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Rocket Lawyer Family law

TESTAMENTS: HAVING THE FINAL WORD

If you’ve been reading the recent posts here during “Make a Will” month, you already know why you should make a will (leave loved ones stuff), how to make a will (fill out the forms), where to make a will (here), and the pitfalls of failing to do so. AND YET YOU – YES, YOU! – STILL HAVE NOT MADE A WILL!

There’s no dodging the fact that making out a will is, ultimately, a morbid task. So allow me to suggest that there’s a part of the process that can get your adrenaline pumping, and, if not exactly fun, can be deliciously satisfying.

I’m speaking of course, about the “testaments” part.

Most testaments are dry, rather colorless documents, but there’s no reason they have to be. For example, S. Sanborn, an American hat maker who died 150 years ago, stipulated that two drums be made from his skin and given to a friend on the condition that every June 17 at dawn said friend would beat out “Yankee Doodle” at Bunker Hill, on Sanborn’s drum “skins.” I don’t know if he found any takers, but I’d say there’s a lesson in this bequeathal: your odds of having your wishes carried out go up if you sweeten the pot with something less creepy.

The testament is where you get to say your piece, not only about who inherits your effects, but why, under what conditions, and how you feel about the whole thing.

You might be bequeathing your estate to your children, but that doesn’t mean you may not have qualms about it.

This is your one chance to literally speak from “beyond the grave” and get everything off your now-decomposed chest. The best part of it is, there really are no repercussions. Maybe your loved ones won’t appreciate what you’re saying, but what are they going to do? Shoot you? And this is the one time in your total time on this Earth when there is no possible good answer to the question, “What are you waiting for?” There’s a well-known rhetorical question about taking action in life: “If not now, when?” The answer in this case is, “Never. Never ever.”

Those ingrate kids of yours who stopped listening to you years ago and who you suspect have been waiting for you to kick off in order to get their greedy, unappreciative hands on your stuff? OK, you’re above writing them out of your will. But you can still go “down” fighting. You can ordain certain conditions under which they get the goods. Allow me to suggest this for an opening sentence: “Despite a life spent on profligate behavior, callous indifference, and inveterate obtuseness…”

The best part is, if they want the dough, they have to sit there and take it.

Rest (in peace) assured, you would NOT be alone in this, uh, undertaking.

Samuel Bratt shows up in lists of memorable wills and testaments because, as an inveterate cigar smoker whose wife prohibited him from doing so, he left her £330,000 ($554,763 USD) on the condition that she smoke five cigars a day.

And the poet Heinrich Heine left his entire estate to his wife on the condition that she remarry, “Because then there will be at least one man who will regret my death.”

Ouch.

Do you feel your pulse quickening? Are you starting to grasp the possibilities? Maybe (but hopefully not) you’re even thinking, “I can’t wait till I die so I can tell those so-and-so’s what I really think of them!” OK. That’s a little extreme, and really not necessary. We have therapists to deal with these feelings when we’re still alive. The point is, though, that a last will and testament doesn’t have to be all about “giving.”

Before you “pay it forward,” you can indulge in a little “payback,” as well.

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