Is your will up to date?

March 4, 2018

I’m thinking most retirees have wills, but is your will up to date and signed? Where do you keep the original so the family knows where to find it?

Our family held a memorial service last weekend for Uncle Ed. My readers may recall an earlier column about Ed's final wishes regarding the family heirlooms including a picture of the trivet he made.

Sadly, he passed away in Johnson City, Tenn., at the age of 89 on Feb. 1, 2018, after he succumbed to the flu and pneumonia.

The family knew he was revising his will, and he was supposed to meet with his lawyer, but he got too sick to keep the appointment. The final copy was not signed before he died. The attorney was working from a copy of the previous will.

Ed and his deceased wife Sonia had no children. Since the original cannot be found, the attorneys are going to contact the persons named in the copy and organize a meeting. If all parties agree to abide by the provisions in the copy, then that can proceed as valid. If not, it will go to probate court.

In Delaware, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living parents or descendants – children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren.

While I wanted to explain who gets what in the state of Delaware, there are too many scenarios to list here, but anyone can do some research online.

When my husband and I retired to Delaware, we contacted our lawyer in Maryland just to inform them of our new address. Instead, they said we needed to get their original will and verify with a Delaware attorney that it was in accordance with current state law. Then we sat down with a Delaware attorney and drew up a new one, even though the beneficiaries remained the same. We did need to update the medical directives as well.

What surprised me was that the original was given to us and a copy is held by the attorney. I always assumed the attorney kept the original.

If something were to happen to me or to my husband, my children know to look in a file cabinet in the office. But what if they can't find it? I can't depend on my brain to locate my eyeglasses. What if I take it out to read it and forget to put it back? Why don't I have a lockbox? A fire-retardant lockbox.

I need to give my two children a copy of our wills now. In my mother's case there were six children, and she didn't want us to know what was in the will until her death, lest we bicker, I suppose.

To her credit, we emptied her condo without a squabble. Then later after the wounds were not as raw, we swapped items like they were Easter candy. I gave Bonnie the cookie jar, and my niece Ginny wanted the emerald earrings, so they were handed over. It was funny how Mom thought she knew what we wanted to keep, but she really didn't.

This has been one of the craziest emotional weeks of my life as I watched people I didn't know rifle through drawers and cabinets for items they held of value. Greed at the time of death is most unbecoming; yet, we also want items from loved ones which remind us of happy times with the ones we have lost. Without those memories, they are just things. Hope you are prepared as possible with an updated, signed will, as there are plenty of attorneys in our area who can help us avoid probate and ill will.