Is Your Plan Ready Before You Die?

Singapore mourns this week for the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, our first Prime Minister.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Drawn by Richard Lee Xin Li (Singapore Illustrator). Illustration is based on a photo taken by Larry Barrows (1926-1971), a photojournalist from Life Magazine. Photo is taken at “Commonwealth Close, Blk 85-86, HDB’s third estate in Queenstown known for its chap lak lao (16 floors) which outdone the colonial SIT’s 1956 Forfar House (14 floors) at Princess Estate. The HDB completed 1000 units of housing within 5 years. This was in May 1965. In the same year, Singapore separated from Malaysia on 9th August 1965.” (Info. extracted from Pok Pok & Away)

A colleague lost her beloved father to a sudden cardiac arrest earlier this month.

Closer to heart, I lost my friend 7 months ago.

She was a junior college teacher and I last spoke to her a week before her sudden death. Our friends and I did not manage to say goodbye because her wake was quickly done over with. She died at 32 years old and in Chinese traditions the old is not supposed to send off the young. (It could be superstitions. Sometimes the line is blurred between traditions and superstitions)

She left behind her aged father who stays in a nursing home due to his stroke; Her mom who works as a cleaner and our last conversation during Chinese New Year was she is no longer working; Her elder sister who is on medical treatment for mental issues.

I was very upset that I couldn’t even see her for the last time. Our online, sms and WhatsApp conversations stayed where we left off. Her Facebook page is still up. I still have all our photos.

Yet this is the reality of life.

It reminds us that death is certain and unpredictable.

You know it will come one day, but you will not know when and how it will come.

All you can do is prepare as early as possible for the people you leave behind. Before death (and the pain, too) comes knocking.

So how do you plan?

Plan #1: Starting the Death Dialogue

In Asian cultures, we do not like to talk about dying. It is common practice in most families to avoid the subject altogether and sweep it under the carpet until something happens. Some even say it’s taboo and believe it bringing bad luck to do so.

Although it can be very frustrating, there have been initiatives in Singapore to open up conversations among people. Because the more we tackle the issue, the lesser conflicts within families to decide what is best for the dying family member when the time comes.

And this should be the first step to take.

Opening up is hard, but not impossible.

Plan #2: Making Hard Decisions About Your Life

  • Are you willing to donate your organs after death to save another life or for medical research?
  • How do you like to be on machine support to prolong your life?
  • Who will make decisions for you when you lose your mental capacity?
  • Where do you want your ashes to be placed?
  • How will your funeral be like? (Usually there is no issue for people with religions because they will follow the procedures as per their religion. Atheists, agnostics and freethinkers may need to think how to proceed for theirs)
  • Is there anyone to arrange for your funeral? Who can take over this task?

All through our lives, we make countless decisions. Shouldn’t we also make our own decisions for our last leg of life? Technically we are dead (in body and/or mind). Yet ironically this is the most living decision we could ever make to love ourselves and our loved ones. We are no more, but death cannot destroy that love.

Useful websites for more information:

St. Joseph Dying Aid Association

Just citing an example for you to consider finding out from your religion. I’m Catholic and I have registered a lifetime membership with them. I took the opportunity when my grandmother passed away and her ashes were temporarily situated there. Although it is not a must for Catholics to do so, since I’m single, I figured it would be best this way to take the headache of planning from my parents’, brother’s hands or in case no one else is around (Well you never know!)

Plan #3: Estate Planning Is For You and Me

Happy Family

Are you spar from death?

No.

Since whether we are rich or poor, young or old, single or married, regardless of nationality, race, religion and language, we have to die one day.

So estate planning is for everyone. Basically this is to ensure anyone, who you want to be provided for after your death, will be provided for. Will writing is part of estate planning and if you have a child with special needs, a trust could be required. Insurance also belongs in estate planning.

Sometimes we have to remember if we say ‘no’ (or take no action) to plan, we are also indirectly setting the wheels in motion to say ‘yes’ to possible undesirable outcomes, such as:

Family members fighting against one another to own a piece of what you have
The family you left behind cannot get your money immediately in scenarios e.g. bank account under a single name instead of joint names
People, who you want to be provided for, are not provided for

More information on estate planning can be found at The IFA on Duty, a blog maintained by Wilfred Ling

Please also consult your financial advisor with estate planning knowledge for assistance.

What else do you think should be in the plan? Share your thoughts below!