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An Awkward Conversation That Cannot Be Avoided

Feb 25, 2021 | Financial Planning, General, Lifestyle | 1 comment

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Too many of us, it seems, avoid conversations on awkward issues, one of the most fundamental of which is our own mortality and the inevitable passing of some family members and close friends. A recent experience again brought home to me the importance of preparing for these events not just for my own sake and that of my family but as part of my role as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) professional and my responsibilities to my clients and their families.

Our clients at Veritas Wealth raise many issues and concerns with us. Some of these require us to help them make particularly far-reaching decisions as part of our responsibility to provide the best advice in their financial planning for a safe and secure future for themselves and their loved ones. Two matters stand out in these conversations:

  • Can I afford to retire now and live according to my current lifestyle?
  • If I were to die tomorrow, are my affairs properly organised?

The second issue has assumed particular relevance for me in recent times when my best friend finally succumbed to cancer after an immensely brave and dignified struggle for his life.

In a recent Podcast we spoke about the importance of being prepared rather than being forced to repair. Conversations about dying and preparing for this inevitability as early as possible are never easy and many people shy away from the subject. Nevertheless, we raise the issue with our clients as subtly as possible in each financial planning review with them.

The conversation is not only about making a Living Will and updating it from time to time as circumstances change. The conversation can also be about preparing yourself to provide support to a family member or, in my case, a close friend during a grave and potentially fatal illness.

In the 18 months since my best friend broke the news to us of his illness, those closest to him found particularly helpful guidance in a course by Brené Brown, an American professor in social work who has written extensively on such subjects as vulnerability and empathy. I tend to try to keep people happy and upbeat during trying times, but I learned from the course that this is not as helpful as I had thought. What helps most is just to be there for someone. Just being there is all they need.

Another source of inspiration is an excellent book called Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. It is both beautiful and thought provoking.

In the harrowing days of my friend’s illness, I also spoke to Dr Cameron Bruce from Chariot Health who specialises in palliative home care. He explained that the process of comforting a loved one can also become a magical time. People can say things that they had only thought about saying before but had never expressed. This can be a special time for the person suffering, but also for their family and friends.

The problem in delaying the drawing up of a Living Will at an early stage is that few people are brave enough to have this conversation during a time of life and death, not even the person who is sick. They are still trying to remain strong to those around them.

This thought preoccupied me as I drove my friend’s wife to the hospital a short while before his passing, Was his Will up to date? Was the letter of his wishes in place? Were the beneficiary nominations correct on his life policies and pension funds? Was there a power of attorney in place? Thankfully, they were, but we would hope that all our clients can say the same and that they encourage friends, colleagues and acquaintances to attend to these matters with least delay.

Veritas Wealth has a detailed Advanced Living Will template available to you. It provides a solid framework for a conversation that really needs to take place and to be reviewed as your life moves through the ages. Essentially, the Advanced Living Will enables the person making it to set out in great detail his or her wishes. This avoids a situation in which the family must assume responsibility for making decisions on behalf of the deceased. It removes doubt and obviates possible disagreements or even disputes.

And please remember. When it comes to having conversations about dying and being prepared for the day, it is not just you and your spouse who should be involved. You may have parents, maybe still grandparents, sons and daughters and friends, all of whom need to consider the end now for their own sake and yours but also to be prepared to provide comfort and support to those closest to them as well.

 If you would like to peruse a copy of an Advanced Living Will, please click here for the PDF file or email either Barry, Rick, Clare or Lore and we will ensure that a copy is emailed back to you.


1 Comment

  1. F Simoes

    Thank you for this article Barry and speaking about your personal experience. In two instances of close family members who died of cancer both had made their wishes very clear. In retrospect this enabled them to spend precious times with close family and friends. Both men became inspirational and open in ways that transformed their passing into something very special. A huge burden of anxiety, confusion and panic is averted by all concerned when honest wishes are expressed and acted on in an otherwise very difficult time.


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