Get your affairs in order, aunty Mavis is coming...

As I have mentioned, Charmaine was a conscientious lady. While in her early twenties, she had relocated to London and worked as a orpair and an aid to the elderly. A job she loved and embraced wholeheartedly. Some people have the ability to care for others to the extent that they are able to build a career of their passion and she managed to earn some good money at the same time.

She had managed to save much of her earnings at a time when the exchange rate between Pound Sterling and the SA Rand was in the region of 1 to 16. This enabled her to save her money quite quickly and managed to buy her first property in cash within seven years of living abroad. Consequently, her cumulative assets and savings grew rather quickly in comparison to her piers living in SA. The challenge however, was that at the time of her passing, her last Will and Testament was out of date. Out of date by two years to be exact. The only beneficiaries mentioned in her Will were our parents.

No mention of me, not a single word, not a single sentence or a dime left I tell you!

Well… except for the imaculate stainless steel BSF cuttlery set all the way from Germany which she left for me.

“Thanks Luv, that was really super cool!”

“So yes, we have a bit of unfinished business to deal with when I get to the other side. Yep, I am coming there and this time I’m bringing along my agenda for our discussion! So there, I said and I feel a whole lot better!”

We still have great conversations you know, except these days it happens in the mind, heart and consciousness, not with words. Words can become so cluttered and misunderstood you know. The former is so much more reliable and accurate. One cannot mistake what you feel deep in your consciousness, now can you. The effect is the same though and we have the benefit of fewer disagreements of course, due to absense of words!

Any way, now that we have that out in the open, I shall get to the point.

As many of you would know, time become limited after the birth of a new born baby, particularly for a single parent. The result being, her two-year-old son had not been included in her Will. Now, because I happen to have known Charmaine and circumstances at the time, I was aware of her wishes. While her Will was valid, it was not in-line with her circumstances and intentions at the time of her passing. For instance, at no point was her two year old son mentioned in her last Will and Testament. Consequently, a guardian was not appointed. Do you see the implications developing here?

While she owned immovable property, these could only provide cash flow if they were to be sold off or rented. This resulted in a negative cash flow position. The difficulty continues in that it may not be a suitable time to liquidate an asset, particularly when interest rates are high and property markets are stagnant or low, the latter being the case at her time of death. Even in the event of favourable market conditions, the transfer of property to a beneficiary may take up to twelve months or longer as a recent article on the Fin24 website suggested, aptly entitled, “Who gets What, When?”

Funeral expenses

Then there was the issue of immediate burial and associated costs. Burial costs are self explanatory and adequate provision should always be inplace but more on this later. So let me explain associated costs. In case you have not noticed, some communities like the one I belong to, have expensive funerals. I mean if we going to bury someone, we do a proper job of it and everyone will know all about it! From the closing of municipal streets to accommodate the setting up of huge maquees, wing back chairs for “special” guests, rented lavatories and a host of assesories and amenities. Not to mention the meals to be provided leading upto and on the day of the funeral. I mean goat, ox or sheep meat, rice, samp and vegetables are usually on the menu and no expense is spared. We call this “after tears”. There are a few other expenses like cakes, tarts and of course, “beverages”. And these beverages I am referring to are not cheap! I mean I’m not referring to an orange squash mix. These ocasions are more like a mass reunion of family and friends and the atmosphere is way too exciting to ever miss out. Old friends and family catch up on lost times, new additions to broader family are introduced, unkown relatives whom you never knew existed formally present themselves for the first time and old scores are finally settled. All this because the loved one we have come to bury, brought all of us together on the day.

Non-the-less it is an expensive undertaking indeed, (pardon the pun). These are traditions which unfortunately, cannot be ignored or discounted. Its just the way things are done.

Then there is aunty Mavis. Now aunty Mavis from my fathers side of the family, her third husband uncle Tony (the former two have since passed) and her three grown daughters from her first marriage together with their seven kids are coming to the funeral. All travelling by bus and taxi from out of town. And they are staying at your house! They arive hungry with no money among the lot of them and they plan to stay for a week or two. And you dare not say no! Could you imagine the family gossip for the next fifteen years. That’s how long Aunty Mavis’ memory can last. And she will remind you the next time you call to wish her well on her birthday. How do I know this, becasuse we all have an aunty Mavis, uncle Tony and their crew somehere along the family tree. So plan for them, will you? After all, they are your family and they are going nowhere, anytime soon. Besides, by the time they are ready to leave, you would be too eager to pay for the return trip tickets for the lot of them!

This is where cash payouts from Life assurance and Funeral policies come in quite handy, provided a living beneficiary had been nominated and not the estate. Should the latter be true, proceeds will form part of the deceased’s estate which may not be accessible until the estate has been wound up.

So plan for these type of events, they are coming…