Your Will is not for you, it’s for those you love.

I have neglected to talk about this experience in depth for over two years now because a part of me felt embarrassed and defeated. I also chose not to share, as it would look poorly on some of the individuals that were involved.

After reading a blog today titled “Wills are for the living,” I knew I had to share my experience finally.

In sharing this bit of my story my intention is to motivate even one person to go out and either make their will or update their will. This goal far exceeds my fear of possibly upsetting someone who will one, likely never see this anyway, and two, even if they did; likely wouldn’t care.

Nick died without a will. Nick also died around the same time in which he was getting his paperwork to update his life insurance. A conversation we had had several times as we knew he did not want his current beneficiary to receive the insurance in the “rare” event he was to die.

Before I proceed, I want to make one thing clear. None of what happened to my family and me following Nick’s death is Nick’s fault. Was it as a result of something he neglected to do? Absolutely. But Nick was just like every other thirty-something, with no kids, and no real “assets”. Nick knew changing his life insurance was important, but he thought he had loads of time. Him and I had real conversations about what would happen if his insurance went to the wrong place and yet we still didn’t make it a priority. I was just as guilty as he was.

We thought we had time and quite frankly we were too busy planning our wedding and placed planning our death on the back burner.

I would send him off weekend after weekend into avalanche terrain with no real plan in place for if he died. I have a will, and I am insured through the roof because I knew how important it was, and I knew how easily someone could be there one minute and not the next, and yet I still didn’t make it a priority to ensure Nick got his things in order.

It was literally on the same to do list we had that listed, buy more eggs.

February 20, 2016, was a day I never thought in a million years would exist in my life. A day that started out with me packing my bags to travel to Vegas, ended with my entire world falling apart. My life as I knew it was over and a new one had been born. The new one filled with trauma, hurdles, betrayal, and hardship.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have experienced countless blessing since Nick’s death as you are all aware, and I wouldn’t change a thing about my life now, but this entry is not about those blessings, this entry is about the importance of protecting your loved ones while you are alive; but also when you are gone.

The first moment I realized I might be in trouble was when the coroner asked me what I wanted to have done with Nick’s body. At this point, I had a feeling I wasn’t in control of those decisions, and I said to her, “I am not Nick’s wife, and I don’t think I get to decide that.” The coroner immediately responded by saying, “honey, you will be deciding what happens to your fiancé’s body, take your time and let me know in the next day or so.”

I just want to point out that as I typed that last sentence tears poured down my face. I remember that conversation so vividly, and it was beyond surreal. Which brings me to my first point.

What do you want to be done with your body?

Speaking from experience, this is one of the most difficult decisions that need to be made. When the coroner and I discussed this, she asked me if Nick had ever talked about what he would prefer had he died. I said, “well we talked about it once, but we came to the conclusion that both burial and cremation equally suck.”

That was all I had.

I decided to have Nick cremated, but to this day I wish I had known what he would have really wanted. I am quite sure I made the right decision, but I wish I would have had a will to refer to. I wish I wouldn’t have had to be asked any of these horrifying questions.

Who’s going to pay for your funeral?

For those who don’t know, as lovely and compassionate as funeral directors are, they are still running a business and before they serve you, they require a credit card. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. I remember the lady softly asking, and I remember my Dad pushing his credit card across the table to her with no questions asked.

What the hell would I have done without my Dad? I ask this both from a place of genuine gratefulness but also from a place of real concern.

If I didn’t have the parents that I do, who were in a position to hand over their credit card and pay in full for Nick’s service, what would I have done?

Ask yourself this, do you have money in place for this sort of thing. Do you have insurance? Do you have money in your estate that will cover these costs? Are the insurance and money going to the right place?

The funeral doesn’t just magically get taken care of, and they are far from cheap. I remember going into the room filled with caskets, and my first thought was, “how on earth is that pine box so expensive.” Luckily my parents and my amazing friends Sandy and Sarah took over the funeral planning because as the dollar signs started piling up, and my reality started becoming more clear, I shut down.

Who is going to cover your bills?

When you die, your bills don’t die with you.

Nick gave me at minimum $1700 a month to cover his share of our bills. This included mortgage, insurance, utilities, t.v/internet, so on and so on. He did this for two years. I even had the printouts of every single e-transfer Nick had ever sent me to show that he and I were without a doubt, financial partners.

None of this mattered because Nick and I had only lived together for just over two years and in Alberta, common law is three years. For us to be considered an “interdependent relationship,” we would have had to draft a letter stating this, signed by both of us.

I remember the first lawyer my Dad and I went to see. No one cared that I was Nick’s fiancé. No one cared that we were getting married on October 14th, no one cared that he and I lived together and shared bills. There was no loophole in the Estates Act, and I had absolutely zero rights.

Had it not been for my parents, I would have gone bankrupt. Listen when I say this, this is not an exaggeration. Even with my full-time job, I would have gone bankrupt if I was required to financially carry the life Nick, and I had created. The house that was once shared by both of us, was now my sole responsibility because Nick was not on the title and I was basically considered his roommate following his death.

Where is your life insurance going? Who is your beneficiary?

The purpose of life insurance is to provide peace of mind and alleviate financial loss and hardship. However, with that said, the beneficiary has no obligation to do what is “right” and no obligation to pay any bills.

