An oft asked question at a time of great pain is: Who to inform when someone dies.

I used to be tardy at sending Christmas cards. Some years, by the time I got round to it, it was already 21st December; too late to expect the cards to be delivered before Christmas day. But, the thought counts, right? My excuse used to be that life got in the way. A pants excuse if you ask me. I shame myself at such recollection. Let us recall William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell: shame is pride’s cloak. I was of a pride, a false pride that I was busy. Busy, too busy to spend a couple of hours sending yuletide messages to my kin.

Who to inform when someone dies
Christmas cards: the list has more than one function

The List

The Christmas card list, and the names of the institutions listed in the schedule of assets will constitute a list of parties to be informed of one’s passing.

You might be one of those who do not celebrate Christmas or send cards. My friend Jemima. Jemima’s wonderful company. She’s something of a peacock peahen. She makes a big song and dance about not sending cards. She instead, makes charitable contributions instead. Fair enough. But that would be to miss the point. Forget the Christmas card list, any good old-fashioned address book would do, as it would hold a list of whom to inform when someone dies.

Keeping it Clean

Most wills have the names of several people. The average testamentary document names seven people. Estate agents say the average person would move once every seven years. If you kept your will up to date, you would change your will on average once a year till you your 66 birthday. I mean, seriously, who wants that hassle?

As a matter of policy, I don’t write people’s addresses in wills. I want the document kept clean, up to date and relevant. We save amendments till when they’re needed. I mean, what’s the point of an out-of-date address? Seriously, if the address is out of date it might as well not be there. That’s why I’d keep an up-to-date list of names and addresses.

Some are confident the contact list on their phones would do the job; I’ll not disagree with them, or even those who maintain their list on the laptop or some manner of tablet.

Personally speaking, as far as such life and death records are concerned, I’m a pencil-and-paper sort of fellow. My mum had a Christmas card and gift book – we’ll see how this can help with inheritance planning in the chapters on inheritance tax and lasting power of attorney of the book Maximum Inheritance.

Form forever follows function. Mine’s a Christmas list, but, in whatever form, make the list. The list of who to inform when someone dies.