Just in Case helps with planning and legacy

Jason Kerr
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On April 3, Saskatoon resident Harold Empey will come to Prince Albert, doing what he’s always done in tribute to his deceased wife.

He’s going to hold a seminar to help people of all ages make a will and other preparations for when they die.

“When I come to P.A. I will have done over 120 seminars and we’ve gone through over 5,000 binders,” Empey says.  “I do this as a legacy to the gal I loved for 57 years and each (seminar) costs me money.”

Empey’s seminar is called Just in Case.  He started holding them after both his wife and son died months apart.  He says he and his wife were well prepared for her death, which made the funeral time a lot easier.  His son died suddenly, which made things more hectic.

“It was a very dysfunctional situation,” Empey recalls.  “I say that situations don’t have to be this dysfunctional, but if the decisions aren’t made now there’s a chance of it becoming dysfunctional.”

However, his wife’s funeral wasn’t as frantic.  Empey says it’s because they had many of the arrangements planned out in advance, and that’s what led him to where he is today.

“Friends of mine wanted to know what we had done to make things happen fairly quickly and smoothly,” he says.  “I realized there was a need, so I went home and spent two weeks on the computer and developed this program.”

The seminar is quite simple.  Empey spends 45 minutes going through a binder that helps people plan for the inevitable.  It includes everything from suggesting what kind of information your family will need to know, like personal information numbers, to explaining why you should get a will.

“This has got 12 sections in it,” Empey explains.  “It’s giving people topics that they should think about and make plans or decisions (about) prior to becoming either incapacitated or prior to death.”

Empey’s binder is not a will kit, although he does give tips on what to include in your will.  His seminar is more about making people understand the importance of having their affairs organized, from a personal and legal perspective.

“There is, unfortunately, in Saskatchewan and in any other jurisdiction, a huge number of people who don’t have a will nor have they given anybody a power of attorney,” Empey says.  “Probably closer to 50 per cent of the population.”

He says his package has received excellent reviews from lawyers, financial groups, funeral homes and churches, but he’s quick to advise people to talk to a lawyer.

“It starts out with having good legal advice for power of attorney, for an enduring power of attorney as well as for a will, and then the recording of all the information relative to your finances,” he says.

He says collecting other things like computer codes lists of people and organizations who need to be contacted is also useful.  He also talks about the importance of keeping your family in the loop.

“I encourage them to have family meetings so they talk about it, so they know what mom and dad or cousin Jim or somebody wanted.  It’s so important to have an understanding amongst the family that you can avoid a tremendous amount of stress or difficulty at the time of death.”

By the time Empey comes to Prince Albert on April 3 he’ll have done seminars across Saskatchewan and even into Manitoba.  It’s even more surprising when you consider that his wife passed away a little over a year ago.

“I’m going to have to quit some day but I’ve got 17 to do this month, I’ve got 28 to do before the first of June and some booked into November,” he says.  “How long I’ll do this?  I don’t know, but the need is so great that I’m going to continue doing this service to help other people.”

The seminar will take place at the Prince Albert Travelodge at 7 p.m.  Empey says people hoping to attend or looking for more information can email him at h.empey@sasktel.net.

There is no cost to attend.  The Prince Albert Community and Area Foundation are covering the costs, which are limited to rent and travel expenses, since Empey doesn’t get paid.

“I make zero from anything I do.  I get my expenses covered, most of them, but that’s all.  It’s a legacy.  It’s to help other people.”

Empey says the crowd is mostly made up of seniors, but young people should come too.  He says his son, who died suddenly of a heart attack, is proof that you can’t put this planning off for too long.

He also tries to lighten the mood as well.

“I make it clear at the start, that I can’t talk about my wife’s death and my son’s death and be totally serious,” he says.  “It’d be too hard to do, so I have to inject a bit of levity into it.”

Organizations: Prince Albert, Prince Albert Community and Area Foundation

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Manitoba

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