My Mother died without ensuring her affairs were properly in order before her death. She died in 2011, and it is clear on this side of it, that we are dealing with an intestacy. I am the sole heir at law, however this has been a very complex issue and even though the law is on my side, I decided to find a way to resolve this with the family from a win/win perspective. Unfortunately, although in theory this should have been easier than going down the win/lose, or lose/win path with such a contentious issue, it has not been an easy road for me to walk, and perhaps for the others involved.
At least four lawyers have been on this case over the years, and I think the two that are on it now, are definitely more knowledgeable and experienced with Estate Litigation. Since hiring my new lawyer in December 2016, we are light years ahead of where I was at with my first lawyer of two years. It is pretty clear to me that my new lawyer is very committed to collaborative law in this case. Kudos to him for keeping me focused while I have been navigating the best I can the highly charged emotional journey.
There is no doubt this path to resolving my Mother’s estate matters has felt burdensome, stressful, and has been fraught with endless frustration. Of course the fact that this is my Mother has made it even harder from an emotional perspective.
Skill and emotion aside, this has been very expensive to resolve, and we are not out of the woods yet. Finally this week, I am in Court for the first time to try to resolve this before the judge. The bill for lawyers to date is already well over $10,500, not including the new lawyer’s fees for the other side, or the day in court for both. There will be more legal bills into the future no matter how this rolls, guaranteed.
Nothing expresses love for those who are left to complete your affairs more than having at least the basics covered. Write your Will and ensure it is a proper document so that your wishes are carried out the way you want them to. Don’t default to being stubborn. Don’t leave it to chance. Don’t leave it to the lawyers and the Court to figure it out for you. If you are not feeling settled on important decisions, reach out and talk to someone to help you clarify the concerns so you can take action and get your wishes in writing and to feel good about your decisions.
Another word of advice, make sure your lawyer actually knows what s/he is doing. My first lawyer, who does wills and estate law, told me he had the experience to do this. As it turns out his passion is in real estate law. It took two years for me to discover this. It wasn’t that I didn’t do my research before making the decision to hire him, the difference, which seems so obvious to me now, is that I did not ask about his experience with Estate Litigation. BIG difference. Not ever having to deal with this before or not knowing someone who has been through this, how would I know?
One more word of advice, be sure to check with the Barristers or Law Society in the jurisdiction where you reside. One of the lawyers involved in this had been suspended for professional misconduct in the past. If I had found this out sooner, it may have made a difference to how things unfolded. That one is hard to say, he wasn’t my lawyer…well, not exactly…this is where the story gets a little more complicated!
There is a silver lining to this story. The death of my Mother is what has inspired me to commit to the calling of being an end of life planner/mentor and funeral celebrant. I don’t know that I would be so solidly on this path if I had not been impacted by my Mother’s decision to leave her affairs to the Court to decide for her, (through her inaction).
Learning the difference between Estate law and Estate Litigation, was a hard and expensive lesson. Sometimes it takes a long time and a lot of expense to find our way with the systems that we only have a peripheral experience with, like entering into a transaction with a Funeral Home. Generally speaking unless you have personal experience with “the system,” why would you know? Why would you challenge your beliefs about how things are done?
Final word of advice, don’t be afraid to seek knowledge and ask questions, lots of questions. Make informed decisions about your end of life wishes, and make wise decisions about where your money will be spent. It is legal for families in most jurisdictions in North America to act as their own funeral director. Besides the fact that this opens a lot more options to families for how they celebrate the life of their loved one, there is the potential for a lot of cost savings too. If saving money or being in control of your destiny on either side of death sounds appealing to you, reach out. I offer a free consultation.