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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 12.08.05
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Where there's a Will there's a Notary

Preparing your will is like fixing a crack in the ceiling - you'll get around to it eventually, and chances are the ceiling's not just going to give way all of a sudden.

For Deb and me, it's taken a good 10-plus years to spackle that crack. Do we feel good about getting it done? There's pretty much the same level of satisfaction. It's right up there with opening a safety-deposit box (something else we've been putting off).

There was no particular epiphany that prompted us finally to say, "Let's do it." We happened to be in a notary's office for another matter and as we were preparing to leave he asked, "By the way, do you have a will?"

In business, this is called "upselling," something that can be as simple as asking "Do you want fries with that?" or "Can I prey upon your anxieties concerning the afterlife and the shoddy mess you'll leave behind with that?" In short, we were SuperNotarized.

It's not as though we have a lot to bequeath. (What a funny word, "bequeath." It sounds like something that squeaks out of you at an awkward moment: "Excuse me, but did you just bequeath?")

We have a house that is jointly owned by me, Deb, and the bank, plus a handful of mutual funds (aka "Investing for Dummies"). That's pretty much it. No need for that safety-deposit box after all.

The rest is furniture and appliances, and I can't see our children fighting over the breadmaker with the broken lid.

"Mom wanted me to have her collection of rare starter plants."

"No, I distinctly remember her saying 'This bud's for you.' "

Our main concern and the reason for the will is the children, what should become of them if we both go at once. And by "go," of course, I mean "die." We try not to say that word too much, though, especially when preparing a will. Instead, we use euphemisms like "pass on" or "should anything occur to both of us" or "if that gypsy curse should come true."

We've been warned on a number of occasions that if we don't make preparations for our "untimely demise," the State will decide our children's fate. I wonder, though, why we think the State would be such a horrible prospect.

Will our kids be forced into a Dickensian life of servitude and humiliation? Will the State decide that it would be best to ship them off to live separately with pirates, ne'er-do-wells, substance abusers, and Bloc Québécois militants?

Probably the worst that the State would make them do would be to pay a lot of taxes and to spend the rest of their childhood on some kind of waiting list.

So we've taken care of the children and divided the few assets we have, although that isn't likely to be much after any funeral costs. Funerals are expensive, really expensive if you insist on the special "Gene Simmons from KISS" makeup-and-wardrobe treatment.

We haven't put any convoluted clauses to mess with our beneficiaries like "We leave to you the Contessa Diamond if you can eat 22 gallons of pistachio ice cream in five hours." It's just a regular, straightforward will.

My only disappointment is that it didn't start out like wills do in the movies: "I, Ross Murray, being of sound mind and body…" I had been thinking of varying that to highlight the subjective nature of what constitutes "sound," something like "I, Ross Murray, who prays nightly to a roll of Wint-O-Green Lifesavers and who has this constant whizzing noise in his ear, especially when he bends over, but otherwise feeling pretty good these days…"

We're glad it's out of the way. Peace of mind, that's what it's all about. Moreover, it gives us new leverage in dealing with our children: "You better behave or I'm not leaving you the Scooby Doo soap dispenser!"

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