Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Laws of Eve: The importance of life planning

Published:Monday | March 9, 2015 | 12:00 AM

When discussing plans in this column, the focus is usually on planning for death. Apart from being morbid, it really ignores the fact that most of us (if we are lucky) will have a lot more living to do before death comes knocking, and we should ensure that we make the best use of those living years.

More specifically, though, as we all scurry to maintain our balance on 'the hamster wheel of life', many of us lose focus of the need to put measures in place to ensure that we will be able to get off that hamster wheel at some point, rather than literally working ourselves to death. What will our retirement years look like? Will we be able to enjoy retirement or manage to care for ourselves until we die?

Those are the reasons why I have called the pointers I have set out below 'Life Planning Tips'. You may have viewed some of them in another context, but I now invite you to think of them in this new light:

1 Given the fact that there are few people who enjoy being embroiled in litigation, thinking of signing a prenuptial or cohabitation agreement if you are planning to get married or live with someone in a common-law union may be one of the most effective ways to avoid litigation in the event of separation or divorce.

2 If your relationship is solid enough to bear the burden of a discussion about "what should happen to our property if we

separate or get divorced?", perhaps you could have an agreement drafted after marriage or cohabitation to set out how you intend to share your property if you get divorced or separate. Again, this could prevent future litigation. (This must be a very thoughtful and careful discussion.)

3 Do you have proper health insurance? For estate planning purposes, we usually discuss life insurance. Many persons enjoy some form of group health insurance as a part of their employment package. However, given the prevalence of debilitating illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension and others, and the fact that their onset often coincides with the end of the working life, we should all seriously consider whether measures can be put in place to ensure that we have sufficient insurance for that time when health care becomes less affordable to us after retirement.

4 Do you have enough retirement savings? Living expenses are bound to become higher as we get older. The amount we save towards retirement needs to project those ever-increasing expenses and the fact that inflation will erode our spending power. In the legal context, our inability to cover our living expenses in retirement is likely to result in dependency on our loved ones or even the prospect of making application to court for our children to maintain us.

It was Benjamin Franklin who said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail", so it would be useful to take time to engage in some life planning so that you will not fail in your bid to enjoy your retirement years.

• Sherry Ann McGregor is a partner and mediator in the firm of Nunes, Scholefield, DeLeon & Co. Please send comments and questions to lawsofeve@gmail.com or lifestyle@gleanerjm.com.