On a recent road trip to a cabin in the Whiteshell, my wife and I reviewed our wills. This review was not in response to a terminal-illness diagnosis or a change in marital status or anything that significant. We simply had not looked at the document for about five years and felt it was time to review it.
A lot of things can change in five years. In our case, three grandchildren were born. Three of our parents joined the fourth in eternal rest. Our involvements with several charitable organizations changed.
So there are many good reasons to review one’s will from time to time. For young families, the birth of children is perhaps one of the most significant reasons to review a will. Leaving instructions as to how the children will be looked after in the event that both parents should pass on is very important. This includes appointing guardians who will become responsible for the care of the children. If there is no will, it is likely that the courts will appoint guardians.
As children mature, they can become involved as executors, perhaps jointly with one another or with other mature and experienced friends or family members. These roles can change over time.
Lawyers will often include a Power of Attorney package with a will. This includes documents appointing someone to look after one’s business affairs when one is no longer able to do so. An accident or severe illness can create a need for this person with little or no notice. This package may also contain documented instruction on how one wishes to be treated in case of incapacitation through a terminal illness, including the appointment of a Proxy to make decisions about one’s end-of-life care.
For some people, and at a certain stage in life, additional issues become important in estate planning. According to the Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC) website, a current and detailed estate plan can provide continued support for favourite charities, while also minimizing taxes. MFC is skilled and available to help people with estate planning matters.
Wills can be produced in various ways, including writing them by hand or using a printed template. Because each of these methods has some particular requirements, we would encourage consultation with a lawyer so that all aspects of the will are done in a way to minimize challenges.
Money that is gifted to an organization through one’s estate can be significant to that organization’s operating fund or to its endowment fund. At Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV), we have an endowment fund that generates income for the ongoing operation of the museum. The capital in the fund is not available for general use so will remain a source of income solely through its earnings. Our fund is currently relatively small, and we would like to see it grow to become a stable and reliable source of revenue.
One of the challenges I face is offering the invitation for people to include MHV in their wills without seeming greedy or disrespectful. Maybe this article can appropriately provide that invitation.
Calendar of Events
- May 29 – Auxiliary Faspa with Mary Ann Loewen and Eleanor Chornoboy – 2:30 PM
- June 11 – Tractor Trek fundraising event
- June 12 – Tractor Show – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
- July 1 – Steinbach’s Canada Day festivities – 10:00–6:00