August 24, 2018

By: Jennifer Foster

This is one of my favourite songs by Death Cab for Cutie—a mournful composition of a last vigil. Unlike my musician spouse, poignant lyrics will draw me into a song much more quickly than the accompanying musical score. And my pull to this particular song has become even stronger lately as I spend more and more time with clients in urgent and palliative care.

Drafting or amending a will during one’s final moments in this world can give comfort and reassurance—asserting control over the process of dying, ensuring loved ones are looked after, perhaps even providing a needed respite.  However, not everyone will wish to spend such valuable time in this way.

We’ve blogged before about the importance of having a will—setting up guardianships for children, providing for loved ones, electing someone to take care of your final details—all of these objects require careful consideration and planning in advance of illness and death.

But perhaps the most important aspect of drafting a will is…simply having a will. I often hear people say that they don’t need a will because their assets will just go to their children anyway so why should they spend money and/or time on lawyers or will drafting to set out the inevitable?

Even though there are laws that say who will inherit, the administration of your estate and the distribution of your assets require someone legally qualified to do it. Without a will, someone will need to apply to the courts to appoint an estate trustee to do these tasks.

Without a will or a certificate from the court, a home may not be sold, bank accounts may not be released, investments may not be realized, and distributions may not be made simply because of the absence of an appointed individual who can legally carry out these tasks. If there are minor beneficiaries, an additional application to court may be required in order to establish and maintain their inheritances. The rules around insurance bonds for out of province estate trustees are different where there is no will.

Within the time it takes to sort out the logistics of establishing an estate trustee, homes may be repossessed, debts can mount, and income can be lost, thereby diminishing the value of the estate that may be eventually be passed on to family and other loved ones.

The bullet point is that intestate estates—which arise when a person dies without a will—are often more expensive and more time consuming to administer than estates that benefit from a will and a carefully constructed estate plan.

The song ends on a haunting note: “I’m thinking of what Sarah said…That love is watching someone die…So who’s gonna watch you die?”

I bet that Sarah would also have recommended drafting a will.

It’s never too late…until it is. Please draft a will.


This really is an incredible song but in writing this blog, I came across a unique interpretation by a palliative care doctor who created a video that aligns the  interchange between silence and music following Sarah’s message with the sounds of palliative care. The doctor says in the article: “When you experience life and death in the ICU on a frequent basis, you being to hear the life and death existing in this song.”

Have a listen!