If you do not already have a will, please make one. If you have children younger than 18 it is imperative. If you don’t want to cause your family additional stress — emotional and financial — make a will. If you want to ensure that your children are cared for by the people you know will love and care for them, make a will.
When my husband Gord died suddenly in 1993 there was no will. This caused us much suffering as we ended up in a battle and for months I didn’t sleep, had additional stress to my already mountain of stress due to his sudden death and raising a one-year-old and a three-year-old on my own. As well, my life partner was gone and all the dreams, hopes and wishes we had as a family as well. I had to do a rewrite of our life plan.
In life insurance policies you designate who the beneficiary is; in our case this was not completed and it opened the door for what was to me a surprise.
It is important that you lay out all your wishes and even though you may say them verbally to your spouse and legal advisors, they need to be in writing.
In addition to the stress it caused, we lost thousands of dollars and more. The paper was on his desk when he died and the information on writing a will on our kitchen counter. I know Gord had great intentions for us, it just slipped by. I always thought he would have been so sad watching us struggle during that time.
My children needed me fully present because they two were suffering missing their wonderful father so very much, so after many months we settled. In addition to that problem, the boys’ share of the estate had to go to the public trustee to manage, even though my financial advisor had laid out a great plan of protected investment for the boys and we had a lawyer who presented a strong case, the public trustee managed their funds. This system is there to protect people and came about after many times where the benefits for children and vulnerable survivors were misspent and lost by their guardians. Estate money does not always bring out the best in people.
A friend told me about her parents dying without a will. They died suddenly in an accident and there was no will. All the assets went to the public trustee to manage. They had to watch their personal belongings being sold at auction with friends and family members trying to buy art and items for the children to have of their parents. They were 15 and 12 I believe at the time and had to go live with family members they did not want to live with and this had horrible results.
Can you imagine your children going to live with someone you have not selected to guide, love and care for them? At a time of intense grief they are shipped off to live with a family member you don’t trust to raise your children, or perhaps go into foster care because you did not take the time to write a will, giving clear directions for your children’s wellbeing. Without your written guidance you could be adding untold grief to your children’s lives.
Make a will.
It requires you to acknowledge the fact that you are going to die. Hopefully not for years, however we all know life happens and so does death. The people to look after your children may be family or may be really good friends. It is a difficult and important decision. Talk to them, share your vision for your children. Choose an executor of your estate and leave clear instructions for disbursement of personal items, and your assets. Work with a lawyer or notary so they can answer all of your questions; this will be money well-spent.
And review your will regularly.
Do it for the people you love.
Michele Blais has worked with children and families in the North Okanagan for the past 30 years. She is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star, appearing every other Sunday.