your things when you are gone. Promote love and peace from your grave by by either telling your family together exactly what you want them to do with your stuff or visiting a qualified professional or your bank to draw up a will.
If you write up a proper will, is not necessary for everyone to know the contents in advance, but if it contains certain responsibilities– for instance the guardianship of your children – you should be sure that the people you have named have agreed to take them on.
Let your family know where your will is kept (it can either be in a safe place in your home or office, or you can ask your bank or lawyer to keep a copy for you). You should also keep all the other documents that could be useful along with it – including the details and paperwork relating to your insurance policies, bank accounts and any assets you own.
Death, while devastating, is at least straightforward. Things get really complicated if you are in an accident or have some kind of medical condition that leaves you unable to make decisions for yourself. This could be something like a stroke or a car accident that leaves you mentally incapacitated, and requires your family to instruct doctors on your behalf.
For this reason, many people have what is known as a living will – a will that explains what you’d like to happen if they aren’t able to speak for yourself. Most often, people ask that they aren’t kept artificially alive if their brain isn’t functioning, but you can write it to cover any eventuality you would like control over. Many people carry their living wills in their wallets so that the right decisions are made from the moment medical intervention becomes necessary.
The greatest gifts you can give them is to have taken care of them and to have made your wishes known.
These are such difficult discussions to have. It was even difficult for me to write about this. But the very reasons that you don’t want to talk about death are the very reasons you should. Hopefully, it will be a long time before anyone in your family has to deal with the reality of the death of a loved one, but if you aren’t given the luxury of time, the greatest gifts you can give them is to have taken care of them and to have made your wishes known.
Make a date and Do It!
Winnie Kunene is a personal finance strategist. She educates people and helps them to get out of debt – and stay out! You can visit her website at winniekunene.co.za or email her on email@example.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of 1Life or its employees.