The mechanics of life insurance are well known to most; (but should it be correctly called death assurance?) For obvious reasons the marketing people prefer to promote it differently. It has always been prudent to arrange one’s finances in advance of death and a carefully constructed life insurance policy has the potential to pay off outstanding bills, provide financial comfort to next-of-kin and to settle any dreaded inheritance taxes.
In addition, it’s always wise to make a will. Do not be fooled by the naysayers who protest that your money will all go to your spouse and kids anyway. It might be just your luck that the whole family dies in a multi-vehicle car crash – what happens then if you die intestate? There are plenty of complicated, long-established trusts on the record books suggesting that, in the past, persons of wealth had the foresight to commit to paper their wishes for the amicable distribution of their assets. Modern legislation has simplified the position for standard straight-forward estates but, in cases where no will is made, the law has a habit of unearthing far-flung relatives (or their survivors!!), who were never the intended recipients.
MMPI terms the clever people who take care of their finances prior to their death as “dead heroes”. Their foresights are a real help to their families. In most instances of death, effective advanced planning has not taken place. This is unfortunate. It is really helpful to have a power of attorney in situ to act where a person becomes mentally incapacitated. But when is the best time to make such an arrangement? In many cases the parties leave it too late and neither doctor nor solicitor can help unfurl the logjam. Modern medicine prolongs life and mental incapacity is not necessarily an early killer. Therefore, the control of assets and the management of finances could be frozen for many, many years.
Let’s be honest with each other – we do not like talking about death and we do not favour the prospect of relinquishing control of our hard-earned money to others. But a far better discipline is to embrace the certainty that we will die and that, maybe, we will not be in a position to take care of our affairs for quite some time. This puts a huge strain on families. MMPI has experience of cases where the family home could not be sold to liquidate much needed cash because the “owner” did not have the capacity to sign.
Doctors have a simple test that they use to determine mental capacity. Our closeness to our loved ones blinds us to the reality that they might just be “losing it”. With the stroke of a pen a doctor could declare incapacity in the most cruel of circumstances. It’s far better for all if we tackle the thorny questions of death and inheritance well in advance. Please don’t be shy about addressing these issues today. Rest in peace could take on a whole new meaning!