As you may know, November is “Make a Will Month” in Ontario – a push to have Ontarians get their affairs in order, whether they are 18 or 88. We lawyers are always anxious to explain why one needs a will – and powers of attorney – although I think the reasons are obvious to most. So I ask the question, “Why NOT make a will?”. I’ve heard lots of reasons from clients, friends, family, and elsewhere. I am here to answer those who have reasons for not preparing a will:
Too expensive/I have nothing to show for it.
I acknowledge that doing your will is not like buying a new car or indeed going out for a nice dinner, where you can see/taste the immediate benefit of your purchase. On the other hand, there is something concrete and long-lasting about a will and power of attorney which doesn’t exist with either a car or a dinner out – the latter two are fleeting whereas properly prepared and signed estate planning documents remain valid and binding for a long time. They provide peace of mind for you, and comfort for those you care about that you have looked after them. On the other hand, the bitterness that can come from a messy estate without proper planning that a good estate plan can provide, can last years and years and can leave those you care about resenting your carelessness and inattention.
I don’t have any money.
You would be amazed, firstly, at how much fighting can occur over a small amount of money – a will significantly reduces the risk of fighting. Secondly, a will is drafted not only for what you own, but also for what you might accumulate in the future – so having no money now definitely does not make the process any less important. Finally, powers of attorney are extremely important and relevant whether you have some money or none at all – you need to be able to choose trusted individuals to look after you and your financial affairs if you are unable to do so.
I don’t want to acknowledge my mortality or risk of mental or physical deterioration.
Our death is something that most of us have difficulty coming to terms with. None of us like to think of needing care and having decisions concerning our care being made by others because we are unable to make those decisions. I will be bold and say that most of us don’t like paying taxes either. And yet, we pay our taxes because the tax people will come after us if we don’t, but we don’t prepare a will because we don’t have to – no one is going to garnish our bank account or seize assets if we don’t have a will. But does it make sense not to do something because no one is making us do it? Of course not. Both paying your taxes and doing your estate plan are equally important and necessary, even though no one is making you do a will. As for facing death and/or mental and physical infirmity, the process of estate planning is much less of a spriritual crisis and much more a practical and sensible real-life problem of figuring out who you trust and how you want your financial affairs deal with – that’s not death.
I am tempting fate and will die if I do my will.
So I once did a will for an 83 year old woman – I literally hand-wrote out her will as I visited her, as she had never met a lawyer before and was afraid I’d never come back – so she wanted it done then. Well after I left she proceeded not to eat for 3 weeks, figuring she’d tempted fate and she was going to die. Well, guess what? – last time I heard she was 101 and still going strong. I like to think of planning your estate as buying you more time on the face of this earth – you are certainly removing the stress level associated with not having a plan in place – and that should help you live a longer, not shorter life.
I don’t know how to choose who to trust with my affairs and how to leave my money.
Many of us do have complications associated with estate planning – second marriages, children with greater or lesser financial need, greater or lesser presence in parents’ lives, overbearing family members, , intermingled assets from the family of origin, to name just a few. One thing that we lawyers are trained at, and very good at doing, is problem-solving. What you see as a challenge, complication or overwhelming issue, is to us a problem to be solved – and we are here to help you do that, with our educational background, experience, and personal perspective. We can help you reflect on the issues and help you sort out the solution that works for your situation. You do not need to have these problems and issues sorted out with the solution in hand. It is our job to work with you to find the solutions – you just need to come see us in order that we can help you find the magic resolution.
In summary, please come see us. We are here to help you tick one box off what might otherwise be a New Year’s Resolution.