Did you know that August is Make-A-Will month?! I had no idea until I received spam this morning that it was time for me to make a will. I checked it out and sure enough, this is the month to complete this important but disdained task.
Funny how as family historians/genealogists we LOVE wills and probate but personally, not so much.
Earlier this week I was volunteering at my local hospital when I overheard a family discussing a terminal family member. The individual hadn’t yet died but the family members present, 2 grandchildren and 3 siblings of the patient, were in a discussion over who was going to get what after the death. I tried really hard to ignore the conversation as it was not only none of my business, it was disheartening.
A grandchild reported that the patient had expressed what items was to go to what individual. One of the patient’s children said, “Fine,” but then went on to state they were going over to the patient’s home later that day to pick up items believed to be inherited. The other adult children then decided they were going to go, too.
I have no ending to the story. Perhaps the patient recovered, went home and discovered items missing. Maybe the family members would have returned them before the patient returned home. More likely, the individual died and family members arriving after the death discovered items they thought belonged to them were gone.
Personally, hubby and I have experienced family issues after a loved one’s death. It is not pretty and can destroy relationships. These events happened even though there was a will in most cases.
Although I still miss my mom who passed in 2001, I was fortunate that she had planned well for her final days. When she was first diagnosed with Alzheimers, she asked me to attend a meeting she had scheduled regarding disposition of her remains as she wanted to be cremated. She had previously made a will. The only problem was she couldn’t decide where the cremains would be housed. I never got an answer so my husband and I decided to inter them in the family plot where she grew up and where her parents and grandparents were buried.
Several years ago, I convinced hubby we needed to make our final arrangements to spare our adult kids the task. We updated our wills and added a Living Will, Power of Attorney, and Designated Health Care Surrogates. The kids each received a copy. We had both children notarize the form regarding our body’s donation to science. We purchased a space in our city cemetery and selected a funeral home that will receive our cremains once medical school students are done with them. The funeral home has our obits. We placed our children’s names on our property and bank accounts so that they can close out any debts or make needed repairs seamlessly.
To avoid the scenario that I overheard at the hospital, I have placed stickers on the bottom of several items that have been in the family for years and I want passed down to the next generation. The labels state who was the original owner of the item. I don’t care which of my children get what items and there isn’t a lot to fight over. Unlabeled items they can keep, sell or donate.
The death of a loved one is never easy. The lack of a will makes the situation even more difficult. Make time to make your final arrangements soon. You’re not only helping your closest family members, generations to come will discover your will and thank you for that.