Death as a part of life: Provision and coverage for the event of death

Close-up of a red rose on a gray marble tombstone.

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Death is part of life. But few people actually address the issue of death; it tends to be suppressed. It is possible to arrange everything in case of an emergency and to plan one's own last hours or days in such a way that they meet one's own requirements. This article explains how this can be done.

Close-up of a red rose on a gray marble tombstone.

/ Pictures4you

Create documents for precaution

A large proportion of people wish that one day they would fall asleep in their armchair, on the sofa or in bed and never wake up. To sleep through one's own death, so to speak, is a comforting idea, because the dread of the last moments would not be perceived in this way.

In reality, however, only a few people have this good fortune. Those who want to make provisions for their own death should do so for good reasons throughout their lives and draw up legally binding documents. Two of the most important documents are the health care proxy and the living will:

Health care proxy and advance care directive

This does not mean guardianship as determined by a judge. Many people already have a health care proxy. For example, if a parent goes into a nursing home and the child takes care of the apartment liquidation and finances, a health care power of attorney is issued for these purposes.

Usually it falls into the hands of the next of kin, but third parties can also be chosen for it. The health care proxy can be drawn up by anyone throughout their life. In the document, one or more persons are designated to regulate certain parts of the person's life. However, there are clear restrictions:

  • Validity: this power of attorney ends with the last breath, from that moment the estate passes to the heirs.
  • Limitation: Within the financial framework, the power of disposal is clearly limited. Income and savings must first be used for the costs of institutional care or nursing care. If state aid has to be claimed, prior withdrawals must be proven.
  • Power of disposal: The care directive does not give a person general power of disposal over the person to be cared for. In this respect, the power of attorney for guardianship differs fundamentally from an appointed guardianship, in which decisions can also be made about accommodation or assets in full, but always in favor of the person being guarded. A private power of attorney for guardianship does not, for example, authorize the person in charge to sell a house or a company. Official legal bodies are again required for this.

There are many rumors surrounding the issue of a care directive. Basically, however, it serves even at a young age to ensure, for example, after an accident with a longer hospital stay, that person X is allowed to enter the house, open the mail or even pay bills on behalf of the "cared for" person.

Parents can, for example, use such a care power of attorney to stipulate that the best friend will look after the child for a limited time in the event of an accident. Others can stipulate that person Y may take care of the animals in the name of the cared-for person and present them to a veterinarian on behalf of the cared-for person.

The simplest form of power of attorney for care is the so-called emergency power of attorney. For people without direct relatives, this power of attorney authorizes a friend not only to be informed first in an emergency, but also to take the clothes to the hospital - and to be informed about the condition.

Close-up of a living will form with a blue ballpoint pen.

/ Stockfotos-MG

Living will

It is incredibly important at any age. In the case of a living will it is important to be thoroughly selfish and not to listen purely to the wishes and ideas of relatives. For this reason, these advance directives should always be filled out thoughtfully, carefully and together with a physician. The living will regulates the will of the person concerned:

  • Life-sustaining measures: Should these be taken and to what degree? This can be clearly defined. For example, someone who accepts an artificial coma if it is medically apparent that the quality of life can be restored to a large extent mentions this in the living will. At the same time, he or she can exclude the possibility of such measures being taken if later life would be marked by massive brain damage.
  • Definition: A good living will clarifies the definition of disability. For example, amputation of a limb or blindness caused by an accident would be accepted, but not paraplegia, which would require permanent all-around care. Everyone can determine the definition for themselves.
  • Binding: a living will should always be carried in one copy, but in addition should be securely filed with home records or even with a notary. The living will is binding. Therefore, it is important to issue it early and check it every few years. One's own views often change, and medicine also continues to develop.

A living will, but also a power of attorney for care, should always be drawn up at a time when the mental capacity of the person concerned is still fully available.

Apart from these two documents, there are other points that need to be clarified:

  • Organ donation: Is an organ donor card available? This should be mentioned in the living will.
  • Documents: Important documents such as identity cards, insurance cards and birth and marriage certificates should be stored safely, as should insurance policies and bank records. Selected persons should know exactly where these documents are located.

By the way, it does not matter at first whether relatives or friends know about the storage location. The people a person trusts most, those who are informed first, should know where such documents can be found.

