I have over the years been observing what happens in some families after either the head of the family or a breadwinner passes on. I find it amazing how close or distant family members feel so entitled to monies that they didn’t work for. This sense of entitlement is made worse by the fact that most black people, in particular, who die and leave some money or assets behind do not make sure that there is a Will that states clearly who has rights to their estate.

How dirty the fights get between family members over money that a deceased worked for – made it very clear to me how important a Will is in a family. According to Lexis Nexis, the most basic definition of a Will also referred to as “Last Will and Testament” – is that it is a formal, signed written document in which a deceased voluntarily sets out his instructions in an unambiguous term as to how their assets are to be distributed following their death.

Let’s put a Will aside for a moment and talk about the fact that family members in black communities especially do not even have conversations about policies they have to prepare for their families after they are gone. It feels like the topic also falls into the category of those that are deemed to be taboo. It might be caused by some superstition that you’re inviting bad luck to yourself or your loved ones if you talk about death. Another reason could be that people in families just do not trust each other about such information.

The problem with not talking about how one has put their affairs in order with at least one family member is that the minute a person dies, no one knows where to go to claim for monies needed to organise a decent burial. Another problem that I found out when I had a client that specialised in managing pension or provident funds and medical aids for employees in different companies; is that most of these monies end up not being claimed. Suppose a person who has a pension fund has not declared this information to at least one person in the family. In that case, that money sits in that company’s coffers for a certain period unclaimed, and we can only guess what happens to it or who ends up benefiting if it is never claimed.

So, you see, that’s why a Will is so important. All of this would have been clearly articulated in one document. There’s no confusion about what monies the deceased had put away and, most importantly, who the beneficiaries are. A Will is even more important when the deceased’s children are still young and need a guardian to look after them until they can access their money themselves at 18 or 21 years of age. Even in a case of an appointed guardian or trustee to manage the deceased estate; all the important details would have been clearly articulated if there is a Will.

I also find it amazing that family members who never cared for the deceased when they were still alive would feel like they have a right to come before the funeral with a plan on what they will be taking from items owed by the departed. In some cases, these relatives do not even have the decency to wait for the children of the departed to give them what they feel they want to give away. What’s even worse is when relatives attend a funeral just to come and steal some of the stuff owned by the deceased while everyone else is busy grieving and crying.

I’m sure that most of us have seen some of the incidences I’m referring to here. So, to avoid this happening in your families after you pass on – I would like to re-emphasise the importance of having a Will and Last Testament of your wishes. The process is easy; even your bank can help you put together a Will.

Miranda Lusiba is the Founding Director of Strangé Consulting – a boutique PR Agency specialising in Communication, Freelance Writing, Media Relations, Reputation Management and Media Training.

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