To be perfectly frank, you’re going to die. So will your clients and everyone else on the planet. Not from COVID-19, the chances of you surviving this pandemic are stacked overwhelmingly in your favour. But someday, from some cause. And while we, and our clients, are locked down contemplating our own mortality, is this not the perfect time to take stock of our affairs?
We asked Family and Commercial Law specialist George de Beer, a partner at BDP Attorneys, what steps our readers and their clients should be taking to ensure the least hardship on their heirs when the inevitable happens.
“My first piece of advice is to make sure that the wills are in order,” he said. “If your readers or their clients’ wills are out of date, or worse, they have no will at all; they leave their loved ones exposed to enormous risk. I would urge them to get these up to date without delay”.
His second bit of advice is to practice good housekeeping; “Make it easy for surviving family members to find important documents, and always include an updated policy schedule in that folder” he said. “Discuss what will happen when you pass. It’s an awkward conversation to have with a loved one” he said, “but a necessary one”.
De Beer also suggests that our readers and brokers check and advise clients on whether their own or their client’s policies include cover for dread disease like COVID-19. “While it is statistically unlikely that your readers or their clients will contract COVID-19 if they follow health professional guidelines, it will give them comfort to know that their current policies extend this cover. And if they are not covered, it could be a good conversation starter between broker and client” he said.
With the insurance ‘environment’ recently being added to the gazetted essential services list during South Africa’s lockdown, De Beers’ advice is opportune.
The state of South Africa’s economy is not good. A raft of credit downgrades, coupled with the expected crippling economic damage caused by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, indicate a tough time ahead for brokers. Intermediaries should be using every opportunity to keep conversations going with clients. Helping a client stay in business by fine-tuning covers in the short term could have a big impact in reducing policy lapses down the road. An example would be reduced stock levels or even a commercial HCV fleet temporarily off the road.
De Beer advises readers and their clients who have not yet established a trust to consider doing so as part of their estate planning. An advantage to this strategy is that a trust created in a will could enable assets to be transferred to a family trust without incurring major costs.
De Beer has made himself available to answer our reader’s questions during the lockdown. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.