Could my death turn into a bloody great ‘bun fight’? 26



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Over recent weeks, I was prompted to complete my Advanced Health Directive. Just like my Will, Enduring Power of Attorney, this document should be the last in my efforts to ensure ‘my final wishes’ will be adhered to.

However, recent events in the life of a friend have alerted me to potential pitfalls and problems. In this case, the deceased nominated two co-executors (one of whom being my friend), but the other even euthanised a pet without consultation or permission from the other executor. What should have been a simple Will has turned into a nightmare.

I’m not sure why her ‘voice’ wasn’t given consideration. I would have assumed that in the case of Co-Executors each would have to confer with the other before any action could be taken. Ensuing legal battles have commenced. For all intents and purposes, the ‘deceased’ died as ‘poor as a church mouse’ and I suspect that the only people who will profit from this debacle will be the lawyers!

We try and ensure that the documents we put in place are ‘legal’; that they will be acted upon accordingly but when doing so better make provision for your ‘pets’ or someone could decide that the dog or cat that you have shared your life with should end it’s life with yours!

Of course this issue is not just about euthanising a pet! For me, it raised the question about the effectiveness of the legal system; about the documents I’ve put in place (Are they even worth the paper they are written on?); could my death turn into a bloody great ‘bun fight’?

I would appreciate any reader’s comments as I’m inclined to explore this issue further. This is a sensitive and emotional issue so feel free to share your comments as a ‘personal message’.

Susan Leighton

  1. Be aware your legal documents are not always legal if you move interstate to live… You will maybe ok but the AHD and Enduring power of Attorney may not….can’t understand when we have a legal document made in Australia why it’s not legal in all of Australia …these things should be seamless…

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    • I did the new will, EPA and Enduring Guardianship when I re married as did my husband. I discussed the with my children and told them these things had to be set in place and they needed to talk about it between themselves, but I needed an answer on a set date. When that date arrived we had a family dinner and afterwards got down to business. The kids had chosen who would take on which role. With tears in their eyes they gave me unsolicited assurances the they would not act without consulting each other and include my husband. So, the upshot of this IMO is to choose who you want and let them discuss the matter before nominating. Oh, and get copies of your Will, the EPA and EG. Store in a safe place and tell your nominated people where the papers are. The solicitors of the deceased lady next door have lost her new will. Her children found a will dated 1993 and a solicitor’s letter dated 2013 stating her new will was stored in their safe. Apparently, someone shredded it instead of the old will. Feathers are flying, but the trouble her kids now have been put to is ridiculous.

  2. When my mum was alive she took me to the solicitor with her to make her will, she left $2000 to a friend who she had known from childhood to spend on herself, but she didn’t leave anything to the friends husband, we got home and she was worried about that. So I said to her mum why are you worried I will be the one who has to deal with him, you will be soundly sleeping, she gave a chuckle and said oh good you handle it.. when you die it won’t matter what happens because you won’t know about it 🙂

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    • Upshot is as parents we would like it to be as painless as we can make it for our family…I know the emotional side that kicks in when we lose a loved one..but the law doesn’t make it simply…

  3. We found the executor who was number 1 seemed to have all the say. Only found out too late that number two was only needed if number 1 was for some reason unable to do the job. Solicitors don’t explain that to you. Has caused a rift in the family that is not fixable. Make sure you understand your duties as enduring power of attorney and executor.

  4. I thought executors of wills were there to ensure that your wishes were carried through and to discuss with the other beneficiaries before making any decisions …. it didn’t happen in my family :'(

  5. Even spelling it out doesn’t help! My mother in law paid for her funeral, organized and paid for the after funeral observances! No eulogy, no speeches. Just a quick, simple services, followed by a nice afternoon tea. These were her wishes! So, her youngest daughter wrote a long eulogy, picked hymns, asked local people to share memories of her mother’s life! As executors, my husband and his brother in law told her that Nanna’s wishes would be adhered to, and so started a family fall out that is still not healed 12 years later! They didn’t particularly approve of Nanna’s arrangements, but they were definitely going to follow them. The daughters’s theory was, mums gone, what she said doesn’t matter anymore and she was ashamed that it was such a poor showing if she couldn’t talk about her mother! Explaining that it was not her decision made no difference. So, unless you pick strong executors, writing your wishes down is a waste of time and paper!

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    • My family…well what can I say.. Mum’s wishes did not count and she was very specific. I wanted to do it for her but it caused a family rift and still not healed. I feel I let her down. It is still upsetting 10 yrs later.

    • I think the most important thing a person can do to ensure what s/he wants is adhered to is to talk to nominees and beneficiaries as a group. It is not necessary to go into specifics of who gets what, but have a general discussion as to what you want re end of life, This way when people are grieving and trying to cope with emotion they will manage much better. They will be more likely to follow the stated directions in any document having heard for themselves what is wanted. Of course there is often some who won’t.

    • My Mum’s wishes were that only her family came to her funeral. Still others showed up to ‘support’ us. You can’t really tell them to leave even though you have already told them your mother only wanted family.

    • The Bottom Drawer! My mother in law made her wishes clear a year or so before her death! And she discuss it openly many times ! There were no surprises, neither with the will or with her funerals arrangements. She explained why she had made theses decisions! She was twice widowed, taught high school for years, ran Red Cross Blood Bank locally, was very highly respected in the local and near areas and was awarded the OAM for her public services! But she felt she was an ordinary mum and grandmum, a farmer, a neighbour, and she didn’t want a fuss. But, as soon as she passed away, one daughter wanted her honored for her achievements, figuring we should override Nanna’s wishes, because, after all, she was dead and not there! If that wasn’t bad enough, she also wanted to do the same with Nanna’s burial plot. The undertaker, the cemetery management, the Shire, and solicitors were all involved. We won, or I should say, nana won, but at what cost to the family!

  6. I share your concerns. Sometimes I think these things depend more on the integrity of the appointee than the legality of the document

  7. While I have total faith in my executor I will be making sure that as much as possible, I will arrange to have things the way I want.
    I will leave the eulogy up to my daughter as I believe the bereaved family have a need to express their loss.
    As long as I am buried with my deceased son, nothing else really matters.
    My doggies are well loved and will be looked after.

  8. I only have one executor, my daughter. I have my will, Living Will and enduring power of attorney, pre-paid funeral and I have a lot of detail written down in my book from The Bottom Drawer Book: The After Death Action Plan that I bought on the internet. It’s a great little book and allows you to add all sorts of details about what you want. My daughter knows that I have it. My only other immediate relative is my son and I very much doubt he’ll argue with his sister over details.

  9. I hear so many stories from people who have been involved in ‘bun fights’ over the smallest things. One gentleman told me about a family fight over who was to get a kitchen sieve after a family member’s death. Yes, a sieve. Funny how sometimes a little thing can be a catalyst for something a whole lot bigger. Grief, guilt and confusion can do strange things to usually sensible people.

  10. I really must update my will. I have talked with my children about what will happen to me dogs if something happens to the man and me at the same time. One said she would take one of the dogs, no-one wants the other one, and to tell you the truth I dont blame them, so I have to ensure she is taken care of.

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