The identity card, the insurance card and an organ donor card are usually carried in the wallet anyway. The living will can sometimes also be additionally stored in the smartphone with the emergency contacts. Emergency paramedics and medical professionals are trained to look in the smartphone for appropriate documents.

Protecting the family

Many changes have taken place in recent years in the area of death insurance. It is now possible to plan your own funeral down to the last detail. The so-called funeral planning contract refers to the following points:

  • Institute: the person visits the funeral director of his choice, discusses with him all the formalities and plans the funeral. Wishes such as cremation, an anonymous grave or the purchase of a crypt are contractually regulated and recorded.
  • Content: The contract of provision can ultimately cover the entire funeral services down to the last detail. Proverbially, a living person already chooses his coffin, discusses the flower arrangement, the gravestone or the course of the funeral service. But it is also possible to plan completely anonymous funerals.
  • Cost: There are two options. Alternatively, the funeral is now paid for while you are still alive, for which the costs are paid into a trust account. Alternatively, death benefit insurance is deposited with the funeral director to cover the costs. It is important to work only with trust accounts when paying money, to ensure that the money will still be there in perhaps thirty years.
  • Important: Family or even a trusted person needs to know about the funeral plan. A copy of the documents belongs in the personal files. In the event of death, the funeral director is contacted and performs the pre-planned funeral.

This solution is of particular interest to people whose relatives live far away or who fear that their own wishes will not be considered. In general, however, the funeral arrangement takes the burden off the shoulders of the relatives, as they do not have to worry about the formalities during their mourning.

A woman and a man are having a consultation with a male consultant who is looking something up on the computer.

/ auremar

Those who do not wish to do so can, of course, still make provisions and relieve their family of the burden of bereavement. The focus here is on the financial aspects of the death. Depending on the type of funeral, the region and the choice of cemetery, well over 5,000 euros, usually considerably more, can be placed on the shoulders of the next of kin. Some options include the following:

  • Trust account: Anyone can set up a trust account and define it with a fixed purpose. For example, the trust account can hold the money for the funeral, but it is not touchable until the death certificate is presented.
  • Earmarked savings account: Savings accounts can also be set up in this way. It is important to agree with the bank on access. An ordinary savings book will not suffice, as access is blocked upon death until a certificate of inheritance can be presented. This takes several weeks. The earmarking combined with the clear benefit for funeral expenses cancels this out: The bank may disburse the money to the funeral director - only to the funeral director - upon presentation of the death certificate and the funeral director's invoice.
  • Bank power of attorney: It is not recommended unless there is a partner and the account is shared anyway. The power of disposal over bank accounts is blocked as soon as the bank learns of the account holder's death. This option is particularly dangerous for testators with several surviving dependents - and heirs: If a dispute arises, the mere certificate of inheritance is not sufficient.
  • Term life insurance: Withterm life insurance, it is possible to appoint a fixed person to receive the money after the death of the policyholder. The person does not necessarily have to be a family member.
  • Death benefit insurance: Those who inform themselves thoroughly in advanceDeath benefit insurance provides another option for covering at least the funeral costs in the event of one's own death. The insurance can still be taken out at an older age. But the earlier this is the case, the lower the premiums. The policyholder determines the duration of the payment. How high the sum insured should be depends on personal wishes for one's own funeral and the resulting costs.
  • Policies are limited to a fixed sum and settle exclusively with the funeral director when he or she presents the insured's death certificate. Surplus funds are paid out to heirs or, if specified by the deceased, used for grave maintenance.

Coverage for minor survivors is a bit problematic. For example, a family man may place his term life insurance policy on his three-year-old daughter, but she will not have access to the money herself until she is of age. Thus, a trusted person is needed to act as trustee.

Particularly in wealthy and quarreling families, it is common in this case for a legal advisor to be appointed as asset manager in advance. He or she makes sure that the minor children do not lack anything and ensures that the family's assets are used wisely.

Settling the estate

Even those people who own very little want their assets - or possessions - to go into good hands. With regard to the estate, the first thing that applies in Germany is the law of succession. This cannot necessarily be completely undermined, even with a will. The right to a compulsory portion often applies even in spite of a will.

