What Really Happens When You Can’t Find a Parents’ Last Will
Here it is first hand
Dear Will Registry,
I had to write my story for you to publish since I know that I am not alone in my horrifying experience when not being able to find a parents’ Last Will.
When my father was in his early 60’s, I distinctly remember riding in the car with my father and him casually telling me he had a Will written and that I shouldn’t worry when he is gone because he would take care of my mother and us kids. He proceeded to tell me he wanted to be cremated. I remember telling him, “Dad, you’re not going to die, so let’s not discuss this anymore”. He smiled and giggled to himself and said, “ok baby”. We never discussed it again.
A few years after that conversation, my dad had a stroke. As my family started to face the possibility of his demise, we asked my Dad where some of his papers could be, and sadly, he wasn’t able to remember. Three months later, at 67 years old, my father died. As per his wish, I didn’t worry because I remember him telling me not to.
I told the family that dad wanted to be cremated, but they said they didn’t believe it. I had nothing to prove it, so now the family was faced with making funeral plans. Since we were so emotionally distraught. we spent a lot of money making sure that Dad had the finest coffin (the Cadillac one with a silk lining and silk pillow, and of course it needed to be airtight), all quite a bit of extra money. Dad now lays in a lovely crypt, with all the bells and whistles, none of which he wanted.
So now it’s time to read the Will. Where is the will? My mother couldn’t remember who the attorney was from 10 years back, so we were on our own. My mother looked all over and couldn’t find it. We searched all of the files, all of the drawers, and even the safe deposit box, but it was nowhere to be found. Now we were in a panic. All we needed to do was ask Dad one more question …. and we couldn’t. It was a helpless, frustrating, and soon to be devastating situation.
Fighting over ‘who got what’ started to ensue. It wasn’t about the money as much as it was about the sentimental personal items. Who was going to get dad’s old beat up Rolex, neck chain, and ring he wore every day? These were the most emotional items that already caused enough tension to break up the family. Did he have any life insurance policy’s still active? No one knew, not even Mom who wasn’t 100% there either. Who was to take over dad’s small business and if it were sold, how should we split up the money? All we had were questions with no answers.
After this experience, it was imperative to ask my mother where she stored her Will. She very willingly told me the name of the attorney who wrote the will, his address, and phone number. When my Mom passed 3 years after my dad, I called the attorney’s office, only to be horrified to find out the phone number was disconnected. When I researched the attorney, I learned he had passed away 6 months prior. This was a nightmare. Here we go again, can’t find my Mom’s Will.
Now the family is back in scramble mode, searching through all of mom’s paperwork and files. Suddenly we came across a file marked, “Last Will”. In the file was a certificate stating that my mother’s Will was registered in The U.S. Will Registry. This was a dream. I raced to find the site and did a search for a missing will. The results said, “A match has been found”, and it gave us instructions on what to do next. All I had to do was send in a death certificate and my ID. Since the registration listed me as one of the family members they were able to release it to me, it was a very simple process.
The Will registration stated where my mother’s original will and duplicate was stored. Finding her Will saved us so much money and time and family relationships. Everything was distributed the exact way she wanted them to be. We were so thankful that Mom actually did register her Will. Mom wanted to make sure we didn’t go through the same experience we had with my father.
My hope is that my story will spare someone else’s family the same difficult experience. Dealing with the loss of a parent is devastating. I have already registered my own will with the Registry and have become quite an advocate for others to do the same.