Have you made a Will? If you’re under 50, you probably haven’t. According to the NSW government, at least 45% of Australians don’t have a valid Will. In America, it’s over 50%- that’s more than 157 million people!
My friend Emma was getting ready to travel solo in South America about 12 years ago; she was 30, and her Mum and Dad insisted she made a Will before she left. She dropped me off a photocopy the day before her flight. I hid it away like an unlucky talisman, safe in the back of a drawer, praying I never had to use it. And I never did.
Is that the most common reluctance around Will-writing; that you’ll somehow bring on your death? According to American research, the top three reasons cited by survey respondents for not having a Will were procrastination, a belief that they don’t need one, and cost.
I can understand procrastination (says she, as weeks pass by between blog posts…). I can understand cost. But not needing one? Hello? Aren’t you ever going to die?
Last weekend, I had to call an ambulance at 3am for a friend (an ex- nurse, only 39, and fit as hell) who thought she was having a stroke. Numb all down her left side, droopy mouth, speech disturbance and confusion, shallow breathing, and a thumping headache. I thought she was having a stroke too. And so did the paramedics. After she’d been rushed to hospital, I curled up in shock on the couch and tried to get some sleep, waiting for her 3 children to wake up for school, wondering what I was going to tell them…
After multiple tests, a bout of vomiting, and the right medication, it turned out to be a rare form of migraine called a hemiplegic-migraine . That afternoon she was home safe, with everyone massively relieved of course. But I’d lain awake, worried sick, trying not to wonder where her Will was in case she died.
Because my Dad died without a valid Will. What a nightmare. Very stressful, and unnecessarily so, for all of us. But that’s a whole other story… [Or a film. It would make a great film. One day…]
Another friend just settled out of court after 2 years of dispute with her deceased father’s de facto wife, who sued for 50% of the family home, when he’d expressed that he wanted it shared equally between the 5 grown children and her. Another nightmare, and very stressful.
So do us all a favour: admit you’re going to die, and write a Will. In Australia you can get a Will kit from the Post Office or newsagent, for less than $15. I know it’s not an easy process, but for the sake of your loved ones, who will be thunderstruck with grief and loss, give them one less thing to worry about: let them know your wishes.
You can use a Will to express desires for the future education of your children (mine states that an amount of money is to be put aside for my son’s university fees and living costs for example). You can bequeath a gift to a charity, and distribute favourite possessions (my god daughter is getting my awesome car, and another friend my dear cat Yeti).
You can think creatively about connections you want to maintain/nurture (I’ve left equal shares in my house to 2 different friends plus my son, so that hopefully a sense of ‘family’ continues between them). You can also express wishes for your funeral (plant me standing up in a ‘green’ coffin please, preferably near fruit trees), even down to the music you want to hear (bright clothes, happy stories, and a bit of loud disco dancing to send me off thanks).
So PLEASE, if you’ve had it on your ‘to-do’ list for ages, and keep letting it slide; if you’ve made a draft but haven’t signed it; if you wrote one 10 years ago before you had kids; if you’ve gotten married/divorced/been widowed; if 5 years has gone by and you haven’t reviewed it since then… PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE put a morning or afternoon aside this holidays to do it.
Because I can promise you this: procrastination never wins, costs can be kept minimal, and you ARE going to die.
There are many websites to give you advice on compiling your Will, suitable to your country and circumstances. Be kind to your loved ones: make your wishes clear to them, and for them. Choose your two executors wisely; exchange contact details between them. Distribute copies. Tell people you’ve done so. And review every 3 years.
It’s really that simple, to ease the stress on the ones you leave behind.
Simple yet profound.