The other day I had a bit of a headache. As I am now in middle-age, I naturally assumed I had a brain tumor. That’s what happens as you get older; you no longer get minor ailments. Pins and needles becomes almost certain muscular sclerosis and a slight testicular twinge when you sit down makes you quite sure that your days as a fully functioning two-balled male are almost over. So, I thought I was probably going to die and that brought out quite the morbid contemplation in me.
I began wondering what would happen in the event of my death. I have drawn up no will and testament and, even if I had, I’m not sure how would that would work when the parties concerned would have to deal with an estate based partly in Japan and partly in the UK, with desired beneficiaries in both. In short, when my time is up what will happen to my stuff?
I may not have much, but what I do have is spread between the countries. I have bank accounts in the UK and Japan, a mortgage in Japan, life insurance policies in Japan and a pension, meagre though it is, in an off-shore place. I don’t even know where it really is, so what chance do my beneficiaries have? I was airing my concern with a friend and he said it sounded quite complicated but that I should probably do something about it. ‘After all,’ he said, ‘putting your affairs in order is more than just getting rid of your bizarre pornography and butt plugs.’
I suspect if I had children this would be easier. I could make the reasonable assumption that at least one would survive me and inherit my things. I could tell myself that the child would have grown into a fully bi-lingual and bi-cultural adult capable of understanding the intricacies of the legal system of inheritance in both countries. In other words, I could just leave it for them to sort out. But I don’t have children, so it’s down to me.
Of course, there is my wife and I am happy for her to have everything I own should I die before her. But what if I outlive her, or we die together? In Japan, as we have so recently been reminded, nature may make this a more likely scenario than in countries where natural disasters are rare. We share our money and property equally and with no descendants we would like things to be divided equally between our respective families. But how hard will this be? My bank in Japan has the greatest of difficulty dealing with the fact I have a middle name; I can’t imagine it would be simple task to have my funds released and distributed to my non-Japanese speaking relatives on the other side of the world.
And then there’s the funeral. My wife recently asked what she should do with me if I die – it’s a cheery home, ours – and I realized I have no idea. I’ve been to a few buddhist funerals in Japan and they’re quite nice, but they cost a fortune and as I am not remotely religious and have very little knowledge of buddhism, I can’t help but think it would be a waste of money. Even if I did tell them not to bother with the canned pineapple and various ornaments of fruit and coffee. But my wife and in-laws probably know no other way and as I really don’t care much, maybe I should just let hem get on with it. Sending a body back to the UK would, I imagine, be more expensive still, and I have no preference for a vicar or a priest over a monk. To be honest, I’d like to just be put out on burnable day with all the other trash, but there is always one old woman going to root through the bag and complain that she doesn’t think gaijin are burnable, that it would be best to check with city hall when the next deceased foreigner collection is.
So what to do? Well, I suppose I should look into making a will – an international one, if there is such a thing. Yes, it’s only right. I’m not getting any younger and a prudent man should put his affairs in order. I’ll start by checking right at the back of my sock drawer.