UNWILLING FOR A WILL? A CAUTIONARY TALE

The Denial

I still remember the day my mom got diagnosed with cancer. It was a beautiful summer morning, the sun was out and shining, but there was nothing joyful about the day ahead. As I watched the doctor give my mom the news, I began thinking a million different thoughts, but as you can imagine, not one of them was related to what would happen to my mom’s assets if she were to die.

The doctor walked my mom through the treatment options, but she also quickly glossed through (what I found to be) an unusual item on her agenda: asking whether my mom had a will. I recall finding this question incredibly strange, especially coming from a doctor, and my family and I felt rather upset that a will was even being brought up.

In hindsight, I recognize that a will was a necessary thing to bring up at the time, especially while my mom was still capable and in better health.

But at that point in my life, I was a young naive undergraduate student with zero knowledge about wills, other than the fact that I always associated them with the one thing I did not wish for my mom: death.

Writing a will, to me, was seen as a confirmation of what’s to come, and we did not want to spend any time planning for her death if we could be spending it with her instead.

So, I put off the topic of thinking about her will for as long as possible. My family did the same. With every moment we had kept denying and waiting, my mom lost more and more of her capacity and the ability to express her wishes or to make a valid will.

 

The Harsh Reality

Eventually, the day we feared came, and my mom passed away intestate (without a will).

While dealing with this great loss, I was also receiving calls asking for information such as who was overseeing my mom’s estate, whether she had a will, or who were the beneficiaries on her life insurance policies.

Everyone seemed to be asking for a bunch of documents, none of which I nor any member of my family knew how, where or when to obtain.

Finally, we realized that we can’t do this alone and require legal assistance.

 

Make A Will, even if You’re Not Willing

After talking to a few lawyers, I found out that all this confusion, fear, and anxiety could have been avoided if we were more proactive early on in getting my mom the resources she needed to sort out her affairs and express her wishes through a will.

Without her will, we were left in the dark about how to deal with or even access some of her assets and liabilities, and ultimately, we had no choice but to look into applying for probate (or a “Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee Without a Will”).

The main takeaway here is that there is a significant stigma around wills and estate planning, often seen as a morbid task rather than a responsible and caring act.

Overcoming this stigma is essential for ensuring that one’s wishes are honoured and that family members and friends are spared any unnecessary distress. Since working to overcome this stigma myself, I now understand that a will is not just something to think about when nearing death; it’s an important tool for planning out your wishes, and ensuring that your loved ones, nearest and dearest, are provided with the clarity and clear instructions that a will provides.

 

So, take it from an only child who was left dealing with the consequences of a deceased parent’s intestacy for months (and now years) after the loss: encourage your loved ones, or even yourself, to make a will when you are still able to do so, not because you are nearing death, but rather because you are protecting your wishes for when it comes.

 

Fara Seddigh

Nothing contained in this post constitutes legal advice or establishes a solicitor-client relationship. If you have any questions regarding your legal rights or legal obligations, you should consult a lawyer.