28 March, 2011

This is my last will and testament ...

Being of sound mind and body ... okay, as a 48 year old woman, I accept that I am neither of these, but I know I need to make this declaration soon.  I've been thinking about making a new Will for a long time.  It is already well overdue.  My husband and I made our Wills in 1990, just before we left to live in Thailand for three years.  We were young, and relatively impoverished at the time.  Our Wills were simple.  Twenty years later, we have yet to update these Wills.  We don't have children of course, and this means that we haven't felt the urgency.  (Mind you, I know of people with children who don't have Wills either.  They're just in denial.)

I probably have stronger feelings about what I would like to have in my Will than my husband does.  I'd like to ensure we have a deal, that if I go before him, in his Will he honours some of my wishes, and vice versa.   We had a cheery chat at a cafe on Saturday about what we'd put in our Wills.  Bear in mind that we're not wealthy, but we do own a house, and have some investments.  We're hoping to use them to fund a long and healthy retirement, of course, but after hearing some shocking and sad news about one of my husband's younger relatives on the weekend, we are suddenly reminded that life can end in the blink of an eye, or the buck of a horse.

Of course, Wills aren't something people talk about much, except for the occasional comment along the lines of "yes, I must make/update my Will soon!"  And so it's hard to know what most people do.  I expect that most people leave their worldly goods to their partners and then their children.  But of course, those of us who don't have children don't have that option.  And I, for one, would like to know that my estate makes a difference to someone when I die.  (The whole issue of death for people with no kids is another - or many other - posts). I wonder if people with children contemplate the same thing?   I know my parents (well, now just my mother), and my husband's parents, are pleased to be able to leave anything they have to their children.  That's what they worked for all their lives, they say, and I can understand that.  I guess multi-millionaires might have a greater quandary.  A well-known NZ businessman has commented that he made his millions himself, and he took great satisfaction from that, and so he wants his children to earn their money too. So apparently he's leaving them nothing, though I suspect that his idea of nothing is a few million each - you know, pocket money! 

Anyway, the point I'm getting to is that we need to make a new Will.  And that because we don't have kids, we need to be a bit creative in terms of who gets what.

I want to leave money to the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust, a charity that is very dear to my heart, despite being based in the UK (they were the first on-line community I ever joined).  They save women's lives (literally) and sanity every day, and they do it on the smell of an oily rag.  I can't do much to help them from New Zealand, but they deserve to be helped, to have some of the pressure taken off them, so they can continue helping women from all around the world .

We don't have that many children in our lives.  Nieces and nephews from my husband's side all live overseas, and are all from prosperous families. Nieces on my side are all grown, except for lovely CJ of course.  But I have a great-nephew (my sister, the grandmother, thinks being a great-aunt sounds so much worse than being a grandmother - I of course, disagree!).  His parents are not well off, and I think an education fund for him would be useful.  Education these days is much more expensive than when I went to university (I was paid to go!), and if I can help him that would be great.  A trust, to assist with the education of any of my nieces' future children, would be a good idea. That came to us over eggs and bacon and a nice pinot gris.

I've often said I'd like to arrange for an AFS scholarship (the student exchange I went on when I was 17) for a student from my old High School.  That's something I would still like to do I think, and would need some arranging.

There are some well-known medical research agencies in New Zealand, and my husband would be keen to leave some money to them too.  Not that our paltry amounts would mean much, but hopefully it would help.

And of course, there are the charities that are important to us or those we love, such as cancer, cystic fibrosis and arthritis.  Yes, we're running out of money.  We realised this even before we'd ordered our latte and hot chocolate.

Then of course we need to leave our belongings to people who would appreciate them.  We are not blind here though - we accept that what is special to us won't be special to anyone else.  We love our things - our teapot bought in the Atlas Mountains, the Vietnamese painting or the African wall hanging - because of the memories.  Others don't share those memories, and so the value of these possessions dies with us.  We're not overly sentimental about this.  The only thing I worry about is my great-grandmother's piano.  I want it to be loved and treasured, in the way that I love and treasure it.   I have just realised that I wrote about it here, mentioning this same concern over two years ago.

And - as my husband jokes - we mustn't forget  the Cats' Home.

We'll sort out executors/Trustees later.  That'll be another can of worms. 


  1. I / we have a similar dilemma. Neither one of us have siblings who have children, which rules out nephews and nieces. My god-children's parents will leave them way more money each than I will see in my lifetime. But we do have many more favoured charities than we have money.
    More than money, though, I hate that all the photos we take (hundreds a year) will just be thrown away or deleted, and that the memory of our children will die with us.

  2. I was JUST talking to Sandy about this yesterday. It's been on my mind so much since we finally stopped trying to have (living) children.

    Strange how normal things like making wills are so emotionally charged when you're in this sort of situation.


  3. Hi Mali!

    (I do read here, but usually feel just too stupid to leave a comment.)

    This is something i've not given much thought to. We will, of course, before long. Both of our families are long-lived, but that never counts with an accident. We drive a long way every week.

    We aren't close with any of our nieces or nephews. We have our "rent a kids," but that relationship is far too new to think about leaving them out things now. We'll have to give this some thought.

    This is a good thing to keep in mind.

  4. Very nicely written. Perhaps it will help me get off my butt and get my own house in order.

  5. I hope you feel better for getting it sorted - must be a weird discussion!

    Although, I think about that from time to time too. I think the money will be easier than stuff, especially things I've picked up when I'm travelling.

  6. Oh, and my word verification there was "avagfuel". Why does that make me think of cyclogest!?

  7. Great-aunt or not, you're a great aunt!

  8. We need to get ours done!! We've always said that our two nephews are welcome to whatever's left... but that doesn't mean we're concerned about leaving something for them in the same way we might worry about our own children. I also have some photos & things that belonged to both of my grandmothers that I would like my cousins' kids to have, to keep them in the family. They wouldn't mean anything to our nephews (dh's brother's sons). They might not mean anything to my cousins' kids either, but I will feel better for having made the effort. ; )

  9. Oh, ack!! Taking care of our wills has been on my to do list for years, but we never quite get around to it. My husband doesn't want to face reality, but that reality is that he has children from a previous marriage and other relative known to be first in line when someone croaks. I need to make this a priority and I appreciate reading how you dealt with the conversation. Thanks for the gentle prod.

  10. THANKS for sending the link of this post to me, Mali...it is really something to ponder, eh? And you're right about special values of things and that those things will "die" with us...talking about this really makes me sentimental again...

  11. “Bear in mind that we're not wealthy...”—I think one doesn't have to be rich to document a will. This legal paper only acts as an instruction on what to do to your properties and assets when you pass away. It's good to hear that you have considered making one.

    Donte @Financial Brokerage