By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
I, Jerry Zezima, being of unsound mind and decrepit body, hereby bequeath to my wife, Sue, all of my worldly possessions, including my Three Stooges videos, the six-pack of beer in the refrigerator and all the loose change on the top of my bureau.
That is how I wanted my last will and testament to be worded, with slight variations in case I finished the beer before I died. But because my financial situation had changed in the two decades since I signed my first will and testament, I knew I would need legal advice. So I decided to bite the bullet, which could have made me a habeas corpse, and hire a lawyer.
Sue and I engaged the services of Charlie Brennan, an avuncular gentleman of 75 who has been practicing law for 50 years. "Practice makes perfect, so I’m bound to get it right sooner or later," Charlie said as we sat in his office to discuss my demise (I want a second opinion) and what will happen (probably a big party) after I am gone.
We had the same discussion about Sue, who is convinced that she will go before I do and that I will become a crushing burden to our daughters, Katie and Lauren, even though they would describe me that way now.
"Do you have any concerns about your children?" Charlie asked.
"Yes," I said. "I want them to support me in my old age."
"It’s not going to happen," said Charlie, a widower who has two children and three grandchildren. "My son and daughter are both marvelous, but they would have a tough time pulling the plug. They want me to live to be 107."
"My kids want me to live to be 55," I told Charlie.
"How old are you now?" he inquired.
"Fifty-four," I answered.
Charlie said I should have something known as "per stirpes."
"It sounds like a disease," I said. "And if I had it, Sue would kill me, so I guess I’d need a will anyway."
According to Charlie, "per stirpes" means "to my children" in Latin. "It shows that you won’t forget them," he said.
"How could I?" I replied. "Practically all the money I have ever made has gone to my children."
"And now they’ll get even more," said Charlie, who told us the story of a client with a secret past. "This couple came in to make out their wills and when the subject came to heirs, I asked them about any children from prior marriages," he recalled. "They said there were none. The next day, the wife called me to say she did have another child her husband didn’t know about. That’s not the case here, is it?"
Sue and I assured Charlie that we didn’t have any other children, although we did ask him to put our dog and four cats in our wills, just to make sure our daughters would take good care of them in case any of the pets survived us.
"They’d live better than we would," I said. Sue agreed.
We also discussed living wills and what would happen if I became incoherent. "Can I collect now?" Sue wondered.
And we talked about organ donations. "I can’t play the organ, although I was once the guest triangle player in a symphony orchestra," I said, adding that I planned to leave my brain to science. Sue said it might lead to a cure for stupidity.
When the subject of burial came up, I said, "I’d like an open casket, but I want to be turned around so my feet are showing. That way everyone could remark on how good I looked."
Afterward, as Sue watched me sign my will, my head was filled with the strains of a very worrisome song: "The Merry Widow."
These are tough things to discuss, but they have to be faced, and Sue and I couldn’t have picked a better person for the job than Charlie, who not only gives lawyers a good name, but who loves what he does and doesn’t plan to retire because, he said, in a shameful admission for an attorney, "I don’t play golf."
As Sue and I left, Charlie wished us many more years of life together.
"Thanks," I said. "Where there’s a will, there’s a way."
Copyright 2008 by Jerry Zezima