There are no sensible or rational reasons why I shouldn’t make a Will, but the reasons that exist feel powerful.
The first is accepting that I am at the age when death is a reasonable expectation. If I died, there would be no murmurs of, “She was so young no one could have expected it.”
Secondly – and foolishly – I have no assets. What I’ve learnt is that this does not mean there will be nothing to clear up.
An act of consideration towards my family
I am likely to die in the next 10 or 20 years. Making a Will won’t change the time scale, but leaving behind a lack of clarity about my wishes could mean a muddle for family to struggle with, and quarrels even over small things. I know this can happen in the emotional aftermath of death.
Although I have no assets, there is still business that will need to be dealt with: outstanding bills to settle; informing utility companies; emptying my flat; arranging the funeral, disposing of my possessions; informing insurance companies, pension provider and friends. Every time I think about it, the list of tasks grows.
Making a Will also means looking at painful family issues; not looking will only pass on the problem. I have decided that a Will is an act of consideration towards my family.
My other concerns about making a Will are cost and the distance I will have to travel to get this done but I make the decision to phone a helpline. The person I call tells me I can deal with everything over the phone and I’ll then be sent a copy of the completed Will to sign. Also, it’s a free service.
Facing painful family issues and making decisions
A very polite, professional-sounding voice rings me back and sets up a phone appointment to ‘take my instructions’. I have my chair by the phone and the phone rings promptly at the time of our appointment.
The first questions were expected: age, date of birth and marital status. Here I have a query: I have been contentedly divorced for nearly a quarter of a century and do not want to be defined by this. As far as I’m concerned, I am single. The kind voice accepts this. A small but comforting concession.
Then other factual details ease us into listing my family. Ah. Deep breath. There is a close family member I have no contact details for and have not had for more than 10 years. This matters because if the issue is not clarified there can be legal problems in the future.
No reason needs to be given just the fact of the more than 10-year aching gap. I’m told, “You are estranged and there is no need to give any more details.” Saying and hearing this still hurts.
I have decided I want to leave my body for medical research. Well, if I had a cashmere coat I wouldn’t want it buried with me. I would want someone to get use and enjoyment from it.
I can’t be an organ donor. My organs are not of a good enough quality, not even my eyes. I know that bodies used for medical purposes have a funeral of some simple sort after they have performed their service.
Then I name my executors. I am advised to prepare a letter of instruction with the details of small bequests, for example a list of the friends who might like to choose a book as a momento and lists of friends to notify when I die – my children will not know all my friends who live locally. Funeral arrangements should also be in this letter.
Because I want to leave my body for medical research, I know that having a service where friends and relatives can remember me and comfort each other will not depend on me having a burial or cremation. I will have no use for flowers but would love those who wanted to to buy elements of a farm to help those in poorer countries.
It makes me smile to think I will be “buying the farm”, as the old wartime saying went.
Reviewing my relative poverty in detail is not pleasant
The professional I spoke to was just that: professional, informative, polite and kind. The next step is that he will send the details to a solicitor who will prepare my Will and post it to me for signing. There will even a Freepost envelope, a bonus as I cannot get to a post office.
I will need two unrelated witnesses, who will not be benefiting from my Will. They must see me sign every page though they don’t need to read what is written there.
I have an awkward thought. All of us living where I do are frail to some extent. If one or more of my witnesses die before me, will this invalidate the Will? My patient professional reassures me that it will make no difference.
After just under an hour I feel bruised and sad. Sharing family issues with a stranger, however minimally, is painful. Reviewing my relative poverty in detail is not pleasant.
The most expensive object I own is my mobility chair which took me long months of stringent saving to buy. The company that makes it is small and gives refurbished chairs to charity. I would like my chair to go to them to be adjusted for someone who cannot afford the £2000+ as my local authority does not fund these.
He asks about a long list of possible assets here or abroad, savings or investments. To all of these questions I have to say, ‘I have none.’ I should have expected the detailed, very reasonable questions about assets, financial and property savings and investments but he went thorough second homes, holiday properties, assets abroad...even pets.
In fact I have a sound, secure rented flat. I am safe and warm with have more than sufficient food and clothes. I have people I love who love me. I am fortunate. My interests are not limited by my infirmities. Treasure enough for me.
For tips on making your Will and to order our free guides, Coping with bereavement, and Planning for the end of life, visit www.independentage.org/TalkAboutDeath