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Where There's A Will...

Never too early to start planning your final exit

Toronto Sun
May 1, 2006

The one thing in life that is guaranteed is death, and it is never too early to start thinking about your last wishes.

The occasional thoughts creep into my mind as I mull over questions that trigger a plan of action. Questions such as, "What if my life ended today," "Who do I trust as an executor for my estate?" and "Which secrets do I need to feverishly erase?" These questions are easily dismissed and replaced by my hectic schedule. I promise myself to revisit these thoughts and to take action another day. What if "another day" fails to arrive, leaving me unprepared and my private life exposed? I do not possess worldly treasures nor do I have a stash of cash under my mattress. However, I would like to know that what little I do own will be appropriately dispersed amongst the people in my life.

Interestingly, as much as I openly talk about death, I realize that I have not made it known what my spiritual and ceremonial wishes are. Like most 30-somethings, I'm not prepared for the inevitable -- and I should be. I've been enlightened this past month as I accompanied my mother in the clean-up and final arrangements of the passing of her sister, my aunt.

Painfully, I watched my mother go through documents, letters, pictures, and various personal effects of my late aunt. Secrets she anticipated taking to the grave now rest with my mother. Thankfully, my mom is a highly respectable and trustworthy woman. It was that moment when my mind became flooded with my own secrets, stories and events I'm determined never to share. Again, I'm not prepared as I realized my downtown apartment is a swarming nest of evidence tucked away in junk drawers, dusty shoe boxes or hidden on my computer. Note to self, spring-cleaning will be a lot more thorough than in previous years.


Without a will, we sought legal counsel to ensure proper procedures were in place when administering her estate. While visiting a usually jovial lawyer, he became somber upon finding out that an elderly but vibrant client had suddenly passed away -- a client who was planning to make important changes to his will, but had ran out of time.

Death can bring out the worst in people, and dealing with grief can be overwhelming. Emotions sometimes get the better of us in trivial situations. Bickering about who gets what can get ugly. Special requests will never be documented, let alone implemented.

My mind then drifted to my beloved laptop and other irrelevant materialistic items as I racked my head about who I would give what to and which charities would benefit from items nobody else wanted. My itemized mental list was forever growing.

Writing out your last will and testament doesn't have to be an expensive undertaking. Software exists to make the process easier and cost efficient. If you don't have much to leave behind, simply document it yourself, date it and have a witness sign.

As much as we complain there is never enough time in the day, maybe it's time to change our outlook and take care of who and what is important to us. Think about formal or informal legal affairs, how you want to be remembered and the burden of your final arrangements.

Here today, gone tomorrow, but most importantly we have the present. Documenting your last wishes will surely make it easier both financially and emotionally on your family and those left behind.

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