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NOT too long ago, I received a “Friend Request” on Facebook from a dear friend who’d passed away a few years ago. I was shocked and very concerned at the thought that her identity had been stolen and used by people who were up to no good.

I’d been friends with her personally as well as on Facebook, but I “unfriended” her a year after her passing. That’s why I was shocked when I received the friend request.

The first thing I did was to contact her family to alert them of this. Next, I checked on FB to find out what was going on. I discovered that FB now knows how to handle this. To prevent something like this from happening to you, go to General Account Settings and “manage your account” by choosing your Legacy Contract to choose someone to look after your account after you pass away so that friends can pay tributes as your account is “memorialised”, or to just shut it down.

This got me thinking about what and how I’d like my affairs to be handled after I’m gone. We’ve heard too many stories of family and friends who’ve died and left the living to sort out their matters.

DEATH PLANNING

Dealing with your Facebook account is just one aspect of “death planning” that we should all consider, whether it’s for ourselves or for our loved ones. Take some time to reflect and note down everything that makes us the total sum of the person everyone knows — and more. That includes instructions of what to do with your private and personal belongings, funeral preparations and preferences, and even your own obituary.

Some people might think this is so macabre, but let’s face it – none of us are coming out of this alive. So rather than let our loved ones scramble to discover who we were and what we owned, it might be a good idea to put our things in order.

You may think that you have nothing to plan for because as far as you’re concerned, you don’t own anything significant other than a car. You’d be surprised. I spoke to several financial planners and they all suggested that we list down everything that has our name on it, starting with everything on the Internet like social media, online banking, and other accounts like discount cards, shopping cards and so on – all the things that required us to create an account and password.

Next are your bank accounts, properties (sole or joint ownership), vehicles, company directorships, club memberships, loans, debts, phone numbers and partnerships. It’s also a good idea to list down or do a photo catalogue of precious items like jewellery and watches. Tag the photos of the items and whom you’d want to inherit them.

Are you a guarantor for anyone? Have you named your beneficiaries for your accounts and investments like EPF, ASB, Tabung Haji and insurance policies? Make a list of all the policies you’ve taken and what they are.

Remember why you invested in these things. After all, they’re for the benefit of your loved ones. But if your loved ones don’t know these policies exist, they won’t be able to claim and the monies would to go to the government under “unclaimed funds”.

NEVER TOO EARLY TO PLAN

Planning for all this isn’t about how much or how little you have. It’s about being able to provide for your family when you’re no longer around. It’s hard enough to mourn the loss of a loved one. It’s tragic when they don’t have access to that regular income to continue with their daily lives.

Did you know that all your assets and bank accounts are frozen upon death? As soon as you report it to the authorities, anything listed in the deceased’s name would be frozen until your lawyer help you sort it out. Hence the importance of a legal administrator that should be appointed before death.

I can’t help but remember a dear friend who asked me to be a witness to her will. She was much older than me and wasn’t well. However, she lived life with gusto and would, out of the blue, turn up on my doorstep to do something impromptu. One time she asked me to accompany her to see her lawyer. The first time I acted as her witness, I was quite bewildered. I wasn’t sure why she chose me instead of her family members and distinguished friends.

A year later, she did the same and said she wanted to change her will because someone fell out of her favour. She did this a few more times as the years went by until she finally passed away more than 10 years after we started this entire exercise.

Bless her for showing me that it’s never too early to plan. It gave her a certain sense of control and peace of mind until the inevitable came. The same could be true for us too.

Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang. She can be reached at [email protected].

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