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Life-wise

by Ray Wiseman

Will you, won't you?

Anna and I just faced one of those episodes that brings people face-to-face with the uncertainty of life. The fact of life’s unpredictability becomes obvious as we age and various bodily mechanisms begin sending out error messages or shut down completely.

No, we didn’t dash off to the emergency room or doctor’s office because the timing chain on Anna’s heart slipped a notch or my plumbing clogged up. We didn’t face a doctor in an examining room or step off a treadmill to receive a diagnostic body slam. In truth, we’ve had most of those things happen in days gone by.

But we did something equally scary; we went to see a lawyer to update our wills.

Whenever I think of wills, I recall my brother’s lack of one. He thought he didn’t need a will because the law where he lived said that when a person died intestate, the powers-that-be would divide the estate between surviving siblings. He assumed therefore that everything would go to me and my sister, so why bother with a will? He didn’t realize that his two half-brothers and one half-sister also qualified; so instead of receiving half of his estate, I received one fifth. Although no big deal from my perspective, he would not have wanted that.  

We realized we had to get on with the job of preparing a new will for ourselves when we read our old wills, dating from 15 years ago. First we noted that we had designated dollar amounts to various family members. Even with my lack of arithmetic skill, I soon realized we no longer had that much money. Years ago we had read a caption on the licence plate of a motor home that said, “We are spending our kid’s inheritance.” Recognizing that as a great idea, we started doing the same. You can’t give away what you don’t have.

Second, we read through the list of special bequests that we had attached to our previous will. That list identifies who gets things like the silverware, the dinnerware, the piano, my library and my collection of elephants. Actually, the piano got our attention. We had designated that it should go to a daughter-in-law. Had we died with this list still in force, the executor would have faced a serious problem. We had sold the piano years ago and at about the same time the daughter-in-law in question became what we now fondly call our daughter-out-law.

In all seriousness. it wasn’t such a big deal. The real issue came when we noted this suggestion in a letter from the lawyer. “I would recommend the preparation of Powers of Attorney for Personal Care so that your appointed attorney(s) can make health care decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacity.”

We had not done this before, so we had to begin by asking ourselves these questions: To whom do we trust such a major decision? Is it fair to burden one family member with such a heavy responsibility? We are still working through that issue. 

The main point here is to gently suggest you get a will or update the one you have.

True, you’ll have less to leave to others when you get the lawyer’s bill.

 

 
 

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