Before my younger brother Simon died, he told me how he wanted any remaining money to be distributed. Most of what he left behind came from a pension plan he had agreed with a well-known insurance company. He showed me the policy and confirmed that I was listed as the "sole beneficiary".
At that moment, he probably imagined that it would be pretty straightforward for me to make a successful claim. Little did he know that the process would be painfully slow, difficult and stressful. It took me eight long months to get the money out of them and in the end I think it was the physical letter that I sent to their Customer Services office in Edinburgh that finally got the desired result.
It was a hell of a ride and not one that I ever wanted to take. Anyway, I am pleased to say that nearly all the money has now been distributed according to Simon's wishes. He had told me that he wanted the lion's share to go to what he called "the next generation" - my two children and our brother Paul's three children over in western Ireland. In consequence, all five of them have now received just under £25,000 each to spend or use as they wish.
I am retaining a wad of cash to pay for Simon's gravestone and he also wanted some money to "go to charity". Unfortunately, he never specified which charities so I applied my own judgement and sent equal amounts to The Royal National Lifeboats Institution (RNLI), The Woodland Trust and Dove House Hospice, Hull - where he died.
Of course some people are anti-charity, embracing the myth that any donated money never actually reaches its intended target. It is siphoned off, wasted by administrators or simply stolen. Such tales abound but in my estimation that is nearly all utter nonsense and a convenient excuse for not being charitable.
I was a shop worker for Oxfam for five years and Shirley is currently working in our local "Age Concern" shop. The RNLI saves seafarers' lives while The Woodland Trust plants trees and maintains woodlands and Dove House Hospice provides invaluable end-of-life care. Quite simply, without charitable donations these admirable organisations would not be able to function. So please don't tell me you don't believe in charity because the money gets routinely wasted. If the truth be known, that is pure...