April 8 – 14 is Make a Will Week in British Columbia. A 2014 report noted that only 55% of British Columbians had a will. I would venture that from what we’ve seen in our business, for those who have a will, a very large percentage of them are in desperate need of an update. We saw one will where a guardian was named for a child, who is now over 50; that means the will was written over 33 years ago, and we’re guessing a few things changed in those 33 years. If you need any help in understanding why you need a will, with a bit of insight, or if you just want to understand why we started with an Abe pic – Read On
I can hear my father-in-law: “I don’t care what happens…I’ll be dead!”. I always laugh when he says this because when his mother died intestate (the legal term for dying without a will), the only thing of consequence she owned was a car. He wanted to give the car to the landlord because she was kind to his mother, but because she left no will, he ended up having to get the whole family to agree (two of whom lived overseas) just to give away that nice Reliant automobile. Often court approval is required with specific rules on “who gets what”.
However, from a life timeline perspective, there are three documents required to complete an estate plan, of which the will is the third. They are:
- Power of Attorney – gives someone else the ability to deal with your financial affairs when you are unable to make your own decisions due to loss of capacity or for a specific period (having surgery and will be out of commission for a bit).
- Representation Agreement – a document that outlines what sort of care you want (or don’t want) when you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Do you want to be kept alive as long as possible and fed by tubes? I hear a loud “no way” every time I ask this question.
- Will – at this point the above two documents are irrelevant as you have passed away. The key reason to make a will is to leave specific instructions behind upon your demise – if you want something to go to a certain somebody, you need a will. A lot of smart trust and estate lawyers will be producing articles this week on the do’s and don’t of wills. What we can add is that life isn’t static, children/grandchildren are born, family members pass away or maybe you are now really rich! Having a current will is up there on the big list.
Going forward, review your will and these two other documents at least every five years. You will be surprised what has changed in that period and more surprised on what the result of those old documents would have been.
As mentioned above, lots of smart trust and estate lawyers will be writing articles this week. Read a few, get a feel for their do’s and don’ts and maybe give them a call. It will be money well spent.
Oh, and don’t feel bad if you currently don’t have a will – these folks didn’t either:
- Jimi Hendrix – incredible lefty.
- Amy Winehouse – they tried to make her go to rehab, she said no, no, no.
- Sonny Bono – known for skiing without a helmet.
- Stieg Larsson – wrote Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
- Pablo Picasso – unknown ear issues.
- Tupac Shakur – drive by mystery.
- Michael Jackson – initially no will and later surfaced.
- Howard Hughes – hung out at the Bayshore Hotel.
- Prince – the most recent symbol for the importance of our article.
- Abraham Lincoln – the most famous lawyer of all time.
And let’s not forget Heath Ledger – he had a will, but it was made before his relationship with Michelle Williams and their baby, so they were excluded from his estate. Quite the mess this crew left behind…
So, to celebrate Make a Will Week, let’s pull out that old will and have a read for relevance. Walk through what it says and line that up with your current situation. Chardonnay may be required and please read sitting down.