Getting Your Affairs in Order

It is important for your loved ones and heirs that you leave all your affairs in order, so that those who are left behind are able to cope with their bereavement, without the added stress of tying up loose ends in the deceased estate. 

For many, this is not the case. What is an already traumatic, stressful situation is exacerbated by the insecurity of not understanding the financial affairs or the process of dealing with a deceased estate. The key lies in a comprehensive financial and succession plan. This plan focuses on the orderly and cost-efficient distribution of assets and has, at the heart of it, a properly drafted Will. It is also very important that both spouses have a good understanding of each other’s financial affairs, so there are no nasty surprises.

Putting the plans in place

Following a few simple rules may make it easier for your surviving spouse and dependants:

1) Create a file for all-important documents and information:

  • Personal documents such as wills, birth certificates, marriage certificate, ante-nuptial contract, copies of ID’s, passports, utility bills, etc  
  • Details of bank accounts, credit cards and passwords 
  • Powers of attorney 
  • Trust documents
  • FICA documents 
  • A list of your assets and liabilities 
  • Title deeds for properties, motor vehicle registration papers and lease agreements 
  • Household and motor insurance details 
  • Schedule of life assurance and investments 
  • Details of business interests and related agreements
  • A record of advice – such as meeting minutes, your financial plan, etc
  • Name and contact details of business adviser, financial adviser, stockbroker and tax practitioner
  • Computer, phone and internet passwords and log-on details

2) Involve your spouse in your Financial Plan

  • Remember that bereavement may leave your spouse vulnerable to uninformed or misguided advice, so it is vital to involve them in the planning of your affairs. At the very least, ensure that your spouse has some relationship with your financial advisor.
  • Even if you handle all the financial matters, ensure that your spouse is able to operate a bank account to administer the finances and immediately be able to maintain the family and home in the event of your incapacity or unexpected passing.

3) Keep it Simple

  • Simplify your affairs: Consolidate your policies and investments and aim for a holistic and consistent financial plan that is easily summarised and understood. 
  • Get rid of the “rats and mice” that form a very small part of your estate.
  • Keep your Will as simple as possible, avoiding specific bequests unless you have discussed these with your heirs.

Life after death 

A surviving spouse, partner or family member needs to follow a few important steps after a death:  

  1. Speak to your nominated Executor first, to discuss the winding up of the estate – transfer of utilities, closure of accounts, restructure of medical aid, cancellation of credit cards and accounts and termination of magazine subscriptions and club memberships. 
  2. Take a six-month break before you make any big decisions, e.g. selling your home, spending large amounts of money or going travelling.
  3.  Meet with your financial adviser to make any adjustments to your financial affairs and draft a new Will immediately as your financial circumstances have now changed – don’t wait for the deceased’s estate to be wound up. Remember to revoke all previous Wills.
Share This