Spring is here and many of us will be reaching to the top of our cupboards, bringing down the summer gear, packing away the mandatory puffer jacket and dusting off our flip-flops. Something we do with gusto on an annual basis. “While you’re at it,” says PJ Veldhuizen, managing director of specialist commercial law firm Gillan and Veldhuizen Inc, “get stuck into your personal estate document file and make sure that your administrative side of life gets a spring-clean too.”
Veldhuizen says that all too often he deals with matters that could have been avoided if the parties had regularly reviewed personal documentation. “Our circumstances, assets and status can change significantly from one year to the next,” he explains, “It is extremely important to have an annual meeting with yourself and review and re-work the administration on your personal estate and adjust the supporting documentation where needed.”
Terms and conditions, legislation and administrative changes occur across the financial, insurance and legal industries at an ongoing pace, therefore making sure you are up to speed can, save you money and protect you from future complications. Veldhuizen says you should revisit and review documents, policies and contracts conscientiously.
Your will is a living document and probably the most important one to revisit. Make sure your executor is still the correct person to appoint, review your wishes and in the light of changed circumstances, make sure your assets are all accounted for. “In fact, stresses Veldhuizen, “Don’t mess around and attempt a do-it-yourself version, consult an attorney or a professional succession planner and make sure you have a binding, legal document setting out your wishes upon death.”
If you have a trust set up, you’re going to need to assess your appointed trustees – make sure that that your beneficiaries are correct and that the assets are being managed correctly, along with ensuring that the trust is compliant. New Trust Property Control Act regulations for instance, demand disclosing beneficial owners. “While this isn’t new, the rules mandate consistent updates in a specified format for any beneficiary personal detail changes in an aim to thwart financial crimes like money laundering and terrorist financing,” explains Veldhuizen.
Your life insurance
Arguably the most neglected of all documentation is that of life insurance policies. Often taken out when you have a child or enter the adult world, a life insurance policy is very necessary at a certain stage in your life, but can be a burden. “Perhaps your children are grown up, out of the house and self-sufficient and a life-policy is no longer the best option, says Veldhuizen. It’s possible that better use can be made of the monthly premium in an investment of some sort.”
Your short-term insurance policies
Your insurer or broker should be facilitating an annual review to ascertain your position, however Veldhuizen says that’s often not sufficient. “Simply accepting an annual review would be imprudent, he advises, “The insurance industry is competitive by nature and a careful review and shop-around can save you many a penny on your monthly premium. Ignoring your annual review is reckless he continues, “We have often seen clients insuring assets that are no longer owned by them for years, it happens easily!”
Your medical aid
Are you getting the most benefit out of your medical aid? Should you upgrade or downgrade your policy? Check your dependants and ask your medical aid for a policy review. It’s likely they can offer better premiums or have developed new products that might suit your needs better.
Your bank account
Check your bank account and comb through your debit orders and subscriptions – you might be surprised how many unnoticed payments are automatically going off your account. Scrutinise your bank fees and charges and investigate if there are cost-effective alternatives. Do the maths on interest charged and how the debit order dates affect any contract payments to which you might be bound.
The more you consider the consequences of ignoring your paperwork, procrastination may be more than a thief of time. And anyway, a fresh, spring day of admin always leaves you with a feeling of accomplishment.