For various reasons many of us put off writing a will.
We avoid any mention of the subject not wanting to upset our children. Family may shy from broaching the subject afraid they could look grasping or unduly eager to see us gone from their lives. We ourselves may harbour the notion concluding a will could hasten our death. Rest assured it won’t.
In 2000 my husband and I filed wills. In the interim fourteen years I’ve become a widow, and our grandchildren are now young adults. These changes needed to be reflected in a new will.
Additionally at my age, having a will filed with the Vital Statistics Agency in Victoria gives me peace of mind knowing if I slip on a banana peel my affairs are in order; my executrixes will have clear direction as to my final wishes for disbursement of my estate with the least amount of legal hassle, expense, and demand on their time.
Recalling the family turmoil when my grandmother died intestate (without a will) convinced me of the practicality of drawing up a will earlier, rather than later.
In Grandma’s case, she had a house and a couple quarters of land to dispose of equitably.
Though her two daughters saw eye to eye on sharing her estate, by the time lawyers concluded everything, which involved letters exchanged with lawyers representing relatives and government offices in distant cities (all this long before the ease and speed of email) years had gone by and their fees whittled off a good portion.
In my case, a couple discussions with an estate lawyer transposed my wishes into a written document.
Now a copy of my new will rests securely in a safety deposit box. It could be called out tomorrow, or not for twenty years. In the meantime I know I have made things as fair and easy as possible for my surviving family.
Along the way the estate lawyer taught me a few things worth knowing:
1. Destroy any previously made wills and codicils, and destroy any draft wills that the lawyer forwarded to you for review.
2. Review the will and any related estate and personal planning documents whenever there has been a material change in your affairs, such as a birth, marriage, death, or marital breakdown in your family; the death of an executor or trustee; change of substance in your assets (including gifts or advances received or given by you) or your liabilities; or a change in tax, wills, or estate laws.
3. If you wish to make changes to your will, prepare a new will. Don’t make any changes by writing on the actual will without obtaining legal advice.
4. Avoid documenting partial or incomplete estate planning ideas in ways that might be misconstrued as a final intention to change your current will or create a new will. If you document any ideas, mark them “for discussion purposes only.”
5. If you make copies of your will, do not remove the staple. That might be seen as tampering. Fold each page over.
My will is paired with instructions for shipping my body to the University of British Columbia to help train medical personnel.
This stipulation is enough to keep me living a healthy life.
The university accepts only bodies as intact as possible without a contagious disease, or having suffered a catastrophic accident, or drawn a coroner’s interest. I must be shipped on my way within 24 hours.
One more task awaits – listing where I keep other important papers such as my bank records, files for compiling final income taxes, and offices to be notified such as cancelling my $18 monthly New York Times digital subscription.