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Where Is Your Will?


Have you ever stopped to consider the consequences of not having a will?

where is your will?

By Norma Jackson Goldman


“Where is your will?” may sound like a strange, even abrupt question to ask a friend or family member. But that’s exactly what I have asked many of my friends and co-workers countless times over the past month. It isn’t strange, nor is it abrupt; I’m doing them a favor.

The reason is that my beloved brother died recently, apparently without a will. He did so knowing his wife would require psychiatric care for the rest of her life. I’m certain that he did not intend to leave others to attend to his affairs, completely ignorant of his wishes, but that is exactly what happened. Compounding the matter further, he died in Canada, although he was a U. S. citizen.

The second question to be asked is, “Who knows where your will is?” followed by, “Do you have all your important papers in one place, and can they be easily found?” After the shock of learning about the circumstances of his death, and the will question, here are the other questions asked of me, of which I could answer only one: Do you know anything about your brother’s banking arrangements? Do you know anything about his other assets? Was there insurance? Did he have a safety deposit box? Can you provide any information relative to his surviving wife’s family in Canada? Did your brother give any instructions regarding his burial?

In just a few days, it will have been a full month since he died. I have not yet been able to attain legal status so that I can claim his body. I have not been told if the authorities have located a will. We have been able to plan a memorial service so his family members can begin the grieving process and find some sort of closure, but the wounds remain fresh and raw. The uncertainties of making final arrangements without knowing his wishes are painful.

As you read these words, doubtless you are mentally preparing an inventory—which questions could you answer and which would remain unanswered? Who could take responsibility, and how would that person carry out the desires of the deceased?

Likely you have heard this statistic many times: 50% of Americans die without a will. This is an incredible, almost unbelievable statement made about people in a country like our own. Yet until faced with circumstances similar to those described here, that statistic does not hit hard enough to move people to action.

This fact is astonishing, considering the number of people who have children in their care. Who will care for them in the event of your untimely death? Without a will, the state where you reside will make decisions that rightfully belong to you…and only you.

A hidden folder contains my will (it needs updating), a list of bank accounts (names, numbers, authorized signatories), a list of insurance coverage (personal life, auto, home, long-term disability, accident, travel and cancer polices), sources of income (account numbers for investments, pensions), and a 2008 tax return. All three of my children know where the folder is kept, and they know who has been named executor of my estate. They know where I will be buried, and I have left notes about my funeral service, including music that is important to me.


Where is your folder?


While the issue of a will might sound abrupt or harsh, in truth, it is a loving and important responsibility. Even if it is uncomfortable, ask the question of your parents, family members with children under their care, or single friends. Agree to hold each other accountable for getting these important records together and keeping them updated.


About the Writer: Former magazine editor Norma Jackson Goldman enjoys a freelance writing career in her retirement.


©2009 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists