Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Morbid family

Why are our families so morbid and uninformed?

So, evidently there have been a few earthquakes in California recently. And it's got my family rattled, pun intended. See, my wife and I are headed there soon, and after having never mentioned it in the past both our parents recently asked us if we had wills set up.

After all, they both said, you don't want your stuff to go "to the state."

First off, yeah, thanks for the vote of confidence. I fully expect to come home safe and sound from this trip.

Second off, what "stuff" do we have? Barring items of sentimental value, we're talking about a very small savings account, a life insurance policy, a car which is mostly still owned by the bank, a couple pieces of jewelry which are more sentimentally important than financially, and some substandard consumer electronics. We're not talking about real estate, substantial savings, or a hidden sack of precious gems.

Third, "the state?" Come on.

But, you know, just to be safe I did a little research. My life insurance policy goes to a list of beneficiaries in the order I specified when I signed up. I don't even remember what I did, but I'm sure I made the right choice and didn't somehow accidentally list "the state" as one of the recipients of my death loot. Even if the only recipient was my wife, according to the plan if all my beneficiaries are dead when I die, the benefits are paid out to a surviving family member in order of spouse, child, parent, etc. So, no worries there.

But what about all my stuff? Who gets my substandard consumer electronics?

Evidently, the body of law dealing with what happens if you die and leave no will behind is called Intestacy Law. According to the wikipedia,
In most contemporary common-law jurisdictions, the law of intestacy is patterned after the common law of descent. Property goes first to a spouse, then to children and their descendants; if there are no descendants, the rule sends you back up the family tree to the parents, the siblings, the siblings' descendants, the grandparents, the parents' siblings, and the parents' siblings' descendants, and sometimes further to the more remote degrees of kinship.
So, again, if we both die in a terrible accident, our "stuff" goes to our families. Only if it becomes impossible to identify such an individual does the mysterious "state" get my mad loot. I guess there's some concern that the person dividing up the loot belongs to the impersonal "state" but, really, is that enough to lose sleep over? Some further research into Massachusetts law brings up a lot of arguments in favor of a will, but most of them revolve around making sure your "assets" go to the "right people" in your family or in expediting the process (counting on the courts to divide your assets can take over a year).

So, yeah. I know I "should" have a will, so I can determine that Clint gets my D&D books and my mom gets my cat and Jess's cousins get her jewelry, or something. But, really, at this point? Give me a break.

On second thought, maybe I should make up a will. I'll leave everything to charity.

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