Planning for the Unexpected

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Unfortunately, most people fail to plan until it is too late. History tells us that for centuries humans have been witness to tragedies, and often times have been the victim of them. A cursory study points to one inescapable fact: a tragedy always produces another tragedy.

Consider: all the wars, past and present, carried on in the name of some "sacred" or "national" cause, has always brought about death, destruction and ruin to countries, their armies and their citizens ? a tragic loss of lives but also a tragedy to the person(s) left to deal with the loss of a loved one while at the same time needing guidance as to what to do, beyond a Will, about personal effects and business matters.

Witness: the tragic deaths of people owing to disease and epidemics and the tragic effect such disasters have had on the survivor(s) ? the person(s) who must bear the brunt of their own personal tragedy and loss, attempt to go beyond any Will, put things in order and go on with life.

Recall, if you will, the natural disasters - floods, fires, tornados, hurricanes, earth quakes, volcanic eruptions, almost always resulting in the tragic loss of lives ? and for every life lost there is a person, or persons, who must face their own personal tragedy at a difficult time when they must also try to find guidance , in addition to a Will, and establish what should or must be done.

We have only to look at the recent horrendous catastrophe that happened in the Pacific where the tsunami devastated entire towns and villages; claimed in excess of 220,000 lives, wiped out entire families and left thousands homeless. Closer home, the lives of thousands of tourists, away from home and family to enjoy a warm and happy holiday, were suddenly snuffed out. All of them expected to return to their respective communities to resume their daily life. For each life destroyed by this tragedy there is a person, or persons, at home who must deal with the tragedy by shouldering the burden of being the executor of their estate by seeking help after the reading of the Will.

And then we have the hundreds of individuals whose lives are curtailed on a daily basis because of sudden heart attacks, strokes, car accidents, or other unanticipated events ? a tragedy to each family but an even greater tragedy to the person who is likely to be totally unprepared for making the required decisions beyond those that may have been given in a Will.

Throughout this article emphasis has been placed on the person left to deal with the tragedy, regardless of its magnitude, because whatever the situation(s) described above, not one of the individuals could ever have anticipated the timing of his/her demise. But then one cannot help but wonder how many of those individuals had taken the time to not only execute a Will, but put pen to paper so as to guide the person who survives them as to how they would, or should, handle their affairs.

As brutal and callous as it may sound, quite likely less than 20% of the individuals who were victims of the tragic situations were considerate enough of their significant others to talk to them at some point about their wishes much less actually doing something about it. No one likes to think about death, much less their own - but it is something of which we must all be aware and, as best we can, prepare for. This means that in addition to a Will, we should give, or at least leave, detailed, written guidance for the person who survives us. Not doing so would indeed create and be a tragedy.

Julian Huffer, though not a lawyer, served many years as Executive Director of a major law association until his retirement. He has continued his interest in legal affairs and, based on his experiences at the association and personally, has been greatly concerned with the lack of attention individuals give to leaving their significant others all the information possible about their personal wishes, financial matters, key medical and legal contacts as well as the locations of important documents. To that end he developed a lengthy but concise non-legal, do-it-yourself document for use by the average person. It was created to be used as an adjunct to a properly drawn Will and to serve as a guide for those who must see to the "winding up" of affairs. For more information Copyright 2005 - 780588 Ontario Inc. All rights reserved.

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