‘It won’t happen to me’ is an optimism bias that most of us have been guilty of at some stage. However, as our country experiences rapid growth in the spread of the Coronavirus and its first recorded deaths, some of us may not be feeling that optimistic anymore. The reality is that no one is safe from contracting the virus and all of us have a duty to ensure that our finances are ready in case of a healthcare emergency. Here’s what you should consider:
Ensure that you carry your personal details with you at all times, including your ID number, the contact details for your next of kin, and your medical aid number. If you are an organ or blood donor, it is always a good idea to carry those cards in your or wallet as they provide vital information, such as your blood type, in the event of a medical emergency.
Medical aid information
Besides for your medical aid number, make sure your loved ones and healthcare practitioners know what medical aid plan you are on as this can impact which hospital you are transported to in an emergency. Preferably, let your family and close friends know the details of your general practitioner or specialist, together with their contact numbers, in the event that you suffer from a chronic condition or disease. If you have any allergies or serious medical conditions, be sure to wear a Medic Alert tag or bracelet.
Bank account details
If you are rushed to hospital for a medical emergency, give careful thought as to who would manage your finances while you are in hospital. Does your spouse or partner have access to your bank account login details? Where are your OTPs sent to when transacting online? Does your partner know your ATM PIN codes if she needs to draw money from your account? Make sure you provide your spouse or partner with this essential information so that she is able to continue managing your finances if you are hospitalised for a period of time. If you live on your own, consider entrusting a close friend with your banking details in case of emergency.
If you are a single parent, ensure that you have put plans in place for the care of your minor children. Consider a situation where you need to be hospitalised immediately, and then put mechanisms in place to ensure that your support system will be fully operational in such a scenario. In the case of a Covid-19 infection, bear in mind that your children will not be permitted to accompany you to hospital and will need to be cared for by a family member or close friend.
Communication with loved ones
Should you be rushed to hospital, consider which family members and friends you would want communicated with and by whom. Appoint someone to be your official ‘spokesperson’ should you be hospitalised and provide them with a list of key contacts you would like to keep informed.
Payment of accounts
In the event of a long period of hospitalisation, you would need to appoint someone to pay your accounts and ensure that your household can continue functioning in your absence. Bills will need to be paid, rent or home loan payments must happen, domestic worker wages must be paid, and so on. While some of your payments may be automated via debit order, there are likely to be some bills that need to be paid manually. As an aside, check your online banking account to ensure that all beneficiaries are correctly identified and loaded. You may also want to consider changing your OTP settings so that the person you nominate to manage your accounts can receive the OTP directly.
Access to cash
Now is a good time to ensure that your emergency funding is immediately accessible and that your loved ones can access it quickly and with minimal red tape. You want to avoid them having to go into a bank or financial institution at this time, so consider moving some of your emergency money into a bank account for easy withdrawal.
Care of pets
If you live alone it is important to make plans for the care of your pets in the event of hospitalisation. You might want to consider giving a neighbour a set of house keys so that they can continue feeding and caring for your pets while you are away. Alternatively, make arrangements for your pets to be re-homed or kennelled in your absence. Ideally, put one person in charge of your pets in the case of a medical emergency so there is no confusion about what should happen.
If you have a Living Will in place, be sure to communicate it to your loved ones. In the event of a healthcare emergency, your loved ones are likely to be traumatised, highly emotional and unable to think clearly. A Living Will gives guidance to your loved ones and medical practitioners as to how you would like to be cared for if you are unable to communicate your wishes.
Location of your will
Let your partner, spouse and/or family members know where your Will is located. At the same time, check through your filing system to ensure that no old Wills exist. If you find any, be sure to tear them up immediately.
Specifically for those people living alone, be sure to provide a trusted family member or friend with information such as the alarm and security codes to your property, passwords to your safe, and the location of important keys and remotes.
A Digital Will is an informal document that sets out the usernames, passwords and login details to your online life. It can include your social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, online subscriptions, online shopping sites, gaming sites, and even chat rooms that you frequent. Ideally, provide your partner, family member or friend with a complete list of the online platforms you subscribe to, your login codes and passwords, as well as instructions as to how they should manage these sites in your absence.
Power of attorney
It is definitely worth considering giving someone signing power over your financial and business affairs in the event that you fall ill and are hospitalised. A power of attorney is a legal document which allows you (the principal) to appoint another person (the agent) to transact, sign and contract on your behalf if you are physically incapacitated.
Life and/or funeral cover
If you have life cover or a funeral policy in place, be sure to let your loved ones know about it. Take time to check that your life cover premiums are up-to-date and that your beneficiaries are correctly nominated. Bear in mind that in the event of your death, the proceeds of your life policy will be paid directly to your nominated beneficiaries. On the other hand, if you have not appointed any beneficiaries, the proceeds will be paid into your estate and will be subject to the winding up process.
As the saying goes, ‘It won’t happen to me, until it does’. Be prepared.