Sometimes it takes a jolt to make us start planning for the future
While some people know the basic things they need to plan for as they approach later life, many of us leave the fine details to the last moment.
As part of our series on planning and preparing for later life, Lucinda Crowther considers that sometimes a sudden shock can be the jolt we need to start planning for the future.
Planning for later life – if I’m honest, I don’t think you REALLY think about it until something happens. We all know we should have a will and put all our stuff in order ahead of time, but that’s often not the case.
However, even having a will doesn’t necessarily make it all plain sailing. As they say, the devil is in the detail and boy did we not know how much detail! For me, this was brought home because of what happened when my dad died.
It’s a difficult and surreal time when you lose a loved one. So many emotions and you’re not sure how you’re supposed to deal with anything. I remember saying, “I wish there was a handbook on what to expect/feel/do etc.”.
Then you have the practicalities to deal with: from getting copies of certified death certificates, to contacting the myriad companies that my father was on mailing lists for, we realised closing down things in this day and age isn’t straight forward!
When it comes to planning, the devil can be in the detail
By far the most complicated (and at times extremely frustrating) thing was dealing with the finances. Dad had a will, which was great, but it only covered the main things. Mum was the main recipient – great – but that meant that she was now responsible for things she didn’t really know about!
Together, we started to delve into Dad’s paperwork. It seems my dad had an aversion to opening mail, not sure why, but there were boxes upon boxes of unopened mail from years ago…
Mum thought she had a good understanding of their finances, but it turned out she didn’t. Like many women of her generation, she didn’t hold the purse strings, that was Dad’s job.
So, she only knew of the things where her signature was required; mortgage, insurance etc. As mum ploughed through the boxes, more and more information was coming to light about financial dealings Mum never knew about. It really surprised me just how many decisions need to be made at a difficult time.
As a family, planning for the future has been really helpful too, we all now know what Mum’s wishes are, so when that time comes it will be one less thing to worry about.
My Dad’s death was the jolt we needed to start planning for the future
Fortunately, my Mum is a resilient and practical woman. She kept on delving through the paperwork, it literally took her months, but eventually she began to understand what was going on.
Mum decided that none of her children were going to have an experience like that when she died, so she set about getting things in order. This involved planning for the following:
- Power of attorney – so that you can close accounts down and make important decisions quickly
- Organising financial details – having a list of the organisations where insurance, mortgage, investments etc. can be found, along with contact details
- A will – making sure it’s clear and contains all the information, not just about financial matters:
- Agreeing type and budget for a funeral in advance
- The fine details of the funeral, cremation vs burial, what music, readings etc.
- Whether to be an organ donor
- Setting a ‘do not resuscitate’ in case of possible brain death or lack of quality of life
- … and finally where all of this information can be found!
The conversations on the above weren’t easy, and me and my sisters all reacted differently to it. It seemed almost morbid/mercenary to have these conversations, and very un-British!
However, we are now a few years down the line since we did all this. Mum is happy that all is in order, she had a recent health scare and knowing everything was in place was a relief for her.
As a family, it has been really helpful too, we all now know what Mum’s wishes are, so when that time comes it will be one less thing to worry about. We only wish our Dad had been this prepared!
This article is part of our series on planning and preparing for later life.
Find out more about our event A message to myself: planning and preparing for later life.