Note: this is not legal advice.
I have been avoidant about doing my will since my marriage breakup and divorce. I've been processing grief (mainly from being separated from my son by country) for years. The grief was tangled with my trauma and I am grateful that I had paid for therapy over the past 5 years, which has helped me to be able to cope with recent events.
My Dad died just over a week ago. He had a will and made known verbally his wishes, yet after the shitshow that happened (which I am not going to detail), I have made it an urgent priority to do my will. I also hadn't bothered as I own hardly anything.
After talking to a solicitor, he had me come in the next day. My will should be ready to sign and it will be lodged in secure deposit by Monday. I shouldn't have to ever do another one.
What happens if you don't have a will?
If you die without a will, then there can be even more issues than if you did. My Dad did have a will but there decisions regarding the practicalities of the deceased's body, which need to be made quickly. With heightened intense emotions of the bereaved, there can be family conflicts.
For me, it wasn't about the assets, it was that family didn't agree on what Dad's final wishes are. Dad had told me his wishes and also told others. Turns out this is not enough, as some members will say they were told differently.
At the end of the day, that doesn't really matter, what was said verbally. What matters is if it is in the will (can only be a request or wish) eg cremation, burial etc. What matters even more is who is assigned the 'executor' or 'executrix' of the will. Ultimately, what they say goes.
Also, without a will, depending on the laws in your country, the family may need to go through the courts to receive the estate. So more stress upon the original bereavement and conflict over different versions of what the deceased wanted. Also, a DIY will may be effectively worthless, legally (I guess because easy to fake one).
Also, your assets may go to someone you didn't want it to (according to the law of the land and who fights like a dog a bone over the money). No kidding, I met a woman who was in a long legal case as she was the housekeeper having an affair (after a long battle, I think she did win a slice of the pie from a very wealthy man).
A will in New Zealand
A basic will done by a solicitor in New Zealand costs around NZ$500. Even though I am on a low income, I've decided this is an important investment. Motivated to do it, after the upset and distress since Dad died. Even though he had a will, some things were not specific enough, so I was upset as I knew his verbal wishes and so did other family members.
The solicitor booked me in very quickly, after I explained the situation and will also get the will done very quickly. He also said that a DIY will is not taken seriously legally. A legal will will be kept in safe deposit with the legal firm but copies can be given to whom you wish.
I have appointed one of my siblings as the 'executor' (apparently the old legal term for a female executor is 'executrix' (kinda sounds like a cross between executor, electrocution and dominatrix!) I think it's important to choose a person whom you will trust to carry out your wishes, plus have the strength to stand up to anyone else who may bulldoze over your wishes to do what they want instead. If it's stated in your will, legally, that person makes the decisions according to your provisions in your will.
I will give a copy of the will to my other sibling. I have also stated verbally my wishes (just in case I get hit by a truck before I sign the will this coming Monday).
Here in New Zealand, only NZ $15,000 of assets will be released, if one does not have a will. To get the rest, it will need to go through court. So could make family conflict even worse.
Even thought I have so few physical assets that they fit in my bedroom, plus my secondhand car, my current assets exceed NZ $15,000. My biggest asset is my Kiwisaver (retirement fund) and I'd already read that it's hard to get the Kiwisaver released to your loved ones without a will.
Superannuation in general is an issue, I think. If one spouse has more superannuation than the other (I had less as was the main caregiver when I was married), it's not easy to even out. I have more than tripled the small amount of superannuation I had. Despite a low income. I'm a good saver.
With the will, there will be no issue releasing my Kiwisaver.
I've already told my sisters that because they have assets, I will appoint to other close members in the family who don't have as much assets, if my son goes before me. They are fine with that. It makes more sense to me that those with fewer assets have some, rather than those who have enough to get more.
The solicitor has made a flow on, so that if my son has children, and if he dies before me, anything I have goes to his children. So I won't ever have to do another will again (I don't ever intend on marrying or living with a spouse again).
