Martin Newell's Joy of Essex: Make a will, but micro-manage own farewell? It's not your job
PUBLISHED: 13:29 02 March 2018
As I wrote last week, dealing with a close relative's post-mortal arrangements is one thing; dealing with one's own can be quite another.
No, I’m not planning to die anytime in the near future, but as I’m approaching a pensionable age, I’ve recently updated my will.
Almost 10 years ago, having paid off my mortgage, I thought it was time to make one. I’d often been advised to do so but had up until then always considered myself far too young and carefree to bother with that sort of nonsense.
Besides, for most of my life I’d been a hard-up musician and writer, with not much more to my name than some music gear, a few books and the clothes I swanned around in.
By 2008, however, aged 55, I was reminded that I now owned a small house and had a teenage daughter who’d probably bring home a murmuration of unsuitable boys the minute I was discovered dead in the Chelsea Hotel. So I phoned my mum’s solicitor and made a will.
One thing about me – perhaps I shouldn’t be telling you this – is that I am likely to be worth far more when I’m dead than while I live.
Ten years after making my first will, this seems even more pertinent, as I have musical and literary estates which, for various reasons, have gathered value during the last decade.
My general rudeness in the face of past derisory offers from the music industry has led to me still owning a chunk of my old musical rights; unlike certain other artists of my vintage.
Since many of the people who warned me that I’d never get anywhere with my “attitude” have died or left the business, new blades have moved in.
Because of this I’ve been able to do licensing deals and gain control of certain digital properties. In other words I never sold the family silver. Instead I now license it for limited periods. I’m not interested in false waffle about “heritage”; I just want the money.
Further, that money which I don’t leave to my dependents I want to help alleviate the scourge of homelessness after I’ve gone.
This is why I needed to tweak my will. After all, I don’t want corpulent showbiz vermin drinking it, or shoving it up their hooters, because in life I was slack enough to let my guard down.
So my trusty solicitor and I buckled down to updating it. It doesn’t cost that much to do a will, or to bring one up to date. And it is really worth doing. Because if you do not make a will, all manner of pond life can descend, or sometimes official bodies may move in to take a skim.
The thing about me is that being a little “on the spectrum”, as they say, I thought that having done the will, maybe I should motor on and do a funeral plan.
So I marched into my local funeral directors and took away some brochures on the subject. Then I sat down one lonely winter afternoon and read the stuff from cover to cover.
It was like planning a holiday in Hades. I concluded, however, that funerals, which currently cost about three or four grand a go, aren’t actually that ruinous for what you get – even though you’ll never really enjoy your purchase.
Every funeral director, naturally, will tell you to hurry up and buy, as prices are soon due to rocket.
As I leafed through the coffin options and ceremony preferences, I realised there was terrific comedy capital to be derived here. Out of respect for the unknown and un-met dead, however, I will bypass this sombre, yew-lined avenue for now.
I found myself becoming rather melancholy as I contemplated my funeral plan. Later, discussing it with some of those closest to me, I was met with if not surprise then a measure of dismay that I was toying with the prospect. I remained in an unhappy quandary for some weeks.
While signing the updated will, I mentioned this to my kindly solicitor, who advised, “Well, I wouldn’t if I were you. It’s only more paperwork.” She added that anyway, in the event, my bank would make monies from my estate available to pay my funeral expenses.
By now, I’d also realised that part of the grieving therapy for those left behind lies in the ritual of making arrangements for the departed.
Who was I to hijack this essential component of the life-death transition process? Wasn’t I being a trifle over-organised here? And that was what finally decided me.
Arranging my own funeral was a bridge too far. I walked out of my solicitor’s office light of step, like a man who’d had an anvil removed from his rucksack.