This Is Your Life

Your will is a legal synopsis of your life story; blatantly condensed down to the bare minimum number of words required to get your point across.  It goes without saying when creating a will it’s pretty important you don’t leave out any important bits of your story because when you're dead there's no going back to set the record straight or interpret the subplot

This Is Your Life

"This is your life.  It’s always changing.  Make sure your will is keeping up."

One of my favourite stories in the whole world is Charlotte’s Web.

When it comes to crying, I’m not a big fan.  It messes with my eyelashes and makes me feel all itchy inside.  However, without fail, every single time I get to the final chapter of Charlotte's Web, the one where Wilbur has to leave the showground in his wooden crate and hatches a plan to get Templeton to help him save Charlotte's egg sack, and Charlotte is breathlessly telling the affable but undeniably dim Wilbur that she can’t come with him because she’s dying….

I lose it so bad I can’t read it out loud to my kids without drawing long sobbing breaths and ugly crying…

Maybe you have a story that makes you feel the same.  One where each sentence fills your mind with a rich vision or triggers feelings in you that mirror your life.  Maybe you just love the pictures!

I want you to imagine for a moment that you’re asked to distil the beautiful rich tale you love so much into the bare minimum number of words required to simply get the point of the story across.  A synopsis if you like.

What would the significant chapters be?  What would you take out?  What would you keep? What would you hope people could read between the lines and figure out for themselves?  What would need interpreting if you weren’t there to fill in the blanks?

…..

Now I want you to imagine for a moment that your life has been made into a story.

It’s a rich, detailed, complicated, seven-volume masterpiece with a spin-off series.   If you are lucky there will be several heartwarming chapters and undoubtedly your fair share of sad ones.  There will be trials and tribulations.  Probably a villain and maybe a love interest. There will be twists and turns and enough mystery to keep the readers glued.  It’s filled to the brim with your wishes and dreams, your hopes and desires.

Imagine if you got to leave a book like that for your family to enjoy when you were no longer around.  How awesome would that be?!

Well, I have good news.  And bad news.

The good news is you DO get to leave a record of your life story.

The bad news is nobody wants the seven-volume version,  you only get to leave a heavily condensed version.

That condensed little story even has a name.  It’s called your will.

You probably haven’t thought about it before but your will is the legally binding synopsis of your life story.

Try as you might and wish as you like you are not allowed to write a will akin to War and Peace.  Even if your life, like most people, is very very complex.

The reality is whilst wills are relatively wordy beasts (many a time I’ve been asked to please just write a will in plain English and skip the legalese) the life story inside a will has been blatantly condensed down to the bare minimum number of words required to get a legal point across.

So it goes without saying when creating a will it’s pretty important that you work with a person who ensures you don’t leave out any important bits of your story. Because unlike me sobbing my way through Charlotte’s Web, constantly being interrupted by my kids needing a recap on proceedings, you are not going to be there to set the record straight or to interpret the subplot.

Because you’ll be, dead.

…….

If you leave your family with a story that is missing pieces or suddenly offers up a surprise plot twist (hello ye’olde skeletons in the closet) or your story is simply so out of date it no longer makes sense.  I can guarantee you they’ll go looking for answers.

And the only way they’re going to find those answers is by engaging a lawyer to interpret your legal story for them.

When the lawyer can’t figure out what you were trying to say, a court will be charged with the job of sifting through the limited evidence and concocting their own story.  It won’t necessarily be the right story but it will be a story.  And your family will have to settle for that.  Because like I said, you’re not there to set the record straight.

……

So when exactly do you make it a priority to update your will? Here’s a by no means exhaustive list of suggestions;

> adult children leaving your care or new babies joining your family
> marriage, divorce, separation or moving in together
> increased care duties of parents or grandchildren
> a new business venture or significant investment
> retirement
> discovery of a 2nd family or previously undisclosed love child
> buying or selling property
> winning the lotto or inheriting assets
> the death of a spouse or dependant

The next time you’re looking for a good story to curl up in bed with, you could re-read Charlotte’s Web (or whatever your favourite book is) or you can dig out your will and take and look to see if all the chapters line up with the story you want your family to read when you’re no longer around.

If your will contains something that’s going to need interpreting after you’ve died, don’t leave it to a lawyer to be your voice.  Be your own voice.

This is your life.  

It’s always changing.  Make sure your will is keeping up.

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