Michele Davis TEP,
Head of Succession & Elder Law, Wilson Lawyers
An article has been shared a bit lately, likely because, simply said, it is tragic beyond words and, to many, absolutely unbelievable and unfathomable. One cannot be moved in some way, by this article.
The article I refer to is the News.com.au article telling us of a widow who was forced out of her home, after losing her husband, following the foreclosure of their home by the bank. You can read the article here.
This is such a tragic result of an even more tragic circumstance of losing a partner and raising your children without them. And, without a roof over their head.
There are a number of incredibly valuable reasons why a person should make a Will; the worth of their estate is often the least important.
I say to many of my own clients that having a Will is not about them; it is about their family. It is their family that are impacted the greatest by their loss and I'm not simply referring to their loss of income. Upon the loss of a loved one, the surviving family is thrust into the complexities of our legal system that still need to be navigated despite whether the affairs of the person appear 'simple' or 'uncomplicated'. Additionally, a person's view of the 'simplicity' of their affairs is typically formed on the basis of a number of inaccuracies or misunderstandings of what occurs when someone passes, or the risks that their estate may be exposed to (such as someone contesting a Will, or the right they have in respect of a jointly held mortgage and sole title ownership - just as we see in the article above).
All the while there are valuable proactive measures that can be taken to avoid (or at least mitigate) the issues that can arise.
To some, going to see a lawyer may seem like something you do only when something bad is happening or about to happen. This perception can make it challenging for people to see the positivity associated with obtaining legal advice, particularly in the estate planning context.
Lawyers are also often described as pessimists and can be accused to making things "more complicated" than they are or ought to be. I can see why people think this. We are always looking at the "worst-case scenario" and we must look at every strand of an increasingly large web. It is our job, our profession and our passion.
Additionally, I must say, as a practitioner in succession and elder law, when we speak and consider little more than issues surrounding death and incapacity, it is hard not to be perceived as someone who thinks of the very worst-case scenario and I appreciate that those conversations are exceptionally confronting. It is my job, my profession, my passion, to guide people through these difficult and confronting conversations so that they feel more informed, more in control, to make their important and intensely personal decisions.
I found my love of practicing in the succession and elder law fields law following my genuine desire to help people; as did many of my colleagues in the profession. I share information in the hope that it informs people of the value in taking certain steps in their lives and hopefully correct some assumptions or inaccuracies they may harbour along the way. I write articles and share articles like the above in the hope that it demonstrates how "simply" or "easily" one can find themselves in an unfathomable situation and experience with little visible light at the end of that tunnel.
Despite popular belief, it might seem, lawyers are very human and we can, and often are, heartbroken to witness the tumultuous times our clients have. We cannot, nor should we be tasked to, solve it all and we hope to offer some guidance through a challenging, misunderstood, dark and grey area of life we call the law.
For all of those who may read this, and are moved by the impact of reading the above linked article, I implore you to seek out an opportunity to help those around you by encouraging them to engage with this conversation of estate planning. A properly considered estate plan can provide a level of comfort that is invaluable to a family and that value is absolutely unique to that person.
Estate planning is an insurance policy against the worst fathomable situation of death or incapacity; it is also a situation that is the most certain in life.
The above is a glimpse into my "Why". So, my question to those who have not engaged in this question is "why not?".