To me though, the main reason that motivated me to do the will, is that I want my wishes respected which goes against some very pushy members of my family. I want cremation and scattered, not to be put into a cemetery. I don't want money wasted on unnecessary crap, like fancy caskets. I would rather have anything I have go to my loved ones.
I am also motivated to tidy up the minimal possessions I have, such as burning sensitve documents such as paper medical records. I have digital versions but my sister will be given instructions on where my most sensitive stuff is locked and what I wish done with them (destroyed securely basically).
This blog will disappear if no one pays the bill. I am working on a semianonymous YouTube channel which I won't link to my previous blogs etc. Bringing to life Dad's most cherished possessions, his home videos. His voice is on them, as he recorded most of them. The ones from when I was a child have no audio speaking as it was the days of the old film.
Dad gave me his blessing after Easter, when I asked him. I've also been asking family who are in them. (Consent is a very big thing for me).
My Dad had no formal education. He built the house, with his hard physical labour. It's now just a house, not a home, without my Dad.
Also, remember that everybody grieves differently. Just because I don't usually show the intense emotions to others (because I don't feel safe to), doesn't mean I am not grieving. Grieving is not done in three days, either. It can take months or years. And there are still practicalities to sort out.
I can compartmentalise to some extent but it's still very stressful.
I did some work last few days (I work part time with my disabilities). It was tough and I was dissociating a lot. Not as efficient as usual.
purpose to keep going
Having a purpose helps to keep me going. My current purpose is the video project, before I get back to writing my books. It'll probably be busy with the video project for months, even if just one short video of a few minutes per day. The next book I intend to write is a practical guide to writing self-publishing your story (on a shoe-string budget).
I have experience now writing memoir and semiautobiographical fiction (Pet Purpose: Your Unspoken Voice is still mainly memoir with little disguise, with some creativity). It's a legacy as it's officially published. I recently unpublished a memoir that was too raw and also deleted some blog posts. I will burn some journals after I extract what I need.
I had an urgency to publish my latest memoir, Bipolar Courage. I published it just before my Dad died, so I haven't even gotten around to my 'to do' list, which includes sending a legal deposit copy to the National Library of New Zealand (I will do that today or tomorrow, hopefully). My print copies for some local friends are on the way from the United States (I do print-on-demand, so no upfront costs).
I'm not even that motivated to market my books. They are there, for anyone who is interested in some of my journey (it focusses on a complicated online friendship, during the advocacy journey). Pet Purpose is my most complex effort, which took me 7 years to publish, since conception, when I was worried I was going to die going into major surgery after a lot of blood lost (hysterectomy). I had life-threatening complications after surgery too, including collapsed lungs (likely from the fluid from a double blood transfusion).
Focusing on writing Pet Purpose (even when my brain was too scrambled instead, so I painted), helped to give me a reason to stay alive. My voice is what I have.
I feel I have one more novel left in me, Soar Purpose: Will be Heard. It will take me a while to complete it, I think. I would like to explore more fiction territory (yet still drawing from my experiences). Then, after that, who knows?
I am prioritising my mental health and that includes boundaries and self-care. Self-care such as trying to eat, going for a walk, resting. I've also booked a massage today with a trusted therapist. I ease a lot of my stress somatically, such as massage (I have a selection of massage tool as I can't afford a regular professional massage).
I probably won't write much on the blog. Focus what energy I have on other projects. When I can. I'm mindful of what will be likely to endure after I go (my books, my YouTube videos).
It's been quite meditative to burn the records, when I've had some space to myself. I spent ages collating them but I want my most raw and sensitive stuff gone.
Don't worry, I have no intention to go because of my own choice. But given I was hospitalised and tested for heart attack a few years ago (from stress), I feel the need to stop avoiding these difficult things and to have the courage to tackle them head on.
I have complex health issues and I want to make things easier for my family, if I go before I reach a ripe old age. My Dad was nearly 82 and went peacefully.
I started another blog post but not sure if I will publish it or not (I didn't have a pic prepared, so it wasn't ready to publish anyway).
Had a massage today. Really needed it (I store stress in my muscles).
Disclaimer: the author of this blog is not an expert by profession and her opinions should not be taken as expert advice.