I hate to be a wet blanket. (Actually, I am being a warm, fuzzy blanket.) less than a week into the new year BUT, I feel obligated to do my small part to provide important information you may need this week. My big question for you is, “Do you have an up-to-date LAST WILL & TESTAMENT?”
A lawyer friend frequently advised the best way to die is
FLAT BROKE. NO FIGHTS. HOPEFULLY.
So just exactly who needs a LAST WILL & TESTAMENT? The short answer is, “Everyone.”
I can hear someone saying, “But, but, but, I don’t have anything?”
Really? I find that hard to believe.
- Do you have a house?
- A beat up old car?
- Gretzky’s rookie hockey card?
- A cookie jar collection?
- A family cottage?
- Stocks, bonds, GICs,RSPs, investments?
- A bank account?
- Great-grandmother’s jewelry?
- A trailer in Florida?
If you answered yes to any of these, then you need a LAST WILL & TESTAMENT to specify what should be done with your assets, not if, but when you die. My sweet little mother, God rest her soul, heard horrible stories of what happened to friends whose husbands died suddenly and unexpectedly. The family’s assets were frozen because there was no LAST WILL & TESTAMENT. The proper paperwork had not been completed creating needless hurdles, turmoil and fear. Mom nagged Dad to have a LAST WILL & TESTAMENT so this would not happen to her. Dad was not cooperative or even open to consideration. He said something to the effect of:
Mom did not give up easily. She grew more determined and badgered him to have a will drawn up by a lawyer. Eventually, Dad caved and off they went to Shelburne. Their will was very simple. Upon the death of one, everything became the property of the other. The cost amounted to the price of a few trips to Tim Hortons. Although Mom died first, she enjoyed peace of mind of knowing their affairs were in order.
Choosing an executor is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Use great wisdom. It should be someone you trust implicitly to carry out your wishes. Please let the person(s) know you have chosen them. If you feel your children will fight about matters, then appoint a trusted person who will approach it subjectively. And by the way, please, please, please do not choose your cat or dog. Believe me, stranger things have happened.
Some years ago, Glenn and I were shopping in Yarmouth, NS. We stumbled on an upper end clothing store having an amazing sale. The owner of the store had passed away and left everything to his cat. The gentleman’s lawyer had hired another company to come in and liquidate whatever remained. A cat had been left in charge of an estate that was worth millions of dollars. Was it someone’s idea of a joke? Seems twisted to me.
My husband, Glenn, and I worked in the funeral business for more than fifteen years — an unbelievable eye opener. Money and death can do weird things in a family. We can attest that children who had been best friends for years turned on each other like vipers over a set of dishes. Mom said I could have blah, blah, blah. Dad promised me the blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
We wanted to shake people and say, “Your mother or father worked diligently to provide a good life for you. They were careful with their money so you could have an inheritance. Have you no respect? Would you like them to see you behaving like this?” We wanted to say it, but held our tongues. It wasn’t our place. The law clearly mandated we take instructions from the executor(s) of the estate.
- There were times when spouses and children refused to enter the funeral home at the same time.
- One family member brought a bodyguard.
- A wife demanded we remove flowers from certain individuals.
- A father and son got in a fistfight, went to jail and missed the funeral.
- A steady stream of children traipsed in and out of the office to tattle on their rotten siblings who didn’t care about Mom or Dad while they were alive.
- The police came to the funeral home more than once.
One important lesson we learned was that what appeared to be fighting about money and possessions had much deeper roots. The fighting was a symptom of a much bigger problem.
Studies show that fewer than 50% of Canadians have a WILL. This is a tried and true recipe for disaster, hard feelings, broken relationships, jealousy and misunderstandings.
I was given the honour to serve as executor for Dad’s estate. Each of us received a whopping $2000 from his bank account and another $1000 from the sale of his truck, but he didn’t owe us anything. All four of us were better off financially than Dad. Hardly seemed worth writing a will, but vital nonetheless.
Many people feel a Bank Safety Deposit Box is the best place to keep a LAST WILL & TESTAMENT. If you die after banking hours, on the weekend or a holiday, your LAST WILL & TESTAMENT cannot be accessed. You can always give photocopies to your family for informational purposes.
If you choose to purchase a WILL KIT, read the directions carefully and follow the instructions “TO A TEE.” Review it many times to ensure there are no loopholes.
I have merely scratched the surface about the importance of having a LAST WILL & TESTAMENT. It is never too early to have your affairs in order, but it can be too late. I wish you and yours a happy and healthy new year.
Just in case you are wondering, Glenn and I have a current LAST WILL & TESTAMENT. One copy is at home in our fireproof safe and the original is stored in our lawyer’s vault.
Please, please, please, give your family the priceless gift of a proper LAST WILL & TESTAMENT that lays out indisputably how you wish to distribute your estate.
Perhaps you have a LAST WILL & TESTAMENT, but is is thirty years old. Yes, it is still in effect, but is it relevant? At the time it was drawn up, your children were little, your house wasn’t paid for, you drove an old station wagon and you were just scraping by. Now your children are adults with children of their own. It is high time to make a new LAST WILL & TESTAMENT .
Whether you have no LAST WILL & TESTAMENT or one that is outdated, pick up the phone and make an appointment with your lawyer today.
There are oodles of articles available. You may find these interesting.
The Comma that Costs 1 Million Dollars (Canadian). http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/25/business/worldbusiness/25comma.html