IN my previous blog; Diaspora Death: Are You Covered?
I sought to confront consequences of failure to plan for one’s end of
life expenses due to a notional fib that death is a taboo subject. I
cited Mohammed Ali’s big send-off in making the point that a funeral is
not just about getting rid of the human remains; it’s more about giving
the deceased a dignified send-off, giving your survived loved ones a
closure, and a chance to celebrate your life.
As promised, in this follow-up article I am going to tackle head-on the common excuses that people always come up with but unfortunately end up in trouble because they did not plan for their final expenses. Before I do that allow me to define what I would call diaspora death. To me diaspora death is either a Diasporan dying abroad or a Diasporan losing a close relative back home. Both scenarios present some serious financial challenges. Diaspora death in most situations means two funeral vigils back home and in the diaspora country, family travel costs, body repatriation, delayed burial and host of related funeral bills. When one plans for diaspora death it is imperative that you cover not just yourself but your loved ones as well, budget permitting. For peace of mind comes from not just covering oneself but your loved ones as well.
I want to challenge everyone reading this piece to identify which excuse/s you are victim to and be bold enough to say no-more for your sake and of course your loved ones’. We are all victims sometimes but at least do something about it whilst you can.
Ostrich syndrome: this is by far the biggest reason why people don’t have cover. It’s not an excuse per se; its denial and refusal to confront uncomfortable facts. Talk of burying one’s head in the sand. This is when you view death as a taboo subject and live in the hope that by doing nothing death registry will skip your name when your turn comes. Forget it, just get covered.
I am already covered: true, sometimes people have some form of cover but what they may miss is the fundamental question/s; Is the cover correct and adequate for purpose? Case in point is when one assumes that their life cover is good enough to deal with their end of life expenses. Sometimes we consistently lie to ourselves about being covered to a point where we believe our own lie and negate to check and put right the lie. If you have some form of cover make sure it is correct and adequate for the purpose in this case final expenses. Does your cover pay-out immediately on death to cover funeral expenses? Is your cover geographical or a worldwide protection without borders? Does your cover expire or it’s a cover for life with a guaranteed pay-out on death? If you don’t have a cover stop living a lie and just get covered otherwise you end up on GoFundMe.
Life Cover misconception: there is a big misconception that a standard life cover will pay for funeral expenses. There are different forms of life covers but they are generally medically underwritten both on application and on claim because of the level of exposure the insurer is taking. The process of medical underwriting on claim means that the outcome of a claim is not guaranteed as it entails obtaining medical reports and records before a claim is approved. There are therefore three likely outcomes to a life insurance claim namely; approval, partial pay-out or outright rejection (refund of premiums paid). The claim process potentially takes months. The other key thing with life cover proceeds is that they form part of the deceased estate and subject to the probate process unless written in trust. Your life cover is therefore not the best cover for end of life expenses which kick in immediately someone is confirmed dead. Life cover is specifically good for long-term income replacement, debt redemption and inheritance tax planning. The other key point to remember is that unless your life cover is what is called whole of life cover there is always a chance that you could outlive it. Unfortunately, whole of life cover is prohibitively expensive as the insurer carries a guaranteed pay-out liability. If your life cover is for a given period, say 25 years, always ask yourself what would happen if you were to survive the 25 years. There is nothing wrong with life cover but do not assume that it will pay for your final expenses because if you are blessed with a long life your life cover may long be expired by the time you die. Besides a life cover claim may never be settled in time for the funeral. A funeral cash plan is not a substitute to your life cover, they are complimentary covers.
Procrastination: this is when you put off or delay doing something requiring immediate attention out of habitual carelessness or laziness. You know you need cover but for some reason you just don’t get to do it. This worsens when you feel vindicated that I delayed without consequences. Unfortunately the day you would reap the pain of procrastinations it would be too late to take corrective measures.
