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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Mortality Moment by Bridget Stuart

The Professor and I went to sign our new wills yesterday. With two kids in school and him about to head off to Guatemala on a private plane and then get in a helicopter to fly into the jungle, I decided it was about time. (I mean, it may not be true, but don't these private planes *always* crash? Knock on wood.)

There is nothing quite like a long session of death and disability "what ifs" with your spouse and a bright, interested lawyer. It's almost like couples therapy with an extremely practical edge.

As in a therapy session, you'll get some surprises. Which of your family members do you trust--I mean really trust-- to take care of your kids if both of you die? You may think it's Edgar, but when it comes time to write in his name and sign before three witnesses, you may find yourself putting down Patsy instead. And that's only if your spouse agrees with your choice. Get ready for name number three!

You may find, if you're a writer, that it makes the whole process harder. I mean, our whole business is about "what ifs". Think about it! Don't lots of query letters start just like that? "What if a woman is hit by a beer truck and finds herself strapped to a hospital bed unable to speak her wishes? What if she's given complete power of attorney and medical powers to her husband-- and along comes a very pretty nurse!"

I scare myself sometimes.

Some things were simple. Under "Directions to the executor of your will regarding disposal of your remains", I wrote "I want a funeral." I don't ask much, really. Others were not so easy. We were ready to sign the page with the clause about "If my spouse and I both die, and our children do not outlive us, I give my entire estate to my surviving siblings, x, y and z." Then I happened to mention, "Well, what if we both die after our kids are already dead, but one of the kids had a son or daughter out there somewhere?" Oops. Time to add the "Stupidly Imaginative clause": "If my spouse and I both die, and our children do not outlive us, I give my entire estate to my surviving grandchildren, per stirpes." Per stirpes isn't a typo, silly. It's pretty imaginative, too. Go look it up.

We got it all done--despite my imagination and in spite of the Professor's paralysis when it came to deciding who gets his super-specialized academic library (oh yeah, the kids will be fighting over that one, tugging the books back and forth till the covers tear off)--and everything is signed and sealed.

Now I guess I'd better call the accountant and find out what happened to our tax returns.


At 10:57 AM, Blogger Jan Darby said...

Speaking from the point of view of a bright, interested lawyer (well, I try to be both, anyway), interviewing people for wills is always a challenge for the lawyer too, because we sort of take these issues for granted, and they become extremely distant and hypothetical instead of real, but we need to keep in mind that they're incredibly real and scary to the clients. We develop morbid senses of humor, much like doctors who deal with death all the time, to save our own sanity and also to make it less stressful for the client.

Except sometimes it backfires. I used to ask people, "So, if both you and your spouse are run over by a truck, what do you want to happen to your assets?" Until the day I asked someone, and he looked stunned and was speechless, and his adult daughter who was with him had to answer, beause, yes, he had in fact been run over by a truck some years before. No, he wasn't a zombie or vampire or other undead; he'd survived the accident after extensive hospitalization and physical therapy.

At 4:57 PM, Blogger bridget said...

OMG Jan! I can't believe that story! I mean, I do believe it, but how awkward for you and for him! I need to pass that one on to my lawyer, because the "you get hit with a beer truck" scenario was hers, not mine =)

Thanks for stopping by-- a dry day at the blogspot

At 6:08 PM, Blogger Jennie Lucas said...

Bridget, what a great blog today. You have such a funny, intelligent voice. And I love the character of "the Professor". *grin* Really fun to read. Also makes me think 1) how cool and scary it would be to fly off into the jungle, and 2) hmm, maybe one of these days we should go see a lawyer, too. (Although it's one of those things that is soooo easy to put off forever.)

Jan, oh my gosh, what an awful story. Awful, but it made me laugh.

(PS -- Bridget, it is kind of a quiet day on the blogspot, but I wonder if it's because there's too much traffic on blogger? I tried to post this reply three times before it went through.)

At 7:03 PM, Blogger bridget said...

Jenna, thanks for the comments--spare my blushes--I always make sure to visit your blogs because I feel the same way about yours!

Hmm, you must be right. I've generated so much traffic that a hundred potential posters have jammed the circuits. I like the way you think, redheaded girl.

And since I've seen the pix of your beautiful baby, get thee hence to a lawyer pronto and have your own Mortality Moment!

At 9:39 PM, Blogger Kiki, aka Esri said...

We still haven't made a will, which is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

Thanks for reminding me. And with such humor, too!


At 10:04 AM, Blogger bridget said...

Esri, XOXO back. I hope you do write a will, and I hope you leave it all to me.

BTW, it's true, something *is* up with the blog posts. A couple of people emailed me privately saying they tried to post comments and couldn't get through.

hmmm. If anyone else is experiencing this, let me know. We may need maintenance.

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

I should do it, too. I know I should...

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Stephanie Feagan said...

I can relate to the foot in the mouth moment with a client. I used to tell clients, "It's difficult to accumulate enough medical deductions to be of any benefit, because of the income limitations. Unless someone has cancer, it's really pointless to add up medicals."

You can see where this is going, right?

The woman had breast cancer.

I never said that again. And these days, with the cost of insurance and medical expenses, lots of people do get some benefit.

Oh, and we've had wills for many years - which is another problem, because you have to go update them every once in a while.

Bridget, I pray The Professor has safe travels!


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