Saturday, June 14, 2008

My Sunday Feeling-The Father's Day Edition

One of my clients asked me for an opinion concerning the validity of a holographic will. A holographic will is a hand-written will. The decedent's widow had presented it to my client as proof that she owned the property now. Her husband was a farmer up in the Northeast corner of the state. The will is touching in its simplicity. I will reprint it here misspellings and all. The names of the decedent and his heirs will be left out.


I, B, of sound mine do here By write out my Last Will and Statement. I leave 10 acres on the Island on Big Creek to my only son B. my 11 year old Daughtr 7 acres next to B on Big Creek. my only wife C the remaindr of the 40 acress and 33 acrs plus 2 tractr 1 combe all the equmt plus 5 grane bins the haus and truck 79 ford.

After which he affixed his signature.

In 10 years something had evidently changed as the old farmer felt compelled to attempt to draw up a codicil (amendment) to his earlier will:

Dec 1-2001

Don't sell the farm for at lest 3 years. Have time to look at things. I'm given yall the farm and all that goes with it goats and all. Don't sell to M. You can sell one tract to keep things going.

You can learn a lot from reading a will. You can see the extent of the testator's asset picture. You can get an idea of his relations with his family. I can intuit that our farmer loved his family by the references to heirs being his "only" heirs and by the fact that something weighed heavily on his mind when he attempted to make a codicil ("Don't sell to M." "You can sell one tract to keep things going.")

I'm not a father but I am worth a considerable amount of money dead. When I drew up my will some 10-11 years ago I created an educational trust for my nephews to help defray the costs of their educations. I also set up a trust for needy kids at Hendrix College. Laughing chance has intervened since then and I will need to make some changes.

In the first place, I didn't get shot and I didn't drive my car off of a cliff as was widely prophesied as a likely fate for me back in those days when I was choosing the recipients of my bounty. Secondly, my brothers didn't turn out to be nearly as worthless as was widely prophesied about them. So they have no need of my largess. And finally, my goddamn oldest nephew Eli got a Governor's Scholarship to Hendrix which is pretty much a free ride. Even more amazing, he has managed to keep it although it was kind of touch and go at this time last year after Eli discovered girls.

Rocky's old trainer used to say,"Women. They'll take your legs." They'll also cause you to take your eye off the ball. I couldn't be too hard on Eli. Been there, boy. Odds are good that I will be there again.

Most fathers, and eccentric uncles even, have an need to look to the future and to confront the bittersweet reality of the fact that we will someday be, well, dead and to plan accordingly for the welfare of our loved ones. It is part of the toolkit of the responsible man. He may not be all that great at interpersonal communication and he may have what appears to his woman to be an inordinate fascination with whiskey and the golf swing. But if he loves you, he makes sure that the doors are all locked before he turns out the lights. He sits up waiting on the kids. He kicks butts and take names. He plays catch in the yard. He binds wounds. He lays money aside and he tells you where it is in case he snuffs it. He makes sure that the taxes all got paid so that you won't inherit a godawful mess. He protects. He provides. He does the best he can.

He may not be a day at the beach in the present. But He does try to make sure you don't have to worry too much about the future.

Which brings me back to our rural testator. As you might gather, this gentleman did not have much in the way of assets. But one day, he evidently felt it was time to settle up. Maybe he got a bad diagnosis. Maybe the son wanted to know what part of the farm would be left to him. Maybe he just wanted to get it out of the way. Who knows? ( If I were Wally Hall I would have written, " After a night on his knees in prayer, Mr. Farmer decided to write his will." But,unlike Wally, I don't make stuff up.)

Anyway, by his hand, on simple ruled paper with a ball point pen, he did the best he could to provide for his family's future with what little he had to bequeath.

That's what all the good husbands and fathers do after all. They do the best they can. Goats and all.

Happy Father's Day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bet your nephews and Hendrix College are glad you don't have any
goats :).

And, is the guy's handwritten will legit?

I hope so -- spares everyone the legal jargon. Short & sweet.