Where There's a Will, There's a Way
It shouldn't have taken a car crash to get my affairs in order, but it did. Then I found out a whopping 67% of you do not have wills. "Do you guys ever think about dying?" Barbie asks. Well...do you?
You know how they say time slows down during moments of extreme trauma, or at least our perception of time expands? I’m here to report that this is definitively, 100%, anecdotally true. Not only does the memory of my car crash replay in my head in slow motion— and kinda constantly still1, at that—I can recall having three distinct thoughts/regrets during what must have been the few milliseconds before impact, when I assumed I was doomed: “Nooooo! I can’t leave my kids!”; “Not today, universe. Not when I’ve finally found love…”; and then this thought just before the airbag exploded into my face: “Shit! I never updated my will!”
A brief history of wills and me: I had sought out an estate lawyer to draft my first will with my ex-husband back in 1997, after our second of three children were born. It took monumental force, much begging, and many arguments to make this happen, as my ex didn’t see the point of creating a will or paying a lawyer to do so, since we had no assets and little wiggle room in our budget. But I also knew his resistance ran deeper. His single mother had died of a heart attack when he was fifteen, orphaning him.
You would think that having a mother who died intestate would have made him more eager to draft and sign a will with me, not less, but the exact opposite held true. Even though his mother died at 56, without a will—culminating in a bizarre battle over his and his twin brother’s custody between the orthodox Jewish family who ultimately took them in and a group of Soviet dissidents who’d escaped to Cavendish, Vermont—he didn’t want to think about his own death. As much as this frustrated me, I also understood it. A large majority of us—men in particular—don’t like to imagine the fact that we will definitely one day not be here. So many of us, in fact, that a recent poll found that a whopping 67% of Americans have no estate planning whatsoever.
I know. Mic drop. That’s a lot of you who do not have wills! And I guess the point of today’s missive, though it still hurts my broken hand to type this, is both to beg those of you in that group to reconsider and to provide cheap and easy workarounds for you to do so. But this means considering your own mortality and making a plan for it today. Not at some nebulous point in the future.
“Think of the kids!” I kept insisting. “If we both die, we need to appoint guardians to take care of them.”
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