"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

Wills, shared finances, future planning (and all that yucky stuff)

A couple of years ago my husband and I finally wrote new wills. Since we'd married, over 2 years prior to that, we'd had many conversations about finances but had only really had a couple of half-hearted conversations about future planning. We had, though, travelled quite a bit in that time, and with each trip I'd felt an increasingly uncomfortable awareness of our status as "intestate" should anything untoward happen to either (or both) of us. Not to mention the fact that we drive cars on busy roads each day, and my husband has a penchant for more risky pursuits like surfing, hang-gliding and riding a motorbike! On the other hand, I don't think I'm quite so likely to die from a knitting needle in the eye or a garden fork through the foot, but you never know..........

Tackling the hard topics
So it took us a while, but we finally got around to doing something about this unpleasant-to-discuss subject. Although we knew that we could simply buy a couple of will kits from the post office, find a witness and be done with it, we had an inkling things might be a little more complicated than that. Hello, we have five children, mine are not his, his are not mine!! And so we went to see an estate lawyer. And we discovered a thing or two............

It turns out my husband hadn't updated his will since 1994 - that's "b.c." for him. So add three children, a divorce, and a recent remarriage to the equation, and there was no way that circa 1994 sucker was ever going to fly. I, on the other hand, ever the detailed, organised Melancholy type, had rewritten my will after my ex-husband left and before I travelled overseas in 2010, then again after my divorce became final, and it was all done neatly by my divorce lawyer and timed perfectly. So from early 2012 I had a new will that provided for my sons. Nevertheless, no matter how organised I may have been with my previous wills, remarriage invalidated all of them, so we knew we both needed to bite the bullet and address the issue.

A stressful discussion
I remember reading an article by Laura Petherbridge in which she described a meeting she and her new husband had with their lawyer to rewrite their wills. Things became tense as the discussion revealed ways of thinking that neither of them had expected or yet shared with the other. Now that we've been through this process, I can relate to her story. I found the process stress-filled and fraught, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, my husband had his own business at the time, which for years had operated from a family trust, and a company, with his ex-wife's name still on some of the official documentation. Some investigating was necessary there.

Secondly, there was fear. Mine. All mine. The area of finances, and trusting God for His provision, is something I've found pretty challenging over the past 10 or so years, and although I recognise the source of my fear - being abandoned, being at the mercy of my ex-husband who was the main breadwinner at the time, having a long battle over property settlement, all the uncertainty about how I would survive financially - it's been an ongoing struggle to keep on giving it over to God. And even though He has provided in amazing ways, I recognise that I'm still not there yet. I still struggle to release my tight grip on personal finances. Thankfully God is gently and graciously working with me on this one. And blessing me with a kind, generous, non-materialistic, patient, prayerful and understanding husband, which makes all the difference.

Crying in front of the lawyer
Yes I did. As we sat there with our lawyer, talking about where and how to start planning for the unthinkable, it got complicated, and messy. Let me just clarify here - not complicated for my husband, who was his usual gentle and trusting self. Complicated for me, as I got more and more mired in the dirty details of the seemingly overwhelming number of eventualities and "what ifs". And on top of that we actually had to put words to the whole idea of DYING!! As a mum, there's just something about dying and leaving my kids "motherless" that has always ripped my heart out, no matter how old my sons might be. So the first big deep breath for me was to actually speak the words.

What if I die first?
What if you die first?
What if we both die together?
What if we die when there are still "minors"?
What if we've pooled all our assets by the time we die?
What if we still have this or that property when we die?
What if we no longer have this or that property when we die?

And on and on and on and on. Like I said, complicated and messy, because details and me? We're tight like THIS!!!

My catastrophizing mother's heart - again!
One of my biggest concerns was that my sons might feel "diddled" out of their inheritance (such as it is) if we went with a straight five-way split. Now, let me just clarify here - I've never actually had this discussion with them, so I'm pretty sure that neither one of them would even know (or care at this stage of their young lives) if I had a will at all. They are not in the least materialistic and I know they're not waiting for anything from me in order to get on with their lives. Nevertheless, this was something that I felt strongly about, so much so that it brought me to tears to think about it.

And so, finally, after much discussion, tears (all mine), and a deepening appreciation of the beautiful, gentle, easy-going and loving man that I married, our wills were complete, albeit long and full of clauses like:

If I die before you, AND if.............. then..............
If I die before you, AND if.............. but not............ then............
If you die before me, AND if........... then.............
If you die before me, AND if........... but not............ then............

It's complicated!
Yes, I know, I know, but it's complicated, like so many other aspects of stepfamily life. At the end of the day though it's a start, so that at least if something happens to either or both of us we know that our children will be provided for financially. And yes, it's totally yucky to have to drill down into such a dirty subject like money (my money, your money, our money, my stuff, your stuff, our stuff.........), but the alternative is to leave a stressful and potentially nasty battleground for those we love, and that would be worse.

Once the process was complete, and the documents signed and lodged, I felt a great sense of relief that we'd made fair provision in our complex financial and family situation for all five of our children. No doubt things will change over time, and clauses will need to be amended, but it was a good outcome in the initial stages of our stepfamily.

Faithful stewards
It says in the Bible that we are to be faithful and trustworthy stewards of all that God has graciously provided for us. Having a will in place means that whatever resources we have at our time of death will hopefully not become the subject of a bitter and drawn-out dispute that dishonours the One to whom it all belongs anyway. 'Cos you can't take it with you!

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