Death Rehearsal 101 – It’s never too early to get your affairs in order

death rehearsal
18 Feb 2017

My uncle, who just turned 95, recently invited me to his death rehearsal. Despite what may immediately come to mind, a death rehearsal is not a staged funeral with the soon to be deceased attending. In fact, it is a full run through of everything your loved ones will need to know upon your death.

My uncle showed me where he stored his will, title deed to his property and bank information. He even has a list of people to invite to his funeral complete with names and addresses. Although it may seem morbid, it is a practical exercise to go through.

When you’ve reached my uncle’s age, preparing for death seems pretty standard. Surely, it’s irresponsible to die without having your affairs in order?

However, so few of us are as practical as my uncle, at any age.

When we are young, we are immortal. Drawing up a will is conceding that we are going to die, so let’s avoid it, right?


Whether you are 25 or 95 there are many benefits to being organised, and the task is neither as daunting nor as macabre as you might think. Most of the tasks are easy enough to do alone as long as you have a checklist in mind, but the more technical aspects of dying require a professional degree of preparation.

So how do you get started? Here are 10 simple steps to prepare for your death rehearsal.

• This first step is the easiest and perhaps also the hardest – Set up an appointment with your bank or lawyer to prepare a valid will. If you don’t have a valid will when you pass away, your belongings might not be distributed according to your desires.

• If you and your partner are living together but not married, conclude a life partnership (or cohabitation) agreement. Despite common assumptions, living together for a long period of time does not guarantee that you and your partner receive the same rights and benefits as married couples. Drafting a contract will help ensure that your partner is protected upon your passing or if the relationship ends

• Put together a box file containing all your important documents, and tell your nearest and dearest, where it is. In this box file, store your will, marriage contract, insurance policies, title deeds, papers for cars, caravans and boats, timeshare information, and any other important papers;

• List your creditors and how to reach them (credit card, loans, mortgages, store accounts,);

• List important numbers for your executors, such as the name of your broker, lawyer, doctor, dentist, financial advisor…;

• Leave a list of family and friends to be contacted upon your death, it’s common courtesy to give your life contacts one more chance to say goodbye.

• List what happens to your DSTV, armed response, personal and home insurance, etc.. You don’t want your estate to be billed for services you can no longer use.

• List codes for your security system, and where to find keys for your safe deposit box, post office box and anything else that may not be easily accessible.

• Describe where you want to be buried or cremated, and your funeral wishes in general;

• Inform your executors and loved ones what you wish to be done with your email and social networking profiles. If you want to have your Facebook and Twitter turned into memorials then list all your virtual accounts, user names and passwords and retain these passwords, with other valuables, in a safety deposit box, to be revealed to your executors, only on your death.

This process is never an easy one, but following these basic steps can make a huge difference for the people you care about. Being assured that all your wishes are clearly articulated and that your loved ones are taken care of, is a practicality that’s well worth the effort. The right attorney can guide you through this process and make sure you get it correct the first time around.

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Roy Bregman

Roy Bregman is an accredited divorce mediator and specialises in: - Drafting of antenuptial and postnuptial contracts; - Winding up of deceased estates; - Arbitration, mediation and alternative dispute resolution;...


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