A cheque of nearly $200,000 was written and sent off to the beneficiary named on Nick’s insurance and to this day my family, and I haven’t seen a cent of it.

Please remember that even though we all want to believe in the good in people, we all grieve differently and we all respond differently in the face of death and in the face of money. Nick and I were actually able to foresee this scenario which is why we were in the process of changing his documents, but we were too late.

Often, however, people don’t foresee this happening, and they are blindsided by greed and selfishness following someone’s death.

Don’t put your family through this.

This is one thing that is so easily avoidable.

I am so lucky to have had the friends and family that I do. I was able to keep Nick’s sled which meant more to me than anything because my friends created an auction to raise money to buy it back from insurance. Had they not, I would have had to part with that too.

I was able to pay my bills because my parents were in a position where they were financially able to help me, but remember, this was and still is one of the hardest things for me to swallow.

My pride.

I was an independent, financially stable, and capable adult who was now having to depend heavily on her parents. This is not easy.

Don’t put your family through this.

Everything of Nick’s was sent back to Ontario, including several boxes of clothing. I had no right to anything. Nothing was considered mine, and if the person entitled to it asked for it, I had to deliver.

There was nothing we could do.

I was harassed for almost two years, and so were my parents.

We were in and out of our lawyer’s office for two years.

We cried, yelled, prayed, and pleaded to be left alone but we were in a position where we had to comply because I was in possession of Nick’s estate. We often referred to it as being held, hostage.

Let me explain why we felt like this. According to the estate’s act, all property belonging to the deceased must be disclosed and delivered to the person who is appointed an executor of the estate to be equally distributed to those who are entitled.

As a result of Nick not having a will, there was no executor, and one had to apply to become one. I tried with the help of my lawyer, but this didn’t go over well with those who felt they should be executor instead. They had the opportunity to apply but chose not to for over a year.

In that time I had to hold on to all of Nick’s belongings, move them with me twice, and continue to receive all of his mail, all of the phone calls from banks, insurance, and Alberta pension, and all of the nasty text messages demanding that I deliver his stuff, even though I was told by my lawyer multiple times that I legally could not.

Don’t put your family through this.

I recognize that we were dealing with someone who Nick struggled with his entire life and alcohol, and mental health were huge factors, but you truly never know how people will respond in the face of death and money. Grief is a powerful thing on its own but paired with alcohol and mental health issues; anything can happen that you may never expect or prepare for.

Don’t put your family through this.

In April our lawyer passed away at the age of 49 after battling cancer. Bless his soul. I spent many hours on the phone, and in his office with tears of frustration and tears of depletion. My lawyer and I didn’t always agree, mostly because of the intense emotion that existed in all of this and there were days I wanted nothing more than to fire him, but at the end of the day, he was working on a file that was beyond messy, and there was really nothing he could do but show compassion, and offer advice. He knew full well the type of person we were dealing with, and he too struggled with the greed and decisions made on that end.

It was nothing short of an ongoing debacle.

I will say though, the day my lawyer looked at me and said, “You are not letting Nick down if you walk away from all of this, you have done more than most”, was the day I realized I had to let be, what will be, and my parents felt the same.

I just wanted my Dad’s hard earned savings to be paid back. Nick admired my Dad for having set up an amazing retirement for himself and he never would have wanted any  of this.

When someone you love dies, you feel obligated to do so many things, and sometimes you need the permission to let go.

We knew Nick’s estate would go into the ground and that we would continue to be harrassed, but we had to walk away and hope that eventually we would be left alone. We didn’t want any money; we just wanted to be left alone.

To this day I am still not sure if my Dad was paid back for the funeral. He has tried his best to keep me out of all of it so I can focus on my schooling and not be pulled back into that mess.

He didn’t pay for the funeral expecting to be paid back; he paid for it because my parents loved Nick like a son and it was the right thing to do.

This is a long entry, and I have barely scratched the surface of what my family and I went through following Nick’s death. I have managed to get to a place in my life now where I can see the silver lining in all of this mess, but it took me a long time to get there. It took me forcing myself to forgive and look at the positives that came from me not having any financial help other than my parents. It took me understanding that my life would be very different now had I received a significant amount of money. Nick was so excited to help me with my education, but maybe I needed to go through what I went through because it will help me to become a better psychologist.

I had to look at it this way otherwise I would have gone crazy. However, with that said, I would rather see people avoid this situation as it is hard enough to deal with the death of someone you love without having to deal with the financial and legal side of things.

Please don’t put your family through this.

If you have made it to the end of this entry, Thank You. That shows me that you are interested in potentially learning from my misfortune.

I can confidently say my parents are close to $50,000 in the negative between funeral costs, lawyer fees, and supporting me when I didn’t have the funds to support myself. I know they wouldn’t change a thing, but I also know they would have rather seen me in a place of control than extreme vulnerability.

Please don’t put your family through this.

Nick loved me more than anything and I never once doubted that. I know he would have been mortified for what my family and I went through, but I also know that he wasn’t different than many of you out there who also don’t have your things in order. Nick doesn’t get another chance to make things right, but you do, and your family will appreciate it more than you will ever know.

If you have any questions at all about this process please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am not a lawyer but I know what I know now having gone through it.

Life is for the living and so are our last will and testaments.

<3 Meg

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