What causes people to wait especially when things are too important to ignore? I do this. You may well do the same.
When the second email arrived about a Toastmasters leadership training event, I knew I planned to attend yet I hadn’t bothered to register. The stark question at the beginning of the email asked, “What are you waiting for?”
Forwarding a prompt reply to an event is hardly a fair comparison to preparing your Last Will and Testament. The fact is a vast majority of people do not have a Will in place yet the same question applies. What are you waiting for? The bottom line is death is eventually going to occur with or without you having a Will in place. Don’t you want your wishes to be known to the people who matter the most?
Dispelling the Myths
Are myths holding you hostage, preventing you from writing your will? You may be under the impression that having a lawyer draft a Will is expensive. This is not true. In fact, this small expenditure may be the best money you spend to have peace of mind. Every time you hear about an unexpected death -- a sudden heartache or a devastating traffic accident -- you make a mental note that your Will isn’t written. Even if you have a Will, you may feel a tinge of guilt knowing your Will hasn’t been reviewed for many years.
You might be the type of person who is superstitious, believing that once you write your Will, you are sure to drop dead. Contrary to what you believe, it’s not likely going to happen. You need to plug in a belief, one which says that you will live for eternity since you alleviated the stress and anxiety of living without a Will.
Your belief may be that if everything is owned jointly with your spouse and you have named a beneficiary on your registered investment, pension plan, and life insurance policy that there is no need for a Will. This may be true and applicable in certain circumstances but you are still missing information. What if your spouse passes away before you? If this occurs, what if you are unable to write your Will because you suffer from dementia? What if you both pass away together in a car accident?
Facing the Challenges
The greatest challenge you may have is how to distribute your assets to family members while you attempt to be fair and equitable. Because the challenges are so overwhelming, you may choose to postpone the decision and opt to do nothing. This temporary strategy does not provide a solution. You take the chance of leaving everything you have worked to achieve in limbo. Having life insurance is one way to create a fair and equitable estate. This strategy can only work if you are insurable when you apply for coverage.
Another challenge is waiting until your Will is perfected. There’s a danger in postponing the drafting of your Will. The reality is your life doesn’t stay the same which means that your Will won’t either and will require revising in the future. A divorce, lottery winnings, the birth of children and grandchildren will change your intentions. Therefore, you are not writing your Will on what may happen in the future. It’s now! It’s not tomorrow, a month or a year from now. You are writing your Will as if you have been hit by a city bus while walking to work. If this was the situation, ask yourself: “Who gets what if I can’t tell anyone?” Your Will speaks on your behalf.
Getting It Done
You may be tempted to take matters into your own hands by drafting your Will using a Will kit. Don’t do it. With so many complex issues and unexpected scenarios, you should not underestimate the value of first-hand legal advice related to your life’s circumstances. Even the most straight-forward life situation can have complex issues. You don’t want to mess things up by drafting Will instructions yourself and having them misinterpreted.
One thing we can learn from the infamous holograph Will drafted by a dying Saskatchewan farmer is to not wait too long to write your will. On June 8, 1948, Cecil George Harris was pinned under his tractor on a farm near Rosetown. His greatest fear was that he might not survive so he etched his wishes on the fender of the tractor. With a pocket knife he wrote, “In case I die in this mess I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo Harris.” One might question, “What was Mr. Harris waiting for?” Surely with time on his hands, he may have thought the same thing. In those ten hours before help arrived, Mr. Harris knew he needed to write a Will. At least he wrote one … but he had time. Some people may not have the time or the mental capacity to do so. So again, I ask you, “If you haven’t written your Will, what are you waiting for?”
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