Personal finances, politics, religion and death. These are all challenging topics for discussion, but it appears that people would prefer to talk to their family about their death rather than their personal finances. However, at some point, both death and finances need to be brought into the same discussion when planning for your family’s future after your passing.

A Taboo Topic

Possibly one of the main reasons why money and death are not discussed in the same context is because people fear being regarded as greedy, and thus it is seen as distasteful overall. However, this conversation is vital because when a loved one passes, one of the last things that you need to stress about are their personal finances in terms of their monthly bills, debtors and creditors.

These are courageous discussions that need to be held with your parents, spouse, siblings, children, and whomever else may be affected financially by your passing. It is also an ideal time to discuss any funeral policies and funeral wishes that you may have. Download My Funeral Wishes here.

How to Start a Conversation About Finances After Death

It may be a good idea to start this conversation with the relevant people by enquiring whether or not it is something they have ever considered. If they haven’t, then instead leave the thought with them for a week or so before broaching the topic again. Since it is a touchy subject, you don’t want to be too forceful about it, but you do need to explain to them why it is crucial. The Sonja Smith My Life File is a wonderful conversation starter. See below.

Why is it Important to Discuss Personal Finances Before You Die?

As mentioned earlier, this is an ideal time to discuss what type of funeral arrangements should be made as well as discussing the details of your personal finances. Funerals can be costly affairs, and the family needs to know whether or not you have a funeral plan as well as to be made aware of whether you prefer a burial or a cremation. Cremations are not necessarily a cheaper option, but this is a very personal and in some cases, religious decision. It makes it very difficult after your passing, if your next-of-kin cannot reach consensus about this important decision.

Another essential aspect to bear in mind is that, on your death, your assets and bank accounts will most likely be frozen until your estate has been finalised. This means that the responsibility lies with your family to take care of your funeral costs, as well as your monthly personal finances in the interim.

If there are any minor children left behind, these young ones will also need to be cared for and taken care of financially until matters are settled. Click here to read A Guide for Families Wrapping up a Deceased Estate by Sonja Smith.

Do You Have a Last Will and Testament and a Funeral Policy?

Having a Will and a Funeral Policy will remove a lot of the stress on your family, so your family needs to know exactly what to expect after your death. A written Will should be lodged in a secure place that is known to your family, whether it is in your safe, with the bank, lawyer or your broker. A word of caution, if you do not have a Will, your entire estate will be distributed as the Law deems fit, which may not be to the benefit of your loved ones. You may write a Will yourself or request the assistance of your bank, broker or a lawyer if you have a very complicated Will. Read more here.

A handy tool which is available from Sonja Smith Funeral Services is their downloadable LIFE FILE. This is a folder that lists and contains all the essential documents and relevant information your loved ones will require in the event of your death. The Life File is also a perfect place to store details about your personal finances, any debts, pensions and insurance policies that you may have. Many life insurance pay-outs often go unclaimed as the beneficiaries weren’t aware of the existence of a policy.

Unemployment Insurance Fund

Following the death of a contributor to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), you can claim dependant’s benefits from the UIF, if you are a:

  • spouse
  • life partner
  • guardian
  • child of the deceased contributor.

You must apply within six months of the death of the contributor. Dependent children under the age of 21 years are entitled to benefits if there is no surviving spouse or life partner.

Find out more about claiming UIF dependants’ benefits or contact the UIF.

Power of Attorney in the Event of a Terminal Illness or Death

Should you become debilitated due to ill health, a health care directive would be invaluable for your loved ones to take care of you. A Power of Attorney, drawn up by an attorney, is also worth considering in the event that you become incapacitated to a stage that you are no longer able to manage your own finances. But the power of attorney is limited.

“A power of attorney is only valid as long as the principal is competent to act for him- or herself and has contractual capacity,” When the principal becomes incapable of acting on their own behalf, the power of attorney automatically lapses, and the agent – the person to whom power of attorney was given – loses all authority.

A power of attorney is not a suitable solution if your mental capacity has been impaired due to depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or sometimes Parkinson’s disease and you would like someone else to act on your behalf. Read more.

When approaching this discussion with your family, acknowledge to them that it is a difficult topic, but one that needs to be addressed with the aim of merely learning more about how to handle the finances, income and expenditure, in the event of a death. It is also important that everyone knows where to access the financial and legal documentation and who the relevant lawyer is.

Be prepared for a very time-consuming and challenging conversation, but one that everyone will eventually be grateful for and one that will bring peace of mind once it is finalised.

Sonja Smith Funeral Group (Pty)Ltd offers a high level of dedicated funeral care, advising you of all your options and choices and ensuring that the funeral arrangements are made in accordance with your wishes, and those of the Deceased. They offer unique funeral options such as Personalized Funerals, Evening Funerals, Baby and Infant Funerals, Green Funerals and Living Funerals. To experience our high level of personalised service and care, contact us via our website.