Yesterday I drafted my first Will.
It was for a single mother with one primary-school-age daughter, life assurance, and not much else. Pretty simple, you would think?
Hah. Most certainly not.
Drafting a Will is a time when the drafter can push his or her imagination to the limits of the bizarre, morbid, or just plain strange.
What if my client got run over by a bus five minutes after signing the will – and then her daughter got struck by lightning and died all black and crispy a week later?
The answer to that is that unless you put in a clause about 28-day survival, the Horrible Ex (the daughter’s father) gets a windfall because the money goes to the daughter, then to the daughter’s father – as the daughter, being under 18, would be intestate.
What if the daughter manages to survive vindictive meteorology, but falls over a cliff at the age of 17 and is smashed to pieces on the rocks, many feet below?
Well, if we left the money to the daughter, the Horrible Ex still gets the cash!
So we have to set up a trust to make sure the daughter doesn’t become absolutely entitled to the money until she hits 18 and is able to make a Will of her own. So when she dies, smashed to pieces on the rocks at the age of 17, the money goes to someone else (not the daughter’s father).
OK, but what if before falling over a cliff the daughter had been made pregnant by her boyfriend and given birth to a child of her own?
If the daughter had to get to 18 in order to become absolutely entitled to the money, then the daughter’s child is then disinherited because the money goes to the alternate beneficiary…
So you have to put in something that says that if the daughter gives birth, then she becomes absolutely entitled.
And what about if the Client herself, on the way home from signing her Will, goes for a wild party, gets drunk, has mad passionate sex with a complete stranger, gets pregnant, but then is hit by quite a small meteorite before she discovers she’s pregnant? She doesn’t die instantly, but ends up in a persistent vegetative state – and the baby is eventually born nine months later, upon which the Client dies.
So there has to be provision for more children to be born without being disinherited…
I’ve read of Lois McMaster Bujold asking herself “What’s the worst thing I can do to this character?” Will-writing appears to be an exercise in “What’s the worst thing I can do to this client?”
And you know the best thing of all? If you’re writing a novel, you have to pick one worst thing to do to your main character. When you’re writing a Will, you can do them all!