Although colloquially it is often threatened to disinherit a person completely, this is not possible. Depending on the claim to inheritance, the person always receives a portion of the estate. However, the estate can be regulated beyond the compulsory portion:

  • Will: Ultimately, it is sufficient if a will is kept locked away at home. However, it is safer to keep such a to be drawn up with a notaryas a legal check is now also carried out. It applies: The higher the estate, the more likely a notary is necessary. In particular, this applies to people who leave land, land and businesses.

    Im Testament würde sich beispielsweise auch die Nachfolge im Betrieb regeln lassen. Wer nicht möchte, dass der Sohn, der sich nie für den Betrieb interessierte, den Weiterbetrieb regelt, der kann beispielsweise seinen Mitarbeiter einsetzen. Wichtig: Testamente sollten möglichst alle paar Jahre begutachtet werden. Änderungen sind stets möglich – bis zu dem Zeitpunkt, an dem der Erblasser geistig nicht mehr klar bei Verstand ist.
  • Inheritance contract: This is similar to a will. The statutory compulsory portion is also not cancelled. However, more details can be regulated via an inheritance contract. For example, it would be possible for an heir to waive his or her compulsory portion by contract. If, for example, the only heirs were the two children, who would actually each inherit the house, assets and the business in equal shares, it would be possible via the inheritance contract to regulate that the son receives the business but does not have to pay out the sister in return, nor would he have to be paid out by her if her share was currently higher. The inheritance contract must be concluded with a notary. The disadvantage is that dissolution is only possible if all parties involved agree to it. In the event of a dispute within the family, this scenario is hardly imaginable. No one would voluntarily renounce a better position.
Close-up of a female hand just handing over an elegant dark ballpoint pen to a male hand. The forms to be signed can also be seen.

/ VadimGuzhva

Very important in this day and age is the digital estate. This means not only the mere accounts in the social networks, online stores or chat portals, but sometimes compensation options. One example is the self-publishing of books, through which many a person already makes a living today. The state of affairs:

  • Personal: The account is personal. The platform only learns of the death when the payment of the remuneration is no longer possible due to the blocking of the bank account.
  • Permanent: Once a book has been published, it can be sold for all eternity. Permanent income is therefore possible, which in turn becomes part of the inheritance.
  • Safeguarding: Already during one's lifetime, it should be clearly regulated how to proceed with the books and royalties after one's own death. Copyright also plays a role here, as it does not expire until seventy years after death. However, the exploitation rights must be transferred to the heir or heirs in advance.

Similar issues arise with many other earning options on the Internet.

Eliminate emotional burdens

Death is part of life, yet it is often suppressed. This is tragic, because dying people and their relatives would often feel better if they could talk to someone before Day X. Talk about the death could. It is not uncommon for seriously ill people and their relatives to argue because they misunderstand each other. The relatives do not want to let go or believe they have to try everything to save the dying person. The dying person, on the other hand, is afraid to say out loud that his or her greatest fear is having to look death in the eye even longer.

It often helps to talk openly about one's own fears. In this regard, relatives also need to open up. Their fears are also absolutely justified and not lessened just because they are not in the dying person's shoes. A good way to be at peace with oneself is to reach a clarification with old friends or family members in order to clear up old misunderstandings and complete tasks.

A young woman sits in the cafe outside with her mother and they look at each other. In the background you can see mountains.

/ Marina Andrejchenko

There is an observation made by palliative care nurses: many terminally ill and suffering people hold on to life until a certain person tells them that it is okay to go now. In fact, this advice is communicated to relatives. If they promise that the grandson the dying person wants to see one more time will come with them tomorrow, the dying let go after the visit and die peacefully. Others want to hear that their apartment has now been broken up and properly handed over to the landlord. Or that their cat has thrown the first flower from the windowsill in their new home.

Conclusion: Providing for the future can be reassuring

If it is purely about their own person, most people are still relatively indifferent to what happens to them after their last breath. But everyone owns something that is important to them. Everyone fears something that needs to be settled. Those who deal with powers of disposal and their own demise at an early stage instinctively go through life with greater peace of mind.

This applies not only to the elderly or the wealthy, but also to young people who may only live in a one-room apartment and could stow all their belongings in a backpack. Those who make provisions also ensure that wishes during their lifetime are still pursued after death. The idea that there is still enough time to do this is wrong, because even an accident can ensure that such dispositions become impossible.

Author

Medikamio

Last Update

28.07.2022

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