Where There’s a Will …

by By John Hawkins news@thecherokeean.com

But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ Luke 12:20

As a pastor, I often come into contact with families during some of their most vulnerable moments and during grief-stricken tragedies. The death of a loved one.

Indeed, most of us rarely think about dying but I’ll let you in on a little secret. We all die. No one gets out alive. We are not promised tomorrow.

The thing is, to add to this very emotional time, surviving loved ones are faced with the very real issue of what to do with the loved one’s stuff; house, land, property, money, etc. Too often, I hear they didn’t have a Will. OK…there I’ve said it. The word many won’t mention and don’t want to think about. A Will. It forces us to face our own mortality as if we think we’ll live forever and beat the odds. You won’t!
Recently a wife faced that harsh reality when she learned her husband did not leave a Will. She had been married to this man for more than 30 years and just assumed all his stuff (house, car, boat money) would be hers. The fact was he had been married before and had adult children from that previous marriage. Without a Will, those children from that previous marriage could be legally entitled to 2/3 of his personal property.

In another instance, an elderly man with military benefits suddenly had a heart attack and passed away unexpectedly. He and his wife had a good bit of real estate, property, military benefits and pension. He didn’t have a Will and the elderly widow in her 80’s was left having to handle things that she didn’t even understand. Since the military was involved it’s a whole new ballgame and it could be subject to U.S. Armed Force’s rules and regulations. It’s complicated.

Make or get a Will!

You can go to an attorney who can advise and guide you in the process and I strongly suggest you go that route; however, you can do it yourself.

In Texas we have something called a “Holographic Will” which simply means you can write your own Will in your own handwriting. If you do this…everything has to be in your writing, print or cursive doesn’t matter, but nothing can be typed or produced on a computer. You must also sign and date it. Although this type of Will is legally valid, generally speaking it is more complicated to probate and is usually more expensive than an attorney prepared Will.

When my Mom died suddenly, my brother and I went to the funeral home and made all the arrangements. Then we found an envelope in her handwriting and written on the outside was “To Be Opened on My Death”. The letter spelled out exactly how she wanted her funeral and how she wanted her “stuff” to be divided between the two of us. My older brother and I have always been close and we’ve never had an argument so those last wishes were easy for us and they let our Mom give us one last moment of her love. Other families aren’t as fortunate since many families don’t get along with each other.

I knew a wealthy woman who had five daughters. Shortly before her death she confided in me she thought she should buy five of everything since she knew they would fight for her money like a pack of dogs each trying to get the same bone. When she did pass, her Will was very specific as to who got what, and even included a clause in the event any of them attempted to contest her Will. During the reading of the Will by her attorney, those daughters did exactly what the woman expected and started quarreling as to what each thought they should inherit. Smart woman!

I contacted well-known local attorney Larry Sinclair, and he explained to me in greater detail some of the many issues that can arise when a Will hasn’t been properly prepared. It’s a legal minefield that us regular people are ill-equipped to navigate but a Will can assure your last wishes are properly executed.

Listen! It comes down to this, where do you want your stuff to go and to whom? If you don’t have a will….in many cases the government “Will” decide for you. Oh, and don’t forget to file or leave your Will with someone you trust in the event the “time comes”.
Get a Will!

I am not an attorney and this article does not give or offer any legal advice but rather my attempt to encourage you to be prepared…MAKE A Will!