Not all of us are the owners of vast financial fortunes. We may not consider ourselves to be wealthy. Some of us may have limited monetary resources. However, each and every person needs to protect their family members by drawing up a Legal Will. Also, more recently, a Living Will has become an essential ancillary document to be considered. It acts as a directive for our families if we should develop a long term terminal condition. A Living Will can save a great deal of emotional turmoil if we should be in a state when we are not of sound mind to make our own decisions.

Making use of Opportunities

So when I heard that a local Care Organisation was offering a presentation from an attorney who specialises in this area of advice giving, I decided it would be a good idea to go along and enhance my awareness of these two relevant documents.

Unexpected Insights

While I have drawn up a will based on the counsel of my Financial Advisor, I had not sought the advice of someone who is professionally trained in the rules and regulations around the drafting of a will, so decided to attend the meeting to enhance my knowledge on this topic.

As it happened, I learned something profound from a member of the audience, Kate Brown of Fiscal Private Client Services, who is a financial planner.  She is particularly focused on tuning into the emotional needs of her clients From Kate I gleaned a thoughtful lesson.  It is so important for professional people who are giving technical advice to be tuned in to the nuances of family relationships.

The South Africa Reality

Many senior South Africans have been called geriatric orphans.   They may have middle aged children who have traversed continents and live together with their offspring all over the world.   The apartheid era which started in this country in the later 40’s was the predominant political perspective for the next 50 years.   Many people growing up during this time were pessimistic about their future in this country.    As a consequence many senior South Africans have their grown up children living in different parts of the world.

So, our senior population may have had three or four children, but because of the prevailing political insecurity most of their offspring may have left the country.   Frequently just one of the children remains behind and this person’s job becomes caring for the ageing parents.

When paying their regular visits to their parents, these ‘overseas’ siblings may well question the ‘local’ sibling who has the caring role.   This could be in the field of finances, or health or any other meaningful supporting function played by the remaining child.

Sensitivity or Role Players

This local sibling is playing the numerous roles which, in different circumstances, may have been shared by all the family members.   The home resident, may feel exploited and becomes hyper-sensitive to any comments made by their visiting relative.    A casual suggestion can easily be misinterpreted as being a criticism of the single overworked care person.

It was in this situation that Kate, as financial planner, pointed out the role played to ease the situation.  This potentially hurtful scenario can be anticipated.  The caring professional can offer a warning to all concerned about possible comments and questions so that each player can be sensitised to the possibility that a casual, well-intentioned remark will not be unnecessarily received as a criticism.   In this case a warning offered in anticipation may be of great assistance.

Living Will

There were many questions asked about the validity of a Living Will. Each country will have its regulations regarding this document.  However, if you live in South Africa then a model document is obtainable on the internet from this site

There are five good reasons why a Living Will has become important for all senior citizens to consider in this era of advanced medical knowledge.

  1. It allows everyone to make his or her intentions known at a stage when they are still lucid. A statement as to whether or not you wish to be kept on artificial life support may well be appreciated by your family if you should in the future lose your ability to make decisions for yourself.
  2. You will save your close relations from having to debate whether or not to prolong your life artificially. This document may protect them from many emotionally straining discussions.
  3. It will ensure that excessive expenditure is avoided to extend your life if this is not your wish.
  4. You can make your own decision as to whether or not you would like your organs to be offered for saving the lives of other patients.
  5. Making a Living Will protects you from worrying about what may happen if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. This document can bring you peace of mind.

The Role of Professionals

A chat with the attendees at the end of this productive session of current advice left me feeling more confident of making plans for any potential end of life scenario I may experience.

I felt grateful to be in the company of some wise professionals who can offer guidance in a caring and non-judgemental manner.

 

This morning I experienced a multi-faceted insight into the role of an insightful, articulate and profound leader.   The newly appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, who in the days of Apartheid belonged to the previously disadvantage population in South Africa is now leading transformation at the University of Cape Town.    This institution is one of the leading universities on the African Continent and Mamokgethi Phakeng articulated her vision for retaining the excellence of the institution she is now leading.  The Professor addressed members of the University of the Third Age on her ongoing challenges in creating a multi-cultural hub for tertiary education.   This is despite the fact that a short twenty years ago this institution was reserved for White South Africans only.

The past three years there has been ongoing confrontation around student fees and what is considered to be a Colonial educational system.  The Vice-Chancellor has a critical role in helping this place of learning to become a truly multi-racial institution.  The present incumbent impressed me with her ability to do a great job in masterminding these critical changes in orientation.

She set a precedent by refusing to have the customary Inaugural Ceremony and asked that the money which would have been spent on ceremony, be contributed to pay the fees of students from impoverished backgrounds.   In addition she has donated 10% of her salary to a fund which assists post-graduate students in acquiring the means necessary for further study.

She emphasised the importance of the freedom of speech on a university campus.   Unlike in politics, in business, or even in a family situation, no reasoned discussion can be discounted because of its subject matter.   All points of view and all perspectives must be tolerated on the Campus and freedom of thought and expression could never be compromised.

Professor Phakeng articulated brilliantly the three cornerstones of her approach to leading this illustrious educational institution.   Excellence must never be compromised; transformation is a top priority whilst attention must be given to retaining the stability of the institution at all times.  The profundity of her wise outlook and her practical approach was beautifully articulated during her presentation.   However it was when question time arrived that her true brilliance was demonstrated.

The Professor was asked how she planned to create a sense of homogeneity in a campus where people hailed from such a diverse array of cultural backgrounds.   “On the contrary,” explained the guest speaker, “it is our aim and ambition to embrace diversity at UCT”   She went on to quote many education institutions around the world which were able to cope with students from different external cultures, as well as the diverse ethnic groups in their own homeland.   She continued to articulate a policy in which all values can be respected, debated and encouraged.   No attempt would be made to formulate a limited value system.

A doctor in the audience questioned the speaker about what she had learned when a talented member of staff at UCT had last year committed suicide because of the pressure of not being able to accommodate what he considered the rightful demands of students.   This man was universally considered not only a top scholar but a man of the greatest integrity who belonged to the Xhosa nation.

Without flinching came the response.   “What I have learned is that the mental health of staff and students must at all times be a priority.   Insufficient attention has been given in the past to the psychological challenges which are experienced by both staff and students during the present process of change.”   She went on to explain, “We have set up special mechanisms to encourage members of UCT staff to discuss their personal challenges.   There will be regular meetings at which they can receive proper support and counselling.”

I left the presentation feeling that my Alma Mata is in good hands.   The University of Cape Town would retain its reputation for excellence in both teaching and research under the direction of this hard working lady who understands the challenges of transformation and has both the commitment and the ability to bring her vision into reality.