Sunday, 23 November 2008

IN MEMORIAM

Our elderly guinea pig died this week. Both Outdoor and Apprentice Men dug a hole at the bottom of the garden this weekend, so that we could bury him today. In the meantime Fuzzball, as he was known, has been lying in state in the garage, inside a shoebox lined with lace. Outdoor Man hadn’t wanted to dig the grave during the week, when the only times would have been before or after work. He was concerned lest, as the husband of a divorce lawyer, the neighbours might suspect the worst. “After all, they hardly expect we’d divorce like everyone else,” he explained. “As soon as I start digging a hole in the dark, they’ll be round here quizzing me about your health and safety!” Yes my husband does have a macabre sense of humour, but just in case there is any truth in the theory, maybe I’d better make a mental note to check on absent colleagues in future.

The trouble with death is that whilst we know it will happen one day, we never know when. That’s why I advise clients to make or change their wills as soon as possible. Whilst divorcing couples don’t necessarily make a habit of dying before completing the process it’s always prudent to have paperwork in order.

Once upon a time I received a letter from a client whose divorce I had just concluded, telling me that she intended to contact our wills department as I’d originally advised and in the meantime had been in touch with her pension scheme managers to nominate payment of her death in service benefit and had given them my firm’s contact details. A couple of years later I heard from the same scheme managers asking for my bank details as the client had died unexpectedly and wanted me to receive her death in service lump sum benefit valued at three times her annual salary. Obviously there had to be a mistake; no matter how good a job I had done for her, I did not believe that I could have been the intended beneficiary. Despite the letter that the client had written to me, there was no will and I extracted my old file to re-read the correspondence. It had clearly been the client’s intention for her two children to benefit and she also believed that she had done no more than pass my firm’s contact details to her pension administrator. Fortunately we were able to sort this, but how much easier if the paperwork had been in order.

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