The Just in Case Binder: Legacy of Harold Empey

Many of us leave our loved ones with too little information to take care of our final wishes.

The “Just in Case” binder and seminars help to create an open dialogue about your wishes, and to educate people on the things that will need to be completed after you are gone.

Many estate planning manuals deal with financial matters such as bank accounts and safe deposit keys, but “Just in Case” takes planning to a new level of detail, offering suggestions on personal information such as computer passwords, dealing with treasured possessions, obituaries, and who to invite to your memorial.

“Just in Case” binders are sold for $35.00.

Please phone ahead to the foundation office at (306) 665-1766 to make an appointment to pick up your binder:

Saskatoon Community Foundation
101-308 Fourth Ave N

Or contact Elaine Lozinski at Blackwood Planning at (306) 280-4559 to place an order to have your binder shipped via Canada Post (shipping fees apply).

The famous “Just in Case binder” was created by Harold Empey.

Harold is a retired Federated Co-op Executive and 2011 Cornerstone of the Community Award recipient. The binder he created acts as a guide through finding and collecting the information that your executor and loved ones might need…”Just in Case.”

Harold has volunteered since 2012 doing presentations in our community and throughout the province about the importance of planning to help your family in times of grief and stress.

The Saskatoon Community Foundation began modestly with an initial order of 300 binders. However, thanks especially to Harold’s tireless promotion of the package on local radio and television, over 12,000 binders have been distributed. It should go without saying that this program could not have existed without Harold’s impressive commitment of time and energy. Our hope is that many more people will not only have wills, but also have their affairs in good order before they die.

SCF: Harold, you received SCF’s Cornerstone of the Community Award in 2011 for your community
involvement. Tell us a little bit about your background and your work with charities.

HE: I spent my career with the cooperative movement, and worked  in many communities in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I came back to Saskatoon in 1973 as Regional Manager at [Federated Cooperatives Limited]. When I retired I was Senior VP of Corporate Affairs, CEO of interprovincial coops and in charge of the Upgrader program. So I had a very busy life. I did a lot of volunteer work in those towns that was very satisfying. When we moved to Saskatoon in 1973 from Portage la Prairie, it just continued. Rotary was a very key part of it. I’ve been a Rotarian since 1959, and I’ve served at every level of Rotary including being an instructor in Anaheim of incoming governors. Locally in Saskatoon, I got involved in the Chamber of Commerce and sat on some civic committees. Probably one of my biggest volunteer jobs over and above the work at the [United] Church was the work at Oliver Lodge, which goes back 35 years. Volunteerism is something I’ve done all my life, and almost every day, every week I get a request from somebody to help with something.

SCF: Do you have personal reasons for being so closely involved with Oliver Lodge for a long time?

HE: Well, Oliver Lodge was a United Church home, so through the church I went to a couple meetings.
At this one meeting this fellow asked if I would come and talk about fundraising. They brought in a pro to the meeting. He wouldn’t do any canvassing personally. He said that his job was to show us what to do. So they said, “Well, Empey, if you’re so smart, you should do it!” {laughs} Its been successful ever since and Oliver Lodge has a beautiful facility. What I like about Oliver Lodge in particular is that it is faith-based. Faith-based care homes have a little different approach, not necessarily better, but it works well.

SCF: You’ve faced some health challenges and losses in your family. How
were these situations connected to Just in Case?

HE: In 2004, I developed heart problems. Then in January of 2005 I had 4 bypasses and a new valve put in, and in the following two years, I was sent home from the hospital on two occasions and told to do my funeral arrangements. Betty [Empey’s wife] was very concerned because if I was to die what would she do about all the things that I handled about the household. I said, “Well, we’ll put a plan together,” and so we did. About 3 or 4 years later we saw an article in the Good Times magazine called Just in Case, and they had listed in this brief article various things one could do. I honed them and found out it wasn’t a registered trademark and I could use the phrase, so the idea grew and I developed our plan and called it Just in Case. And so when Betty passed away [in November of 2012], we spent very few minutes at the funeral home, very few minutes with the minister. The eulogy was already done, the obituary was done, she hadapproved her memorial card, and everything went tickety-boo. Following that, I had a request from a friend who wanted to know how we put that together so fast. He wanted a copy so I said, “Well, there isn’t one. It’s our plan.  It’s the answers that we have in my book, and what you need is the questions.” So I developed the Just in Case binder from that standpoint of another person being able to take it and use it themselves. At the time, I was chair of our condo corporation, and one of the members asked how I was getting along now with Betty not here, so I told him what I had done. So they asked me to tell them about it. They got their spousestogether and we had a session.

SCF: So that was essentially the first “Just in Case” presentation?

HE: That’s exactly right, and from there on, 12,000 copies are now out there and I’ve done 260 presentations.

SCF: Comparing the plan you did with Betty and the current version of Just in Case, what is different? Have you added a lot of detail along the way?

HE: There were a few things that I added after that we hadn’t considered as I started to do seminars and go through the material, some editing changes and so on but basically, it’s an exact
copy of everything we had done. For example, I didn’t have anything in there about writing down your family history, so your kids would know your background or your wife’s background. About 90% of it is exactly the same, the same concept and the same sections.

SCF: The main comment we get on Just in Case is the breadth of detail.

HE: One of the key factors I had to improve was to make it user friendly. I knew of other programs that came as fill in the blanks, so every time you had to make changes, you had to start over. I
put the questions on separate sheets with blank pages to record the answers. This way, it can be easily updated, transferred to your computer and so on.

SCF: Do you tell a lot of anecdotes about situations you’ve seen in the seminar?

HE: I use only my own story. I don’t ask to hear about theirs. I tell my story to make the bells ring. There will be times during my story when they will have tears in their eyes, and the next
minute they’ll be laughing. The time goes very fast.

SCF: Any final thoughts?

HE: The other thing I want to mention is that legal firms, financial planners, funeral homes, etcetera, use Just in Case as a service to their clients. They find it a good tool to show appreciation to their clients. Also, one of the things I say at every seminar is that people should look at leaving a legacy and giving something either post or pre-death. Very few people will ever spend all the money they have, so why not channel thatinto something that will help other people.

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