Death Takes a Holiday

I recall a television show in the early 70’s – Death Takes a Holiday – that left a mark on my memory. Of course, as a 19-year-old at the time, the star Yvette Mimieux may have also had something to do with that fact.

The show was based on a 1934 romantic drama which had its origins in an Italian piece titled, ”La Morte in Vacanza”. The 1971 film was followed up in 1998 by a movie, loosely based on the same work, called, ”Meet Joe Black”, starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins.

Now as a baby boomer, death was less of a preoccupation at the time. Certainly we all felt that we were all immortal into at least our 30’s. However, we are now over the 60 year mark, our warranties have started to expire and we have all lost friends and acquaintances at far too young an age.

Even in our countries of origin we need to prepare for the unavoidable: death and taxes (now also include the concern of clawback of pension funds). While your favourite government tax man will be taking his lengthy paid vacations on your dime, death unfortunately does not take a holiday and sometimes catches us completely unprepared.

An associate of mine recently recounted a very sad story where one of his clients had unfortunately passed away behind the wheel of a car. Fortunately, the deceased must have had some forewarning and pulled over. His wife was in the passenger seat and was left stranded. This is tragic in any circumstance but when you are in a foreign country it is even much more complicated.

EscapeArtist ColombiaWhat would you do?? Have you established a relationship with a local physician? Do you know where the nearest clinic or hospital is? Of course, if you are on holidays this is not information that you might have on hand. If you are staying in a hotel, certainly they will be able to assist you. If you are renting a local apartment you should ask the management for a list of emergency contacts. It is also important to have the numbers and locations for your nearest consulate or embassy. (Just a note that the EscapeArtist Colombia site has emergency contacts listed for Bogota, Cali, Medellin and Cartagena)

If you are an expatriate then you should have a physician. You should also have a local attorney who can assist you. I am constantly amazed at how adverse people are to paying a lawyer for their services in foreign countries. Just because Colombia is an emerging country doesn’t mean you can expect to get good, professional legal advice for 25 usd or 50 usd per hour. Remember, if you pay peanuts, all you will get are monkeys.

If you are living and own property in a foreign country, it behooves you and your family to have a plan for your ultimate demise. A will is simply one way to protect your assets and your family rights. For a few hundred dollars you can register your wishes in a legal manner. Be aware some attorneys will want to charge you their fee based on the value of your assets, but there are many reasonable ones you will just charge your for the preparation and registration of the documents.

When I was 21, a young university student was hit by car close to a street corner where I lived. She was brought to the hospital where I was working and all of the staff worked, hoped and prayed for her recovery. She did not survive and this impacted my life profoundly. Don’t wait until it is too late. You can at least experience the expat dream. Live everyday as if it is your the last day of your life, of course not with the fear of dying but the joy of living! Just follow that Boy Scout adage and “be prepared.”

Don’t let ”Death” take your holiday or your expat dream. Carpe Diem!