By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole.” – Clarence the Angel in the 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life”
I don’t mean to be a downer in the season of comfort and joy, but you are going to die. Doctors have determined that the human mortality rate is 100 percent. The minute you are born, you begin to die, and die you will.
It is something that we can’t totally control. Death may come at any time, regardless of how you feel or what you do to attempt to stop it. Ready or not, death comes to all.
Sorry, I have probably watched one too many medical shows. But the truth is, it is not only smart to think about what happens after you are no longer here, it is actually compassionate to do so. George Bailey, the lead character in that amazing holiday film, learned the value of a life in the form of those that he affected. He had measured his life based on monetary successes and failures, and nearly killed himself before he discovered that love and relationship mattered more than anything money could buy.
You have people who love and care about you. And, there are also those you love and care about. You spend decades building relationships, mostly without even thinking about it. Time, love, and tenderness are creating bonds that will last, well, until you die. About your spouse, you may have even recited the vow, “Till death do we part”. There is nothing you wouldn’t do for him, her, or them.
No one likes to think about death. One specifically doesn’t like to think about his own death. But, if you love your wife, husband, friends, and family, that is exactly what you need to do. Some folks go to the trouble of taking out life insurance. Actually, it is usually no trouble at all, because many insurance companies make it as simple as checking a box on a form and paying a monthly premium. If you work, your employer will pull the premium out of your check before you get your pay. That policy is a good start, but there is more you need to think about.
I had thought about the possibility of getting a will for several years. I am not a morbid person (at least I don’t think I am), but it began to occur to me that those that I love would have to make decisions about me and my possessions at a time of great grief and stress. One of the most difficult times in life is the death of a loved one. And, if that loved one doesn’t leave instructions for his final wishes and the distribution of his wealth, those decisions are left to a spouse, sibling, or other descendants, depending on what the law and government determine are eligible beneficiaries.
It was listening to acting EBCI Attorney General Mike McConnell during a Tribal Council session that finally made me realize the importance of getting that will done. Without a will, your spouse or family members will have to wait for the government to determine who will ultimately receive your estate. And, while the law spells out a succession of relatives and relations that might be eligible for your estate, there may be battles among your kin and friends over “who Robert really wanted to have stuff or money,” for example. We have all seen passionate battles over what’s left after life. Even in a simple situation, say you plan to give your spouse everything after you die and the law says your spouse would get it all anyway, having a last will and testament will speed the process of consolidating your estate for him or her to take possession.
So, I made an appointment with our EBCI Legal Assistance Office and spoke with attorney Tim Lewis. When the receptionist put me on his calendar, she gave me a one-page worksheet to fill out prior to meeting with Mr. Lewis. The form is very simple and helped me prepare the information that he would need to craft a will. This is a service that the Legal Assistance Office offers free of charge to community members. My meeting with Mr. Lewis took about 20 minutes and, at the conclusion, he told me he could have a draft ready in about a week.
Within a will, you may set out what you would like done with your remains, how you would like to be memorialized, direct where you would like your material possessions to end up, whether that is to a loved one, friend, pet, charity, or wherever you chose to leave it. A will can take some very difficult, stressful, and painful decisions away from your loved ones at a time of trauma and grief. This is one tangible way to show your spouse, family, and loved ones that you care; not necessarily that you are leaving them your materials, but that you are not burdening them with decisions about your personal business. And, all of your decisions contained in a will are confidential and may remain so until your passing.
So, do something that will make life easier for your loved ones. Sign up to create your will at the EBCI Legal Assistance Office (https://www.facebook.com/EBCILegalAssistanceOffice/) 359-7400. It may be the best Christmas gift you will give to your family and yourself.