Your Money: More imaginative than chocolates

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The Independent Online
WHEN it comes to pulling off a Valentine's Day surprise, the average British lover relies on being struck by last-minute inspiration - or desperation - according to research by TSB Trustcard. Only 20 per cent of us are "passion plotters" - already putting in place special plans.

Here's my personal financial contribution: an idea for a gift that will be very valuable but doesn't require a credit card. This gift is certainly different and also has a serious point.

Most employers' pension schemes and personal pension plans have an element of life insurance - a lump sum paid out when you die. You can choose who you would like this paid out to by filling in an "expression of wishes" form.

If you don't nominate anyone, the benefit will be paid to your wife/husband and blood relatives. But if you are not married to your partner, let alone if you want it paid out to the object of your workplace desire, no letter can easily mean no lolly.

This can be a valuable gift. Death-in-service benefits on employers' pension schemes are generally a multiple of salary, meaning the prospect of a one-off payout of pounds 100,000 or more if you die. Even on a personal pension plan that youhave paid nothing into, but which simply takes diverted National Insurance contributions from the state scheme, the death benefit could now be worth well over pounds 10,000. Other areas to consider are putting any separate life insurance policy you have into trust (see page 17) and writing a will. Die without a will and relatives can stand to benefit more than unmarried partners.

One problem with pensions can be that trustees may choose not to implement your wishes if there is a danger a spouse or former spouse might sue, and some schemes may have problems if your beneficiary is a same-sex Valentine. Don't forget to change your arrangements if your passion pales.

Anyone contemplating such unusual Valentine "gifts" might also ask themselves whether they want their Valentine to know about their pledges. But then, it should go without saying that for a true Valentine, nothing should compensate for losing you.