We all try to avoid the inevitable. And even if it’s just a case of thinking about it – death will always deal with a grimace. Although the decision to retire and comfortably wither away with age is one that we all keep close to us – you never truly know what life might have in store for you.
With the world that we live in, it would be naive to assume that being invincible is an option. At any given moment, unforeseen circumstances might take control of the steering wheel and change your life in ways that you could never have predicted.
So, being that life is short and unpredictable, have you taken the necessary steps to ensure that your family, loved ones and those dearest to you are financially and legally secure, should something happen to you?
If not, then it’s time to start gathering your documents and compile your death checklist.
Time Waits For Nobody. So Why Would It Wait For You?
One of the very first questions that I make sure to ask new clients is whether or not they have access to all of their necessary legal documentation, should something fatal or life-changing happen to them.
And being a business coach, I’ve come to find that a significant portion of large business owners tend to avoid consideration of their personal risks – solely focusing their time and energy on business risks, instead.
But if something had to happen to them, what would happen to their family?
As a business owner, it’s extremely important to know whether or not you have your last will and testament on standby; if you have shareholder certificates between partners (provided you have partners); and if you have insurance for things like income protection and product liability.
Witnessing, first-hand, how so many successful entrepreneurs ignore the importance of having access to that documentation is quite shocking (and irresponsible), to say the least.
It not only puts your business at risk, but your family, as well.
If you don’t have a written will upon death, then you run the risk of your business being terminated and the assets liquidated to settle any debts, with little left for your family; your profits and losses are transferred according to the decision of the country/state you live in; and shares are given to either a spouse, children or valid family member with the responsibility to pay inheritance tax.
This could lead to issues for partners that now find themselves in business with people that they don’t know, whether experienced or inexperienced, and can cause problems between families and shareholders with regards to the valuation of the business.
While it’s essential to have the correct documentation on standby, should something go wrong, it becomes necessary to know which documents you need to have access to. So I’ve developed a checklist of those documents you need as a business owner:
Copy of Your Will –
Where is your will? Is it up-to-date? Does your lawyer have a copy? As I mentioned above, there are certain risks that come without having an updated will ready.
Unabridged Birth Certificate –
Is a birth certificate with the names and identity information of both parents or legal guardians. It becomes important if you have children that might want to travel overseas or if you’re planning to send them for schooling or to relocate.
Having a copy of your ID or at least making your family aware of its whereabouts is helpful for any legal situations that might arise. It will be used to prove who you are when dealing with the registration of your death, funeral matters and handling your estate.
Marriage Certificate –
Similar to the points made for the requirement of an ID – it’s highly important for when dealing with your will, estate, funeral and registration of death.
Marriage Contract –
This can affect your will and the distribution of assets to your spouse. Depending on whether or not you sign an antenuptial agreement, the marriage contract will help in determining how your assets and debts are shared.
Death Certificate –
Will come to affect certain legal processes if you are to pass away. It serves as the necessary proof for your family to claim life insurance, settle estates and even arrange the funeral
Recent Tax Assessment –
To help define the amount in taxes that need to be paid for that final tax year. There are generally two forms of tax that apply to the deceased: Estate Duty and Capital Gains Tax. The Estate Duty is a tax that applies to the deceased individual’s property and Capital Gains Tax applies to any profit made from selling an asset.
Passwords for banking and devices –
Passing away means that your passwords also get buried with you. In order to give your family access to any money in your bank account(s), they need your security information. And in the case that you have all of the necessary documentation on the death checklist, and it sits on the cloud or in a safe – there needs to be a place to get access to it. Your passwords and pin codes are important.
Bank Details –
If you haven’t set your account(s) as Payable on Death to a beneficiary, the legal process behind it can become difficult. Your account can ultimately be drained through paying debts and fees, preventing any family from ever seeing or using it. It’s wise to keep them informed, or leave information for them to access those accounts, should anything happen.
List of monthly debit orders –
Nobody wants to be surprised when dealing with monthly notifications of gym memberships, purchases or anything else that might be charged from your account(s) if you should pass away or become disabled. This can be a painful reminder or even a hassle – so keep a list and avoid surprises.
List of insurance, investments and funds –
if you’ve made any investments or have any funds or insurance that might be helpful when dealing with the handling of your estate, then keep a list of them that can be kept together with all of your other important information.
Copies of insurance and funeral policies –
The same applies to the legal procedures taken to deal with your estate. It’s important to help prove what insurance policies you’ve taken out. It will also help with arranging and paying out your funeral costs. Remember to leave a contact name and number behind of the person that handles everything.
Lease Agreement –
To determine the terms of your lease. Landlords are able to keep charging rental fees depending on the length and terms that you’ve signed, so keeping that agreement with the rest of your documents can be helpful for your family to either pay it off or to take legal action.
Proof of Medical Aid and Gap Cover –
In the case that you become disabled or deal with a crippling event, then both medical aid and gap cover documents are absolutely essential. If it’s a case of death, then providing proof of those policies will help your family with making a claim from the medical aid.
Title Deeds for Properties –
Should you pass away, then having your title deeds collected and kept in an accessible place will be helpful to your family when you leave them property(ies). It also helps to avoid transfer duty costs if you’ve left your property to an heir.
Partnership Agreements –
If you die without a legal agreement between your partners to keep operating, then the business will usually cease to operate and dissolve. Unless you’ve stated that your partner(s) must maintain operation of the company, then you forfeit the hard work that you would’ve put into the business for your family.
Although it might be scary (or crappy) to think about, it’s your responsibility to ensure that all of the important documentation is readily accessible, should something happen.
Get it all sorted. Make the effort. Your family and partners deserve it.
It took me quite some time to compile this important list and I’d appreciate it if you took the time to gather and accumulate all of those documents.
If you need any advice regarding the list, running your business or making good decisions – then give me a call, send me an email, drop a message [before you drop dead]:
+2783 253 3339