Will #1 was a simple document. Even the term document suggests a level of seriousness, perhaps a certain gravitas, that we did not acknowledge. It was just something we thought, we knew, we should do. In our early thirties and by then married ten years what few assets we had accumulated in that time were mostly in both our names. There had been no need for a will.
We became parents. What would happen to our precious and perfect one year old son if tragedy occurred?
"We need to have wills -- just in case."
"Good idea. Should we get Paul to write something up?"
We called our best friends, living in Alaska thousands of miles away from our home, and asked if they would be willing to care for, to raise our son "just in case." They had no children but their approach to life, their values, their temperament, was close to our own. It was an easy choice for us and it was easy, or as easy as such a commitment could be, for them to say yes.
We turned to a young general practice lawyer who lived in our small rural town. He would do fine. There was no need for estate planning attorneys or complicated plans. Soon enough the work was completed, signed, notarized. Just a few pages long.
Done. We had dealt with a scenario -- the death of both of us - that, while possible, was certainly unpredictable and quite unlikely. Life went on.
Will #2 was more extensive. By then we were in our mid-fifties. Our son had graduated from college and was beginning to support himself. His sibling, a boy four years his junior, had completed high school and would be off to college. We had accumulated enough assets over the years. There had been no thought about new wills.
One day the fellow from our credit union told us that the bank had an arrangement with an attorney to draw up wills for members. Perhaps we would want to do something like that. The suggestion prompted a brief discussion.
"That's probably not a bad idea, sweetie. What do you think?"
"Sure. Let's do that."
A meeting with the lawyer eventuated in new wills. No need to mention our friends, still our best friends, who had become parents themselves. They had found parenting, as most parents do, to be a lot more work and more complicated than imagined. It was a good thing they had not had to take on our kids.
The attorney, who had drawn up many wills in his time, added all sorts of extras. Medical Directive, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy. A revocable trust to house our assets. New executors.
Pages. Many pages. But soon enough the documents were completed, signed, notarized, and put away. Again we had dealt with scenarios, the death of one or the other of us, or both, that while possible, still remained unpredictable and at that point unlikely.
Will #3 is a different story. We are in our mid 70's. The kids are grown, married, with children of their own. Somehow the grandchildren are as perfect as their fathers were. The executors we had chosen decades earlier are no longer appropriate due to age or other factors. Our friends, who might have raised our kids years ago, are now a widow and a memory. Our accumulated assets support a happy retirement.
"We should update our wills, don't you think? Change executors. Maybe the laws have changed. Bring things up to date."
"Yah, we should."
The attorney the bank used those decades ago died a few years before. The bank has a similar relationship with the fellow who took over his practice. We arrange to meet.
The meeting is easy and efficient. All goes smoothly. The appropriate changes are made. The new will, almost certainly our last, is done. Last Will and Testament.
The scenario makes this exercise different from those others. Predictable. Not predictable from the standpoint of date and time, but predictable nevertheless. No longer unlikely, rather inevitable.
Completing this new, latest, and final will suggests, as it pertains to our lives, a number of metaphors. Rounding Third and heading for Home. The finish line in sight. The last few brushstrokes on a self-portrait. And particularly patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.
It is a time not so much for reflection as appreciation. What fun. Such a good time. Better than expected. How lucky. Celebrate we got to reach the point of doing Will #3. Find our place in the unending tide. Embrace the opportunity. Embrace each other.
Originally appeared in Cherry Tree.