In 1990 my dad passed away two weeks before his 62nd birthday – I was 34. I was not close to my dad and I had not lived at home for over 16 years. However; I do remember that I was shocked and upset (which is to be expected). The thought of my dad passing away had never crossed my mind – despite the fact that he was a heavy smoker.
The weekend just past I visited my mum and went to see my step-dad in his nursing home – he is 94.
He is as sharp as a tack but unfortunately his body is falling apart around him. He has lost most of his dignity and is embarrassed by his situation, he wants to pass away and he hopes for it every night when he goes to sleep.
The contrast between my dad and step-dad could not be more stark.
Dad was not ready for his death which was quick and unexpected, my step-dad on the other hand is ready and waiting for that moment when he passes and his dignity, he believes, will be returned.
I don’t mean to be morbid but the reality of life is that in most cases you do not get to choose when your time is up.
So I started to think about it more – if you don’t (in most cases) have a choice as to when your time is up – how do you, or are you able to, prepare for your own passing?
From an emotional (and even a physical) perspective; I do not have the answers. I can’t even contemplate my own passing, and I certainly do not have the philosophical or intellectual insight to provide a meaningful solution.
But I do believe from a financial and an estate planning perspective, there are a number of steps that we should all take to prepare for our passing, and to make life easy for those loved ones who are left to pick up the pieces. These steps include:
A Legal Will: Everyone should ensure that they have a legal and valid will. Dying without a will, or an invalid will, is known as dying intestate. In such cases the laws in each state will dictate how your estate is to be distributed. This could result in your estate being distributed in a way that would be contrary to your wishes.
Your Superannuation: This is generally excluded from your estate. Distribution of your superannuation will be in accordance with the trust deed of your super fund and any death benefit nomination that might be in place. Again – to ensure these funds are distributed according to your wishes ensure you have in place a valid binding death nomination which will ensure that the trustee distributes the funds as intended.
Enduring Powers of Attorney: This means you are appointing a person or organization who is able to makes decisions and sign papers on your behalf. An Enduring Power of Attorney will not cease when a person becomes mentally incapacitated.
Advance Health Directive: A document that outlines your wishes. For example; the medical treatment you are willing to receive..
This list is by no means exhaustive – but it is a start. Make sure you talk to an expert about what you need, and ensure you have not left anything to chance.
Getting back to the emotional side; I will leave this to a philosopher who is able to provide a far more enlightened understanding than I ever could. In the words of British author Samuel Johnson, “It matters not how someone dies, but how they live. The act of dying is not of importance; it lasts so short a time.”