LET'S TALK ABOUT IT

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KAY, COPYWRITER

I DON’T WANT TO DIE AND LEAVE A FINANCIAL MESS FOR MY KIDS TO SORT OUT, LIKE MY MUM DID

Growing up my sisters and I were taught not to live beyond our means. Credit was not a thing in our house: if you didn’t have the money, you went without. But budgeting was simpler in those days: my dad was paid in cash every week, for a start.

When my parents divorced and remarried, it coincided with financial change generally. Mum got a good full-time job for the first time as she no longer had kids to look after and took out a mortgage with her new husband.

They moved twice in a short space of time, and it was expensive. I got married shortly after and in quick succession my sisters did the same – and mum wanted to contribute to the weddings. 

 

Mum was very generous with the grandchildren and we often wondered where the money came from. She was still working when she died quite suddenly at 65 – and then the nightmare of trying to sort out her financial affairs started. 

 

There was no will and no money for the funeral. Our stepfather knew nothing about money and was suddenly receiving final demands. He wasn’t well either and now he was sick, grieving and facing mounting debts. So my sister took over. She started opening the envelopes stuffed into drawers and was gobsmacked to discover loans and credit cards amounting to £30,000. There was a worry bailiffs would turn up.

 

With young children to look after, a job to hold down, and raw with grief, my sister started to work through the correspondence. Some debt was written off once a death certificate was produced, but loans in joint names had to be paid. The life insurance documents couldn’t be found, and some creditors asked my sister if she had the funds to cover the debts: she absolutely didn’t. On top of processing our mum’s death, she had to deal with demanding debt recovery departments, a weeping step dad calling daily, begging for help, and her own affairs. Her marriage hit the rocks and she couldn’t sleep.

 

I feel guilty not offering to help but once she’d started the process it was too complicated to hand over. Eventually the house was sold and everyone was paid off, but my mum’s death taught us all some important life lessons. Don’t bury your head in the sand; be honest about your situation and seek financial advice, if necessary. File paperwork and don’t leave a mess for your kids or loved ones to deal with. Because you never know what’s around the corner.