Death is not a subject we like to talk or think about. So it is natural to delay thinking about writing wills. I have never written a will for myself, so writing one was actually on my 50 Weeks to 50 list. I should have done it long ago, when my kids were born, but neither I nor Brian ever felt a desire to do so, probably thinking, oh well, the other will still be around. But then something happens, and you realize…I guess it’s time to write a will.
My good friend Sharon’s dad, Tom Ferrier, recently passed away. He was truly an all-around great person. He, like many grandparents in the UC area, along with his wife GeeGee, was a constant spectator at his grandchildren’s sporting events. That’s how we got to know him, since our sons and Sharon’s sons were always playing sports together. He was very supportive of his family, and ours too, and told me that he enjoyed reading my blog. Therefore, this post is in his honor. Tom, since you always had everything in order, it’s time for me to get my sh… um, paperwork together.
Again, not that I’m anticipating anything soon (which is why I don’t call this blog a Bucket List), but it’s best to be proactive and practice preventative measures.
Now, what does one put in a will? Of course, there are the obvious details of who receives your assets (if any)? Since I’ve procrastinated, my kids are almost legally adults, but if they were much younger — who would raise them, especially if for some horrible reason, both parents passed? How do you make sure their lives remain stable, and that they are raised in a manner which you would approve? Relatives, friends? And who handles their finances? Again, relatives, friends, banks?
What about all your personal stuff? Do you designate who gets each photo or piece of heirloom china, or make it a free for all? Do I want things sold in an estate sale, or divided up amongst friends and family? A family I know had their adult kids label all the things they wanted when the parents passed, I thought that was a little morbid.
Then there’s thinking about whether to have Living Trusts, Do Not Resuscitate Orders, where to store all these important papers for your family to find, and what to do with all your social media accounts? Now, it may sound like a trivial thing to spend time on, but seriously, what do you want done with your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram? Or if you are a blogger like me, what do you do with your blog website? Do you want everything to continue as some sort of post mortem memorial? Or taken down instantly?
Plus you need to leave login info and passwords. It’s really quite a bit of work, because in preparing this info for my own will — I needed to go into each account and login to make sure I had the correct info. Then if you change passwords, you’ll need to update your Social Media Will attachment. It’s something that you need to continually update and revise. Because the way technology is, there’s probably a new social media platform that will be the next big thing before you even finish writing down all that info. I bet there’s an app you can download on your phone to make it easier, but make sure to leave the password for your phone.
In my business of valuing intellectual property rights, many projects for which we are hired include valuations of post mortem rights of publicity. Now, of course, these are usually for well known celebrities, artists or musicians, but who knows, what if my blog becomes a famous written material, what would my works be worth after death? Some famous people are worth more dead than when they were alive. Sad, but true. Their heirs benefit (depending where they lived or died – state laws prevail).
I didn’t intend for this blog to be about business, but you do have to think about what you want done with all your “stuff” when your physical body dies. Again, you can have the attitude of to hell with all my heirs, they can duke it out amongst themselves; or I would like to make the transition as painless as possible. I went for the middle road.
I’m not going to divulge what’s in my current version, but realize that as time goes on, you will most likely need to revise your will or make additions, known as codicils. Maybe I should go into the practice of writing wills for people.
Finally, you need to think about the celebration…you know, the celebration of your life. Well, I consider it a celebration. What kind of party should it be? Quick and casual, or prolonged and fancy, or somewhere in between. And do you want to be buried six feet under, burned into ashes, or frozen til they find a cure for whatever took you away. Once again, you can decide to leave no instructions about post death events and leave it up to your heirs to argue about.
I still haven’t written those instructions down myself. I will probably name a committee…I try to be inclusive at times…probably the same folks planning my birthday party. Food. Drink. Decor. Invites. Music. Equipment. Like a dream wedding, do you have thoughts about the perfect funeral and reception? Maybe I’ll have a destination funeral. I love to travel, so why not travel in death as you do in life? Can you have a pop-up funeral?
Ehh, F it, I’ve done enough event planning in life, death is time to rest.
We will miss you Tom. As your son-in-law Joe said, you are a renaissance man in the true sense of the term. Your family put together a wonderful tribute and gathering in your honor, I’m sure you’re very proud of them and the legacy you left.
The best gift you can leave your heirs is your legacy. Now is the time to decide what your legacy will be. Make it one from your heart, and one that will make a difference. Love you all.
Resources: The State Bar of California offers a simple will that you can pretty much fill in the blanks. It will at least give you a general direction. http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/SimpleWill.aspx. AARP has a number of articles and resources on writing wills, including a Social Media Will template. www.aarp.org