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Your Last Will and Testament
tombstone carved: RIP
Is it really necessary?

Mortality is one of those things that is rarely a consideration until it stares us in the face. Sometimes our closing scene may appear as the light at the end of the tunnel, a blessed relief welcoming us as we approach; for most, however, especially the younger ones, it seems so far away that it doesn't even bear thinking about - yet. Then, one day, something happens like a "near-death" experience, and we begin to realise that we aren't bullet-proof. Okay, life's like that - here today, gone tomorrow - so what? So nothing... or maybe the act of dying is much more complex than us simply dropping off the perch. A lot depends on how self-centred a person is, whether they care about those they are going to leave behind. If we've done the right thing by them, we can trust they may shed a tear and remember all of those good times we had together; but they won't be thinking so kindly if our passing has left them with a gigantic mess to sort out. Making a will won't lessen the sadness, but it can prevent a great deal of bitterness and resentment; and, from our point of view, be it on a cloud looking down, or drifting through our old haunts as a ghostly spectre, at least we'll know that we did the best with whatever we couldn't take with us.

Who gets what?
I recall my mother - while she was still alive, of course - assigning certain possessions to specific friends and members of the family. We thought it quite amusing when she would say: "I'm leaving this (humidor) to John because he's the only one who smokes a pipe." Despite the fact that she'd forgotten he'd stopped smoking years ago, to Mum it was a logical bequest that she was more than happy to make. To ensure nobody got it wrong after she passed on, she turned the tobacco pot over to show us a label stuck underneath with her son-in-law's name on. It might have been a good idea, except for the climate - long, hot summers tend to dry the glue on labels. After her funeral, trying to figure out which item belonged to whom was a nightmare because most of the stickers had fallen off!! We were fortunate in having a family that was content to initially receive whatever we thought appropriate, later entering into a selective trade-off so that each eventually got the keepsake they were happier with. Mind you, it doesn't always work out so amicably.

A large estate
Trinkets are one thing, but a sizeable estate, especially when a good part of it is actual cash money, is a different proposition which can lead to disappointment and bad feelings. Even when a will has been made, relatives and friends of the deceased may be dissatisfied with their share, if indeed they have been left anything at all. On occasions, especially when the total is considerable, the matter of who gets what can end up in court; and however illogical and unjust it may seem to ordinary people, the law has its own ideas and can overturn part or all of a will. It is worthwhile bearing this in mind. Drawing up the document can be done on the cheap, and do-it-yourself will kits are fine if there is little of consequence to bequeath, but for those with significant assets it is probably better to pay for legal advice on how to distribute them in a way that is less likely to result in conflict later.

Intellectual property
Although most people won't have to consider this aspect, for some it will be a necessary inclusion in their will. Intellectual property can be anything from the written word as in novels, poems and lyrics; to music, plans and blueprints, designs, even unfinished works such as might be found in an artist's sketch book. In simple terms, it is the product of an individual's mind and talent. Until they are legally re-assigned, or are actually published or sold on a commercial basis, all remain the property of the creator. What happens with them following death might evolve into a gigantic headache unless ownership is allocated to specific individuals prior to the originator's demise. In some instances, the law has already provided for this contingency, in particular the copyright of books and music which is deemed to pass down to and be retained by surviving heirs until a certain period has elapsed when the works are regarded as public domain. Fine, you might think, but imagine the fur flying as relatives and perhaps co-writers launch into a fight over the pickings! Then, a life's work is less of a memorial to the beauty of art than it is an ugly bone of contention.

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