The Mortality Moment by Bridget StuartThe 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.