children standing by a grave

Why it’s crucial to have the awkward conversation about death

No one likes conversations about death, especially when the conversation is with your spouse or partner and the death in question is that of either of you.

It’s a depressing subject that you’d rather not have to think about – even more so if you’re both healthy and a happy life together.

But it’s something you do need to confront, and the sooner the better. That’s because death is no respecter of timescales or plans – it can happen at any time.

Read on to find out more of my thoughts about the “awkward conversation”, why you need to have it, and why you’ll feel much better when you have.

It’s hard to prepare for the death of your spouse or partner

No amount of planning can prepare you for the death of a spouse or lifetime partner.

Even if you have expected it, losing someone who you could easily have spent over half your life living with is going to leave a void in your life that you are unlikely to fill.

But life does go on, and both of you owe it to yourselves and your family to ensure that you’re prepared and have taken steps to manage the financial affects of the death of one or other of you.

The time immediately after either of you pass on will be stressful. But, by planning ahead, you can ensure that whoever the surviving partner is, and their family, will have one less thing to worry about knowing that the financial side of things is in order.

Remember it can happen at any time

There’s no time better than the present to have the conversation and to start taking necessary steps to ensure you’re both prepared.

It’s far better to do that now than to leave your widow or widower having to confront financial turmoil and possible insurmountable issues.

Both of you need to therefore know what you have, where it is, and how to access it.

You also need to know who you can turn to for support and guidance. This is likely to include your solicitor, accountant, and adviser from a financial perspective.

The importance of an ICE file

A good starting point for your conversation is to agree to set up a joint ICE (in case of emergency) file.

This will contain all the relevant information necessary in order that, in the event of the worst happening, the surviving partner can be confident that they have access to key information.

Additionally, they’ll know everything is in one place, rather than having to scrabble through reams of paperwork or – worse still – try to access password-protected files or online accounts.

If one of you has been used to managing the finances, you may feel protective of your role. This is understandable, but it’s crucial to take the necessary steps to ensure information is accessible and clearly laid out.

The kind of information your ICE file should contain will include:

  • Details of where your income is coming from, and a list of direct debits with an explanation of what they are for.
  • A list of your insurance policies with provider, account number and contact details all provided.
  • A schedule of all your respective pension arrangements with provider details.
  • A note of key contacts who will be able to help with your financial arrangement, including solicitor, accountant and financial planner details.

Once your file is set up, don’t forget to review it regularly, and keep it up to date as circumstances change.

If it’s password-protected, make sure you both know the password. It’s also worth letting a mutually trusted third-party know that the file is there.

I produced an article that looked at ICE files in some detail a couple of years ago. You might find it useful when putting together your own.

The financial impact

The week commencing 2 May 2022 has been earmarked by Hospice UK, as Dying Matters Awareness Week.

This promotes the importance of being able to talk about the potential death of a loved one, and does point out that it’s often not as hard to initiate a conversation about death as you may think.

It’s therefore important to grasp the nettle and start the conversation, particularly when it comes to the financial impact of losing your partner. It’s essential that you’re both aware of your financial status.

Your ICE file will be a starting point, but you need to ensure you have clear, joint plans in place to deal with the administration involved in managing things like:

  • Taking over bank accounts
  • Dealing with insurance claim forms
  • Managing the household budget
  • Allocating the proceeds of life insurance policies and other inherited assets.

You both need to ensure you know the value of pension funds and other assets and how you can access them.

Review your life cover

The last bullet point in the previous section is particularly important.

You should calculate how much life cover will be paid out in the event of your respective deaths. As well as standard life insurance, this could also include any death in service sums payable if either of you are in such a scheme through your employers.

Once you know these figures you should then work out the order of priority in terms of how the money should be utilised and whether you should increase the amount of cover on your lives.

Paying off any outstanding mortgage and other debts should clearly be a top priority, but you’ll also want to assess the amount required to enable your loved ones to live comfortably and free from stress.

Make sure you both have a will in place

Part of your planning process should be to ensure that you both have a will in place, and that it’s up to date and reflects your current financial position.

A will is one of the easiest financial documents to complete and one of the most important. It’s also the easiest way to make sure your assets pass to the person or people you want them to when you die.

It therefore gives control and reassurance to your spouse or partner, and another thing they don’t have to worry about.

Get in touch

I can work with you to help ensure your finances are in order and your loved ones are taken care of.

To find out more, please give me a call on 07769 156 250.

Please note

Foster Denovo Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate school fees planning, taxation & Trust advice and Will writing.

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