Many Canadians who should have a will don’t have one. Recent studies disagree on how many people don’t have a will but the range starts at 50% and that is already too many.
People think that you only need a will if you have lots of money and/or if you really want to control who gets what when you’re gone. The fact is, as soon as you have some financial assets of any amount, you should consider doing a will, even if it’s just a simple and inexpensive one to start. And I use the word “consider” here intentionally. The important part of the exercise for most, is the act of thinking it through.
You see the real reason to have a will is that its part of your long-term plan.
First of all, we should all write our own eulogy. Not because we want to script our own funeral – cripes no. You don’t want an officiant standing up at the front, all in black, and declaring that they really can’t read your handwriting through muffled sobs. You should write your own eulogy because it is the ultimate long-term planning tool. One of Stephen Covey’s 7 habits is to ‘begin with the end in mind”. If you figure out what you would like people to say about you when you are gone you will have figured out what you want to do with your life. What are the important things that you hope to accomplish? Will they talk about your commitment to family, your incredible career, the work you did for a cause, your life in the community? The eulogy becomes your personal vision statement and your constant guide post in making life decisions.
I know, this is about wills, not vision statements. But here’s the thing. Since someone isn’t going to be reading your eulogy aloud (you heard me on that right?), then the last thing you are ever going to say is written in your will. You want to be a respected family man or woman and leave your fortune to your children? Let your will direct your money accordingly. Your work with charity is a source of pride? Then leave something for charity in the will. You want to be known as a person who really didn’t care what happens after you are gone? Don’t do a will.
The truth is most people don’t write a will because they don’t want to think about what will happen after they are gone. Death is an uncomfortable subject for most because beyond death is the unknown. But by avoiding the not so pleasant task of thinking about death you may be missing an important benefit of will planning: defining who you were will in fact define who you are right now.