Preparing for death

I am at an age where my parents and in laws are getting old. Going to funerals of aunts, uncles and parents of friends is becoming a more frequent event. As we all get older, there are steps that we can make, or help our parents with, that can make it easier for others to settle your affairs.

Will

Make sure your will is up to date and reflects your wishes. Having a will is something that is always important but not urgent…until it is very urgent, and at that stage, it is too late to write one. There is a default will provided by the Succession Act 1965. For most this will be your spouse gets 2/3 of your assets and your children get 1/3.

While the Succession Act may not reflect your exact wishes (most wills are all assets to the surviving spouse and then evenly split amongst the children), it is the additional time it takes if you die without a will (intestate). If you die with a will and it is pretty straightforward, it will take about a year to complete probate. If you don’t have a will, it will take a lot longer. This can actually cause financial strain for the surviving spouse if they are reliant on income from your accounts, which they now cannot access because the banks have noted that you are now deceased and have prevented access to them.

Joint bank accounts

Bank accounts should be in joint names so they are not shut down while probate is being carried out. There are still a lot of elderly couples where the man has his money in his account and he gives his wife money each week/ month; a throwback to the days when he was earning and he gave his wife “housekeeping” each week. Elderly couples should not keep separate accounts, they should all be in joint names.

Enduring Power of Attorney

To borrow a quote from Ernest Hemingway, dementia comes gradually, then suddenly. Firstly, you’re just getting old and a bit forgetful. Then you are diagnosed it dementia and things change very quickly. You are no longer capable of making financial decisions for yourself.

Getting Enduring Power of Attorney gives someone else (at your choosing) the ability to make financial decisions on your behalf. The process is gone online at the Decision Support Service website and your solicitor will finalise it all for you. It is currently taking seven months to register enduring power of attorney under the new regime. The alternative is that you just make do with the income you have or your become a Ward of Court and an application is made to Court to access your money on your behalf.

Sell foreign properties

There gets a point where foreign properties are used less and less and should be sold as they are no longer a good use of money. If you are at the stage in life where the thoughts of travelling abroad with the hassle of airports fills you with dread, it is time to sell that property.

Selling property in another jurisdiction is a difficult process when you are resident in another country. You have to deal with the taxes and legal processes of another jurisdiction, most likely in another language that you cannot speak. There may be additional requirements as you are a non resident, which can take more time. Adding in inheritance tax and probate into the equation is another layer of difficulty and cost.

 

End of life pack

You can write up plans for after your death. As well as including wishes on how your funeral, songs played etc., it can provide the executors with details of your assets, where to find all your paperwork and anything else that is relevant. In today’s tech world, a list of passwords for accounts can also be provided. The Irish Hospice Foundation have packs available for those who want to plan ahead.

 

If you have an aging parent or relative, do not be afraid to bring up this subject with them. It is not as if they haven’t thought about it themselves. My 85 year old had told me countless times that she is “ready to go” and talks about death all the time. In fact, helping elderly family get their affairs in order can put their mind at ease as they know that they are looking after the people they love when they are gone.

 

Steven Barrett

20 May 2024