One of the more significant lessons I retained from my childhood (being that I was one of three girls who were parented by a very progressive father) was the importance of having my name on everything I owned in in conjunction with that of my life partner. Just incase anything ‘happened’.
I never really thought anything would ‘happen.’ The possibility of anything ever ‘happening’ to my spouse was, in my mind, absolutely impossible. Mostly because things like that don’t happen to my family. Really. Although I guess now apparently they do, but I digress….
Anyway, back to my Dad. “Always have a Will” and “Make sure you build a credit history in your own name” and “Always have joint accounts” and “Make sure you co-own everything” were phrases that my Dad repeated. And much like my sweet boy Zak has said that he always listened to his Dad’s lessons on properly caring for electronics, I too listened to my Dad’s lessons on preparing for my future.
So, because I sometimes paid attention to the lessons from my Dad, Ben and I have always had a Will. We revised our Will once when we were finished having kids because we discovered that we didn’t want to hand everything to them at age 19 if something should happen to us. Which it wouldn’t because, as I mentioned, those things don’t happen to my family.
In any case, what I am trying to say is that I own everything, along with Ben. I ‘own’ our bank accounts, our house, our investments and even “Ben’s” truck. The same is true in reverse. And we have Wills.
Now, listen up people …. for all of you reading this who don’t have Wills (and I know there are a lot of you), and for all of you who like to keep bank accounts separate and live life in a “Mine” and “Yours” type of way (which, in my personal opinion completely defeats the whole idea of marriage, but to each his own), let me just tell you from my personal experience that you are making a HUGE mistake. To quote Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.” That is the exact quote, by the way. Go ahead and look it up.
Ben has been gone for over a month, and I still work every single day on banking issues. (Did I mention that I am currently sick again and just want to lay in bed? But there is no time for that because there is so much work to be done.)
Today I had to change the house and truck into my name only. Every day I am met with complications and challenges and frustrations, despite the fact that I OWN EVERYTHING! When I tried to remove Ben’s name from our jointly owned truck, I brought along an original death certificate, his original Will, and the insurance papers. Guess what? I needed to produce a marriage certificate. WHAT??? Seriously? Yes indeed. I needed my marriage certificate to prove that I actually married him, and his death certificate to prove he died even though the truck always belonged to me. And what if we hadn’t been legally married? Or what if the truck was only in his name? Yes, I would eventually get it all sorted out because we have Wills, but what if we hadn’t had Wills? You see where I’m going with this?
Eventually I returned with my marriage certificate (I still think she was wrong) and I am now the extremely heart breakingly sad sole owner of a truck that Ben loved dearly. And guess what else? Even though I always legally owned the truck, ICBC made me pay an additional $25 to own it all by myself.
So I would just like to point out that if I am frustrated now and find myself banging my head against the wall and wanting to slap most bankers I meet (which I am, and I do), imagine what it would be like if my name wasn’t on everything? Imagine if there was no Will? Imagine if all my assets were frozen until ownership could be proven?
Nothing about my life has been OK since April 10th, 2015. Its been about as bad as it can get, hopefully, since January 13th, 2016. But let me tell you, when life has beaten you down and stripped you of part of what you love most in this world, part of what makes you ‘you’, the last thing you want is to find yourself without access to funds, or setting court dates, or throwing away money on legal fees, or arguing with estranged family members over perceived entitlements. All the aforementioned do happen, and worse.
After Ben’s service I was contacted by various people, and the messages were generally the same. People said that Ben inspired them in life and he inspired them in the way he lived while he was dying. I’m so glad for that. He inspired me in so many ways too. But for everyone who may have been inspired by Ben, please also know this – Ben was fully prepared and responsible when it came to the big things like Wills and joint ownership, however, he wanted desperately to live and therefore he did not properly take the time to prepare for his death when it came to the little things. He didn’t want to acknowledge the inevitable. Well, those ‘little’ neglected things have made life quite a challenge over the last month, so imagine what it would be like if he hadn’t prepared the big things?? I don’t even want to think about it.
Go ahead and be inspired by Ben. He was inspiring. You should be inspired. Be so freaking inspired that you close your computer and call your lawyer (after you watch Ben’s video below). You never know when it may suddenly be too late. Don’t let additional stress, costs and hardship be what you leave your family. Remember, its far easier to prepare for death when you are not dying.
Dad, thank you for the solid advice you gave me when I was growing up. I wish I’d listened to more of it. There was probably some good stuff tossed my way over the years. Thank you for being one of the people that Ben loved and trusted and listened to. Thank you.
Jeff … if you are reading this and if you haven’t contacted your lawyer yet, know this: I will not be giving you Ben’s challenge coin until you have made an appointment. Living in Iqaluit is not an excuse. Wanting to sleep is not an excuse. Running from polars bears – also not an excuse. And I’m probably not giving it to you anyway until you fix my Apple ID, but mostly its just the lawyer issue. 🙂
This is the video montage played at Ben’s service, with a few minor tweaks to remove people who’s images can’t be out there. Just know when you watch it that Ben loved Jeff and Nancy, even though you don’t see them on here.
I miss him so much. Our family is so incomplete without him.