Tag Archives: last will and testament

A Mark, A Yen, A Buck Or A Pound*


Few of us are billionaires, and even fewer of us would have our child sue her uncle for millions. It’s an unusual situation and is not all that relatable. Or is it? Ronald Perelman is not a typical billionaire in that he spends an inordinate of time in the gossip pages. He seems to enjoy the spotlight more than most; he did marry a NY Post Page 6 columnist after all. But his desire for attention is relatable, isn’t it? Most of us don’t live in a world of ten or eleven figure wealth or Vanity Fair and/or Town & Country gossip columns. But all that’s just excess make-up and costuming. If we peel away the drag performer layers and hold up a mirror, we may see something quite familiar.

Money often substitutes for many things beyond the gold system. Once people’s basic needs (e.g., food and shelter) are met money becomes quite fungible. Accumulating money often is a pursuit of security and stability. Spending money can be more complicated and fulfill a myriad of needs. Fighting about money is usually pretty straightforward. Most often it boils down to; “enough about you, what about me?” We can dismiss last will and testament contention as bold-faced greed, and certainly there is a nugget of truth to that. But often it’s more complicated & personal. True, it’s hard to fathom what’s personal about the fight over Huguette Clark’s fortune. (Distant relatives who had never met Ms. Clark are lining up with their hands held out.) It’s pretty clear that Mr. Perelman, having already lost this legal case against his ex-brother-in-law once in 2008, is willing to pay more than $60 million to be called a winner. Theoretically what’s at stake is $350 million for Mr. Perelman’s adult daughter. It’s nothing to sneeze at (unless of course you happen to have personal wealth of more than $14 billion.) None of the players need this money (except perhaps those representing the parties.) But haven’t we all at one time or another played tug-o-war over something barely worth holding on to? Aren’t our dealings with money often about how we want people to respond to us? Don’t we make choices about external displays of wealth (cars, homes, jewelry) because we want strangers to think we’re “worth” it? Haven’t we experienced mini (and not so mini) meltdowns in restaurants, on airplanes and in shops because of not being treated like a V.I.P.? Most everyone wants to feel valued, and in our country money is the most calculable symbol of that value. A multimillion hair pulling fight is really no different. “Enough about you, what about me?”

Appearing in gossip columns might not appeal to the majority of us but is there anyone who still holds dear the goal of appearing in the media only upon one’s marriage and death? People don’t wake at 5:00 AM to stand outside of the Today Show window because they don’t have access to television; they come to be on TV. We’ve become (over many decades) a much more extroverted culture who by and large basks in our close-up. Social media took off because it fulfills a need. We want to be heard, we want to be seen. Selfie anyone? There is an argument to be made in favor of this extroversion, and perhaps attention-seeking behavior. It could be seen as a harmless way to fulfill a very pressing need. If we consistently feel as if we have our moments to strut and fret upon the stage, perhaps it bodes well for our real life relationships. It’s easier to be more empathetic and generous of spirit if we feel valued in some aspect of our lives. It’s not far-fetched to posit that if attention is being paid in our social media life, we can pay closer attention in our real life world. It’s not entirely nuts to consider that interactions with (3-dimensional) friends and family can be more “enough about me, what about you?” And if we heightened the rose colored hue on our perspective, and perhaps close one eye; we might even see a future in which money could lose some of its emotional power.

*Money (1966) – John Kander & Fred Ebb


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Where There’s A Will

When is the last time you took a look at you will? Your will. You have one don’t you? What’s that you say; you’re not Thurston Howell III? Well, it’s not about money (entirely.) Nor is about great “I gotchyas” from beyond the grave. (The image of┬áChristina and Christopher Crawford being inexplicably iced out comes to mind.) Wills can of course be used to have one’s last say but that’s not the true intent. We have wills so as not to leave a mess behind. It is our final act of cleaning up after ourselves.

Of course wills are crucial in dispersing of scads of real estate, stocks and bonds. But they are also key in identifying who will clean up financial and legal logistics. Without a will anyone even slightly related to you, could be left with quite a mess. Wills are not for the wealthy; they are for the conscientious (and can be purchased on line for quite a reasonable sum.)

Wills when written usually are done when expecting the arrival of a child or upon remarriage. But it’s not an archive; it’s a document that needs regular tending. Consider it less of a social security card and more of a driver’s license or passport. Your last will and testament needs to be renewed. If more than five years passes before reviewing the document you might be in for some surprises. Imagine discovering that you had bequeathed your jewelry to someone with whom you’ve lost all contact? What if the executor you named has in fact pre-deceased you? What if the cat to whom you’ve left your millions now has a brother? Things change, life happens, and a will should as well.

Now that you’re convinced to a) write a will b) review a will on a regular basis; there’s one more step. Inform those mentioned in the document that they are in fact mentioned in the document. They needn’t know details (and in fact in some cases they shouldn’t. You wouldn’t want junior to necessarily live his life as if he is receiving an inheritance, would you?) they need only to know that they are mentioned. An executor who has not consented is not going to be much of an executor. This person(s) needs to know where the document is and what, if any (funeral) arrangements have been made.

Writing a will, making funeral arrangements, and discussing it, will not hasten your demise. If you believe (and I’ve known those who don’t) that our time on the planet does have an expiration date; planning for that time is just part of life. Nobody wants to believe that his or her stay on the planet was meaningless. We try, as we stumble along to make some sort of positive impact. Leaving behind bereaved people who must divine or recall your wishes and intentions is simply not a great legacy.


Posted by on September 27, 2012 in Cultural Critique


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