Make your last wishes a reality through funeral and estate planning

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A funeral might not be something you want to plan for, whether it’s your own or that of a close family member or friend. In fact, the last thing you may want to think about is the possibility of the loss of a loved one.

So, it may be best to consider funeral and estate planning to ensure that our last wishes are honoured by those we leave behind and that everything involved in our departure from this life bears our unique signature.

Most of us are convinced that our own funerals are an event to take place far in the future and that there is ample time to plan for this while we are feeling healthy and strong and building a better future for ourselves and our families. 

However, now is the best time and state of mind to make provision and decisions for this life event. Not only are you able to keep the objective distance that is required when you are dealing with potentially upsetting events, but you are also not experiencing the demands and stress of life-threatening illness and other adverse events at this stage.

Another benefit of getting your funeral planning in order is that once it is completed, you will gain peace of mind knowing that you and your family are taken care of in the unfortunate event of a loss. This means that you can carry on with the business of living life to the full.

Standard Bank Insurance offers several flexible funeral policies for individuals, their family members and household support members when you are ready to get this part of your financial planning done and dusted. Like other funeral policies, these funeral plans normally pay out quickly when the event of death takes place and pay out up to R100 000 for the main member of the policy and their spouse. 

Standard Bank’s funeral plans also offer significant benefits to the beneficiaries of the policy including up to R2 000 for groceries per month for six or 12 months, R20 000 for the memorial and R20 000 for catering. 

Elaine Markus from Standard Bank Insurance says: “Having one of these policies in place will help ease the financial stress that many often face when covering the cost of a funeral. It also paves the way for you to protect your loved ones from having to cover the cost of a funeral out-of-pocket, or to take on debt to do so. 

“This will help to ease their financial burden and ensure that funds left behind as part of your estate can go towards investments in educating your children, for example, so that they can give life to your legacy.” 

Having a Will is one part of the bigger picture: Estate planning

Your Will is the document that serves as the backbone of what you want to happen when you die. It outlines who will receive what. However, your Will is just one part of the bigger picture that is called estate planning. This will set out not only what you want to happen but also how you want it to happen.

For example, if you state in your Will that you want to bequeath R1-million to charity without ensuring that this cash amount is available, then the executor of your estate might be forced to sell assets, such as your car or property, to raise the cash to carry out your wishes.

Standard Bank has a financial advisor available at every branch to assist with financial and estate planning. In the event of a more complex situation the matter will be referred to a fiduciary specialist who can provide guidance, especially around the concept of trusts. These include testamentary and inter vivos trusts. Ensuring comprehensive estate planning will go a long way to ensure that the things you worked for during your life will contribute positively in the lives of your loved ones or beneficiaries. It could also empower them to build on your achievements and continue your legacy in this way. 

Smooth transfer of assets

Estate planning does not have to be complex: start with an inventory of your physical assets including your home, jewellery, vehicles, art and antiques and other collectibles, computers, laptops, and then add non-tangible assets like bank accounts, life insurance policies, investments, retirement annuities and brokerage accounts with all their account details, including the contact details of the firms that hold them. 

You should also make a list of your debts, including home and car loans and add account numbers, the location of signed agreements and the contact information of the companies holding the debt. The completed lists should be signed and dated before you give copies to your chosen estate administrator as well as your spouse or partner. 

The next crucial step in your estate planning is to review your retirement annuities and policies and ensure that each has an updated, designated beneficiary. This simple action will ensure that the proceeds of these investments pass directly to your loved ones or chosen entities on your passing and to create liquidity in your estate. The same applies to your life insurance policies, and such policies should then be payable to the estate as opposed to a nominated beneficiary.

Some of your assets, however, like residential properties, bank savings and individual brokerage accounts will form part of your estate and will have to be dealt with by an executor, which means that the proceeds of such assets will be received by designated beneficiaries once the estate has been wound up. 

Drafting a Will and Living Will

Estate planning does require that you draft a Will stipulating how your assets must be distributed among heirs or even charitable organisations and who should act as guardian for your minor children. It is best to draft a Will with the help of a fiduciary specialist. Your Will is a legal document and therefore must be dated and signed in the presence of two non-related witnesses who are not heirs or legatees in the Will.

It is also important that you select a responsible executor to manage your estate when you are no longer here and ensure your wishes as per your Will are accurately carried out. 

Kobus van Schalkwyk, Head of Legal at Standard Trust Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Standard Bank with over 130 years of fiduciary services, says: “Even if you know that you need to appoint an executor, you need to think carefully before you decide who is going to represent your estate in that capacity. Family or friends are usually appointed, but we fail to realise that the person we choose might not understand the complexities and legalities needed to manage your estate effectively. As such, wrong decisions can be made that will harm your estate.”

Finally, estate planning may include the drafting of a Living Will that sets out who should make your healthcare and legal decisions if you become unable to do this yourself.  

“To honour the relationships that you have built throughout your life, it may be best to discuss your decisions with the people closest to you. Conveying your intentions about your estate will ensure that they are at peace as they fulfil your last wishes.” 

— Elaine Markus and Kobus van Schalkwyk 

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