A train ride conversation about willsPosted to Financial Capability on 17-03-2018
By Alexander Stevens II (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu)
It’s a Friday afternoon; my friend and I board the train and are sitting down waiting for it to leave.
“Last call", says the rail worker as he blows his whistle and the doors begin to slide silently shut.
As we depart the station I tell my mate that the question of making a will has been a big topic of conversation recently. “I don’t want to talk about death”, he says, “I have years ahead of me”.
This kind of response is normal. It’s true, talking about wills inevitably makes us reflect of our own demise. It can be uncomfortable to think and talk about death, but a will is something each of us needs to discuss, as my friend would soon find out.
After a careful pause I say. “I’m not talking about death. I’m talking about how people are thinking of making some big decisions about how they want their affairs to in be order when they are gone.” He interrupts, “I’m going to let my family fight over it. No point worrying, I won’t be there.” I’ve heard that said before in my own family.
The intercom announces “We have reached the next station.” Passengers get off and on. The door closes.
“What about your cats - where will they go?” I ask. “Not your sister I hope. Just last week you told me she killed her cactus. A cactus! One of the most durable plants on the planet. If she can’t look after a cactus how many of their nine lives do you think Mog and Fog will go through at her house? I pray for those kittens’ wellbeing.”
He stares at me as though it was a sucker punch to bring his beloved felines into the mix. And yet I can see a slow movement towards thinking about how important it might be to have a will. Like Sir Edmond Hillary climbing Mt Everest, I continue tackling his mountain of resistance.
“If not for them, could I suggest you think about your KiwiSaver? You have a large amount in there and if you don’t name who you want to have it, it will go through the court process and can be costly.”
Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel. “Hmmm I hadn’t thought about my KiwiSaver,” he says. “I naturally thought my parents would be given it.”
“Not necessarily,” I tell him. “People can challenge a will if they were promised something by you. Like our train ride, people come and go in our lives. It’s important to have it all written down and kept up-to-date.”
The woman behind us interjects and asks about the cost of a will and how to get one. “Excellent!” I think to myself, another person on board with thinking about wills. Cost can be a significant factor in putting people off getting a will, and it’s important to consider your options – you could go to a lawyer, a trustee corporation such as the Public Trust, or do it yourself with a will kit available at stationery stores for about $20-$50. The Sorted website has some good information on wills and testimonies, as does the Citizens Advice Bureau and Public Trust.
The next 45 minutes are filled with robust conversation, only interrupted by the rail worker announcing we have reached the end of the line - the irony. As we begin to go our separate ways, my friend asks me if I would consider having Fog and Mog in the event something was to happen to him. I politely decline, but agree that Harold the budgie would be more than welcome.
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