Years ago, after dinner at a party in our home a dear friend asked if we had wills. We were both 37 with two small children and had never given a second thought to preparing a will – that was something for old people, or rich people, certainly not us.
Our friend recounted his cautionary tale. His sister had a child while in her late teens as the result of a casual affair. Although the father’s name was on the birth certificate that was the end of his involvement, no support, no visits, not so much as a birthday card. Fast forward 15 years and this single mom had put herself through university, established a career, bought a house and put money away for her daughter’s future. She died suddenly of an undiagnosed hereditary heart defect. Dying without a will meant that everything passed to her daughter but because no guardian had been named for the minor child the courts awarded custody to bio-dad. Her loving family was shut out and bio-dad administered the estate for his own benefit. It sounded like some horrific tale from the Brothers Grimm.
Not surprisingly, we made an appointment with a lawyer the very next week and discovered that it was easy and affordable to prepare our wills. Our most important concern was who would look after our children should we both die and to be sure they were willing to shoulder that responsibility. Our lawyer also prepared cross powers of attorney so that in the event of serious illness or injury of one of us the other could make medical and financial decisions. The final piece of the puzzle came when our lawyer asked, “So the whole family dies in a fiery car crash, who gets your money?” That led me to create bequests to a few favourite causes.
Back then there was little chance that those causes were going to get anything from me but it felt good to have made a choice. Twenty years on my children are established in their careers and I’m divorced and re-married so much has changed in my will but those bequests are still there and it still feels good to know that I will leave a legacy.
The province of British Columbia has proclaimed April 10 to 16 as Make a Will Week, and for good reason. 56% of adult Canadians have no will. That figure rises to 88% between the ages of 27-34, just when people are starting families and buying houses. By not having a will, you lose control over who gets how much of your estate and when. You also give up the right to appoint a guardian of your choice for any young children you have. If you are older this “little” oversight can cost thousands of dollars in legal bills, bitter family disputes, as well as legal battles between siblings and/or their spouses. All of this would be avoided with the drafting of a proper will.
So why is Dogwood blogging about wills? Glad you asked.
We know of a few people who have arranged for bequests to Dogwood but last year was the first time that we received a gift from an estate. The gift arrived in time to boost our non-partisan work during the federal election. Dogwood focused on getting out the progressive vote in key ridings so that B.C. would be represented by MPs opposed to oil tankers. Record voter turnout and the promise of a northern tanker ban is certainly a legacy to be proud of.
Traditionally, people have made most of their bequests to “bricks and mortar” institutions like hospitals, universities and churches – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But few people realize that you can also create a legacy of activism. You can put your money where your heart is. There are lots of worthy organizations and I would encourage anyone to consider a legacy. If Dogwood might be on your list please get in touch with me to learn more without any obligation or expectation.
Don Gordon, Head of Revenue
(250)370-9930 x 28 firstname.lastname@example.org
(Don has 25 years’ experience in gifts and fund raising. He is a Certified Fund Raising Executive, a Board member with the Vancouver Island chapter of the Canadian Association of Gift Planners and a member of Victoria’s Leave-a-Legacy TM committee.)
Office of The Public Guardian and Trustee www.trustee.bc.ca
The Canadian Bar Association (BC) http://www.cbabc.org/For-the-Public/Dial-A-Law
B.C. Government – Wills and Estate Planning