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Don`t leave it to chance


Don`t leave it to chance

Malcolm Briggs, an ex bank manager, tells a cautionary tale of secrecy, ignorance and good intentions  

My father died 12 years ago and had notice of his fate. He tried to put his paperwork into order, but by the time he got round to it, his heart wasn’t in it.  When he went, it fell to me to help my mother unravel his bureaux of papers. His estate was not complicated, but it became a detective story to find out how many credit cards he held, where his pension came from, who owed him money, etc.

I vowed that when my mother was unable to handle her own affairs, we would not repeat that experience.  We talked many times about a Power of Attorney in case she became senile – a fate that had befallen both her sisters. 

Earlier this year she was diagnosed with leukaemia. We all concentrated on looking after her and making her last weeks as comfortable as possible. As a result, once again we didn’t get round to doing anything.  

[an error occurred while processing this directive]When my mother died, my brothers and I had the difficult and emotional task of sorting through all the papers, all the lists, all the details and examining someone else’s life to make sure we had covered everything.  

Despite my bank manager background, I had failed to take the steps necessary to ensure that arrangements were in place. Why? Well, like all the customers I had seen in front of me over the years, it was probably because I didn’t believe it was going to happen to me. But it does and it did.  

Why do less than 30 per cent of the UK population leave a will when they die?   

The reasons are many. “I don’t want to think about it”; “I don’t have enough to bother with a will”; My family will get everything…won’t they?” were all familiar comments made to me in my bank manager role. Yet dying without leaving a will, usually means conflict, delays and in some cases genuine hardship. Oh and more tax payable.  

On the other hand, even when there is a will, it can be incredibly difficult to track down all the relevant information. Only the person who has died knows everything about their own circumstances and affairs, and even then there may be facts they have forgotten.  

This gap in knowledge is not only relevant after a death. If someone is taken seriously ill or been in an accident or even just abroad on a long holiday, a crucial financial question could arise with no one to answer it.   

Husbands and wives do not always share their deepest financial information. What happens if suddenly, one of them can no longer handle things for themselves – either temporarily or permanently?  

The UK banks and insurance companies are estimated by the Government to have about 20 billion (yes, that’s billion) of our money that doesn’t belong to anyone.  And the National Savings people have another 1.4 billion that has no ownership.

Of course it is owned by someone. Someone like you and me whose parents or distant relatives have mislaid the paperwork or simply forgotten about it. That equates to about 500 for every family unit in the country!  

So what is the moral of this tale?

  •  Everyone should make a will, one that is clear and unambiguous. So I don’t mean one of these self-completed form sets. Quite often, they create more problems than they solve. Expect to pay around 120 for well-designed, individual wills that really do the job.

  • Invest some time in creating a comprehensive list of everything that you have.  And keep it up to date. 

What should it include? Everything. Where the passport and driving licences are kept and what their serial numbers are. All the financial information. Where the deeds to the house are held. Who needs to be contacted if anything happens to you. Who should be invited to the funeral. What should happen to the pets. Who would look after any under-age children. Who deals with the cars, the central heating, stamp collection, photographs, school reunions…  

I have a fairly simple solution

Having shared similar experiences, two of my ex-bank manager colleagues and I got together to create an Organiser that helps people prepare a suitable document. We are now all proud possessors of a completed Organiser so that anyone could handle our affairs even if we go on an extended winter holiday and something needed sorting. And it’s really useful when we have to complete tax returns or mortgage applications. It’s all there, summarised, in one place.  



laterlife interest

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