Ndimanikidzei ndinodya / Lingihlukumeze ngizakudla: Once upon a time and during a drought year in Zimbabwe, an old man on a long foot journey passed through a certain homestead. He was literally dying of hunger and his heavens smiled at him to find people at the homestead just washing their hands ready to eat. Not too keen to offer their scarcely put together meal the people had little choice than to offer the old man to join them. Culturally it does not look right to accept immediately so the old man said he was ok and of course expecting to be ‘forced’ to eat. But this was a drought year and the people couldn’t believe their luck when the old man turned down the offer so they immediately got on with it. Realising the food was fast disappearing and not sign of a second or third offer, the old man had no choice but to politely whisper ‘Ndimanikidzei ndinodya’ / ‘Lingihlukumeze ngizakudla’. Literally begging ‘force me I will eat’. Hand in glove with procrastination is an endemic culture of wanting to be forced or chased by cover providers to do what you know you have to do. It’s your cover, you should chase cover providers to help you get covered.
Death happens next door: there is this tendency where some people behave as if they have got licence to pay others condolences. To them death happens next door. What they forget is that to God one day next door will be their door. Every time you pay condolences or see people on GoFundMe ask yourself what would have been if it was yourself gone.
My employer provides: the key thing to remember here is that your employer benefits are as good as your employment goes and in most cases they cease the day your employment ceases. Also in the afternoons of your life, will you still be employed and enjoying the same benefits? Take personal responsibility and let your employer benefits be additional.
I am still young: Yes, but that is as far as balance of probability goes. Unfortunately death doesn’t always seem to care about age nor does it apply first in first out rule.
I have got the money: Yes, but its important to remember that on death the deceased's money becomes part of the deceased estate and subject to the probate process. If you got the money please make sure your survived loved ones can access the money to cover your funeral expenses.The State will take care: even in developed countries it is not the responsibility of the state to take care of your funeral expenses. The surest way to guarantee oneself of a free funeral is to have a paupers’ burial. Even in developed countries it is not the state's responsibility to pay for one's final expenses.
Longevity is part of family gene; even if your grandparents lived to over hundred it’s no guarantee that you will live as long. Besides, living longer does not qualify you for free burial. One time a prospective client in their early forties said to me “…I already know my nursing home mate…” As fate would have it, s/he was gone less than nine months later. Expectedly, s/he had no cover and it took over 3 weeks of ‘mudemhe-mudembe / izandhla’ to raise enough funds to repatriate the body to Zim.
I am a member of a burial society; fair enough but consider the long-term sustainability of the cover. Do you see it spanning generations? Is the cover enough? Are you in control of your fate or relying on reciprocity that may never happen? What are the collapse risks that your burial society faces?
I have supportive family and friends; remember when you are gone you will never wake up to ask your very supportive family and friends why your name is on GoFundMe. You may end up stuck in a mortuary for weeks if not months because death has the knack of shocking people at the most unguarded moment and comes when your supportive family are least prepared.
It’s too expensive: this is a very subjective conclusion or call it excuse for better term. One day I was advising a couple and the wife could not wait a second long to get covered but the partner was dithering saying its expensive and I could hear the wife having a go at the husband “… but every time we go to a supermarket you buy a bottle of whisky much more expensive than the premium for your US$10, 000 cover so how is it expensive?..”. Just think how much you spend on a single visit to restaurants like Nandos, how much you pay to get into a gig not to mention how much you spend on drinks during the show. Sometimes things look expensive because of misplaced values.The Insurer may not pay: this a good excuse because it lives the proponent exonerated. It’s like I would have taken if it wasn’t for the fear of being short-changed. Check if the insurer has passed the test of time, what is the reputation in terms of claims settlement, what is the insurance group’s international rating? I for one have life cover with leading UK insurers like Royal London, American Life but over and above that I also have Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan cover for my whole family. Before I took my Diaspora Funeral Cash Plan cover I researched and was happy with the underwriters. For Zimbabwe, the cover is underwritten by Zimnat Life who are a subsidiary of Sanlam Life who are rated AA+ by likes of Fitch Ratings. In Zambia, the cover is underwritten by a leading insurer, Mlife and for both markets the cover is permanently denominated as a US$ cash plan and worldwide protection without borders.
Whatever excuse/s you may have just make sure you are covered. If you are already covered make sure it’s correct and adequate for the purpose intended. My next write up I will elaborately dwell on the type of covers that you may or may not have and challenge their correctness and adequacy for intended cover purpose focusing on diaspora death.