Nobody likes planning for their death, but if we don’t do it, we risk leaving our loved ones with a terrible mess that they will have to deal with in the midst of their worst heartache. Almost everyone has a family story about a trauma, disruption or feud that destroyed cohesiveness after a family member died.
If your wishes are not crystal-clear to your survivors, and if the intricate details that they need to lay you to rest, sort out your stuff and resolve your estate are painfully hard to find and organise, your passing may well have unintended but long-lasting impacts on your loved ones.
It’s not just the fights about who gets the family jewels which are potentially devastating. There’s the older sibling who insists you told him that you wanted to be buried when everyone else believes you wanted to be cremated. There’s the aunt, beloved by you as a child, who surreptitiously collects your ashes from the crematorium and never agrees to the scattering of your ashes. There are your grown-up children who discover your secrets when they sort out your desk drawers.
One day, you will die, and leave the flotsam and jetsam of your life scattered on the shores of your loved ones. It’s true this won’t matter to you, but it will be a big deal for them. This is why planning for, and properly organising for your passing goes beyond a responsibility – it’s an ultimate act of self-less love and kindness towards your nearest and dearest that none of us should shy away from.
A Last Will is not enough
Rachelle Best, CEO and founder of Heritage Vault, a web-based estate planning tool, says: “You may think that because you have a Will and a couple of policies that you have done all that you need to do. You may think that because you have sorted out a guardian for your minor children and filed a few papers in the ‘In Case of Emergency’ binder, you’ve handled everything. This is not sufficient, especially in these times when such a large part of our lives plays out also in digital spaces.”
A ‘first’ in South Africa, Heritage Vault is a digital solution that enables users to store all their important estate information securely and make it easily accessible to your appointed confidantes in the event that they may die or become incapacitated. Everything an executor or nominated loved ones may need will be safe in one place and organised in 13 different, easy to find categories of data.
The private, encrypted digital vault, which has bank-level security, organises and holds all relevant data, from basic personal information to contacts and passwords, from ownership and assets documentation to all the details of financial and consumer accounts, as well as a copy of a Last Will and Testament and Living Will.
“You share access to your vault with a time-release mechanism that you control and configure,” says Best. “Your vault has special features such as distinct Clean-up Squad lockbox that enables you to instruct a nominated confidant on how to deal with any sensitive belongings, photos, videos, or documents that you want disposed of with utmost discretion. Every aspect of estate planning is covered, but there’s also a lot more.”
The process of populating the Heritage Vault, which you can do in one’s own time, guides the usrr intuitively through every aspect of comprehensively planning, including leaving instructions for what happens to pets, what should be done with social media accounts and where to find the keys to storage units. A repository called ‘For My People’ empowers one to write private and personal messages to loved ones that will be valuable to them in the event of one’s passing.
Heritage Vault offers a subscription service on either a monthly, $3.50, or annual, $25 basis for one vault, with 250MB of cloud space that can be expanded if necessary. Each user can appoint unlimited confidantes to manage their vault in the event of incapacitation and death. Every new user gets a 30-day trial with no obligation and no credit card details needed. Users are encouraged to regard their Heritage Vault as a living database that they update and revise as details change and as they reach different life-stages.