By Ian Dibb, founder of online life management platform, Once I’ve Gone (www.onceivegone.com)
Many people are reluctant to talk about death with their loved ones. Unfortunately, this means that many families are left unsure of their loved one’s final wishes after they have passed.
Research from Schroders Personal Wealth uncovered that almost 80 per cent of families do not have any estate planning strategy in place, with 43 per cent of people admitting they haven’t discussed later life planning with their children1.
Nowadays, there are multiple considerations for when it comes to preparing your affairs – which is why we prefer to call this life planning, as death ultimately is an inevitable part of life. A positive proactive approach towards life planning can make all the difference for those closest to you when the time comes.
From financial documents such as pensions, wills and bank accounts through to personal memories like photos, videos, your online presence and accounts, there’s plenty to plan to help make the process easier for your families when you’re no longer here.
CONSOLIDATING YOUR FINANCIAL ASSETS
The complexities often associated with wills and probate demonstrate the importance of having your financial affairs in order where possible. Recent reports show that there could be up to £70bn of unclaimed assets in bank accounts, pensions, life assurances and investments, likely due to the difficulties around locating cur- rent, lost and forgotten assets.
Consolidating financial assets can be an arduous task, even more so for family members who are still grieving the loss of someone close to them. Uncovering missing assets is a time-consuming exercise, involving contacting individual banks, building societies and pension funds direct to access this information.
Communicating the location of these items to family members will alleviate significant pressure when their focus is understandably elsewhere. Planning ahead and streamlining financial documents can help ensure that family and beneficiaries receive what they are entitled to and that an estate doesn’t join the current £70bn of lost assets.
CONSIDER YOUR LIFE ONLINE
Nowadays, our lives are played out as much online as they are offline. That’s why it’s so important for people to consider their digital footprint when it comes to life planning.
From email accounts and online banking to utility bills that are managed online as well as a multitude of online shopping, streaming and payment accounts, there’s plenty to consider from both a security and confidentiality perspective.
Research from Hospice UK2 shows that a massive 90 per cent of people have not made any plans for their social media accounts to remain when they die, leaving many people unable to access the social media pro- files of a loved one when they’ve passed on.
Nominating a trusted contact and handing them your relevant account and password information could be a solution to this, however, it’s worth considering this carefully from a legal and confidentiality perspective. This person is usually known as a ‘social media executor’ or ‘digital executor’ and is responsible for closing and managing your online accounts.
Leaving written instructions around your online accounts can also be included within your will, but it’s worth ensuring that your request can be carried out by the company in question first.
CURATE PERSONAL EFFECTS AND MEMORIES
Fewer people now store photos in a physical album, instead opting to store photos, videos and more online where they are protected from damage such as fire, theft or flood. It’s therefore important to tell your loved ones where these are located and how to access them.
As well as personal effects, opening up the conversation around death and proactively planning will also allow you to consider your personal wishes and communicate these.
Many people do not wish to discuss their preferences for a funeral or any final wishes, which ultimately means that their friends and family are unsure of what sort of event to plan and what elements to stipulate as part of this.
LIFE PLANNING PLATFORMS
Life planning platforms allow people to store all that’s important to them in a safe online environment.
Having access to all of your financial documents will significantly reduce the stress around complex processes such as probate and allow family members to gain access to the information they need quickly.
What’s more, you can communicate final wishes, leave behind messages and assign access to online accounts without having to communicate this verbally, which is often an upsetting conversation.
Most importantly, people need to begin recognising death as an inevitable part of life – which is why ‘life planning’ is so very important. Preparing and planning for death from all perspectives (financially, digitally and personally) can make a real difference to those you leave behind and will undoubtedly be an invaluable source of comfort for them at a time of great difficulty.