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Updating the Death Beneficiary form

SHARE   |   Tuesday, 10 July 2018   |   By Isang Lekhutlile


Go swa motho, go sale motho” – these were the words of one of the speakers at my distant cousin’s funeral. Thousand questions rocked my mind. The main question being – “what legacy am I leaving behind”? Have I prepared enough and updated my death benefits nominees? When last did I review my nominees? Really! What am I leaving behind? Who is going to be the beneficiary? Death is a scary topic to most of us yet it is an inescapable reality that simply we not prepared to converse about. It is never easy to imagine and let alone contemplate the end of your life; death. But the reality is we are all born to die.


In my Setalaote, it is a taboo and forbidden to discuss this sensitive topic. Likewise, you cannot casually wake up and pose an awkward question to your parents whether they have reviewed and revised benefit nominees post their demise. It is unforgivable to initiate a discussion on inheritance when a person is not showing any sign of kicking a bucket. Recently, I coincidently stumbled upon some writers who were pensively pondering on their final days of their lives on earth. I have learnt and appreciated death through the eyes of one man and this man is none other than Steve Jobs – one of the greatest and renowned inventors and entrepreneurs of the 21st century.

This man once said, “Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important”. He thought, "I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In others’ eyes, my life is an epitome of success. However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to. At this moment, lying on the sick bed and recalling my whole life, I realise that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in, have paled and become meaningless in the face of impending death. In the darkness, I look at the green lights from the life supporting machines and hear the humming mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of God and of death drawing closer … Now I know, when we have accumulated sufficient wealth to last our lifetime, we should pursue other matters that are unrelated to wealth…," explained Jobs.


Death is acceptable for some people, while others fear death (Nagel, 1970). The past Sunday at my church, my pastor elaborately explained in his teaching on the subject of death and as he delved deeper in his frightening and at the same time insightful sermon, thoughts about my life gripped me. The sermon mainly focused on counting our blessings and appreciating ourselves regardless of the little you have. My pastor emphasized that we should treasure life and always remember to count our blessings and give thanks for our lives. We should be thankful for Jesus Christ who is everything.

At the end of the same service, the same question I had at my cousin’s funeral resurfaced again. God blessed me with a job therefore when should I start reviewing my death benefits forms? We all know that death is a natural sequel of life. I concluded that death is unavoidable, whether I like it or not. Therefore we need to plan for it at the same time equally enjoying our lives.  Even the holy book talks about planning as the key element of our life. The book of Luke 14:28 | NIV says “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? Why would you wait to die and give an unknown person determine and distribute my death package?” In short, that’s what this verse says.


We need to acknowledge that circumstances for individuals change almost anytime. I have witnessed most of my peers moving from M-0 to M+1 or even M+ 2 within 12 months. M+1 (having a child in my Tswa-English), is the common and in thing now days. Kids are born at an alarming rate and most of the young or old parents hardly ever update their death benefits nominees. Others opt to get a decree of divorce and still life has to move on. It is critically important to also change or amend the benefits nominees to mirror changes or developments in your life. Allocating death benefits amongst beneficiaries is as key as drafting a will. There is a Sotho song that goes like ; Lefu lao la mpedisa”…..these are the death benefits pay-out. I will rather do my benefit allocation than wait till death and forfeit that right to a certain trustee to execute it on my behalf.

According to M-W dictionary, a death benefit is a payment to the beneficiary on an annuity, pension, or life insurance policy upon the death of the annuitant or policyholder. Death benefits are the way in which annuities and life insurance policies compensate those close to or dependent upon the deceased policyholder for the costs associated with death (e.g. funeral expenses) and potential loss of income. A death benefit may come in the form of a one-time payment on a life insurance policy or in a series of income payments that are a percentage of those granted to the annuitant prior to death. In concluding this write up; the time is now to make this right. Time waits for nobody. Update your nominees including ditched children from previous relationships. After all, there are still your biological children that need to be loved and taken care of. 

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