a family meets with a lawyer


I Put Off Making a Will Like So Many Others — But Here’s Why It Finally Happened

Nov 1, 2019

One day I will die. And you will too.

That’s something we learn as little children. Everything that lives must one day cease to be. It’s not easy information to digest as a kid. And it doesn’t get any simpler as we grow up. We tell ourselves it won’t happen for a very long time. And then we push it out of our minds and try to get on with living.

I know that’s what I’ve done. Because I still think of myself as just a kid. I mean, I have a pimple on my chin. My coffee mugs don’t match. I’m still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up.

But death has a way of reminding us how inevitably we’ll all be "shuffled off this mortal coil."

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It is irresponsible for my husband and I not to have made arrangements for the future security of our daughter.

This summer my husband’s stepfather passed away. And while it wasn’t entirely unexpected, it still rocked our family’s world. Suddenly, there was grief to contend with that was compounded by a pile of paperwork.

What they don’t tell you about dying is that it’s a heck of a lot of work for the living. Arrangements must be made, death certificates issued, insurance sorted, bills paid, credit cards cancelled and possessions dispersed. And all this happens at the worst time: while still dealing with the tragedy of losing a loved one.

I was grateful for the sake of my husband and his family that his stepfather had put his affairs in order before he passed. And yet, there was still a lot of time-consuming details to figure out.

And then it hit me: we haven’t done anything to plan for our exit. And what’s worse is that we have a child to look after. Of course, I don’t plan on kicking the can anytime soon, but no one is guaranteed a long life. It is irresponsible for my husband and I not to have made arrangements for the future security of our daughter. It was time to face our mortality — we needed an exit plan.

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One of the things that prevented me from getting a will was the expense. It seems to be just another thing to pay for while trying to stay afloat in a sea of bills. But what I failed to realize is that not having a will would ultimately cost my family more in the long run.

So I sucked it up, faced the grim reaper and contacted a lawyer. Here is where I’ve learned:

It’s Not As Costly As You Might Think

I was surprised to learn that a basic will for my husband and I would be less than $500. Since we didn’t have offshore accounts, complicated trusts, or ownership of private corporations with family law provisions, our will would be straightforward and relatively inexpensive. There are also online options offered that are a fraction of the price.

A Will Protects More Than Your Assets

Since we were getting our wills done anyway, our lawyer also suggested including Power of Attorney for both health and finances. This was our opportunity to assign family members to look after our daughter in the event that something happened to both of us. It also allowed us to name someone to be in charge of our health and financial decisions should one of or both of us be incapable of doing so.

A Will Is Not Just For Your Children

I knew that having a will would be important for my daughter, but also for my husband and I should one of us pass before the other. I learned that if your spouse dies before you without a will, their property will be divided according to the law, which may not be the same as how they wanted it divided. There would also be extra time delays and expenses involved in wrapping up their affairs.

I was shocked to discover that there are extra complications to consider, like if my name wasn’t on the deed of our home, I could be faced with paying estate tax for my own house.

Without A Will Your Child Automatically Inherits A Portion Of The Estate

I was also quite surprised to find out that if your spouse dies without a will, the living spouse takes a preferential share of up to $200,000 worth of assets. If anything is left over, it is divided between the surviving spouse and the children. And while of course we plan to take care of our child to the best of our ability, we weren’t expecting her to inherit anything while one of us still lived.

Turns out despite that pimple on my chin, I’m really not a kid anymore. And nothing makes me feel more grown up than planning for my final act. The truth is I don’t like thinking about anyone’s death — much less my own. I want to spend my time living rather than worrying about what happens when I’m gone.

Article Author Laura Mullin
Laura Mullin

Read more from Laura here.

Laura Mullin is a published playwright and writer and the Co-Artistic Director of the award-winning company, Expect Theatre. She is also the Co-Host and Producer of PlayME, a podcast that transforms plays into audio dramas now on CBC. She has worked in theatre, film, and television and lives in Toronto with her writer/producer husband and pre-teen daughter. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @expectlaura.

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