{living in sin} When There’s a Will

by Rachel on April 20, 2012

Wednesday night, Eric and I kicked off our marriage planning by planning for the end of our marriage: we made our wills. I know estate planning isn’t as sexy as wedding planning, but I’ll be honest…it was kind of a romantic date night.

Because I watch far too much Law & Order: SVU, writing a will has been on my mind for a while. In reality, I’ve only ever seen a will once, when my dad died. When I saw it, I was surprised; it had never occurred to me that he would have a will because he didn’t have any property or anything. It was simple and handwritten and simply contained his burial wishes, which were very important to him. Still, I don’t have a lot to my name, so it was hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of needing a will. Like, am I going to bequeath my Kitchen-Aid mixer? My shoes? But the fact is, when people die, their loved ones often see value — both sentimental and monetary — in things that no one could have protected.

I became a lot more concerned with writing my will when I realized recently that I have something of value that I hadn’t considered: intellectual property. All my blog posts, articles, my unfinished manuscript…I needed to think about how I’d want all these things handled after I die. If, for example, a publisher wanted publish all my blog posts in a book after I died, someone would have to say yes or no to that on my behalf and someone would profit from the royalties. I needed to decide who that person was and be sure they knew what my wishes are. I already had my intentions for my social media accounts taken care of through Entrustet, and it includes my blog, but I didn’t get into the specifics of rights and royalties there.

Honestly, I don’t know what the “right” age for making a will is. I don’t know what should go in it and what shouldn’t. All I know is that being in a serious relationship and not being married is a bit of a legal limbo, and I didn’t want to be in it. Ultimately, I just wanted to make sure that the people I love don’t have to guess at what I want or fight each other. And that’s the unexpectedly romantic part about making a will: you’re saying to the people you care about, Hey, I love you enough to protect you after I’m gone. If the worst happens, I want to make things as easy as possible for you.

We kicked off our will-making date by making dinner and, while eating, we talked about our funeral and burial wishes. While it’s heavy stuff to talk about, we actually…had fun doing it? I think maybe it was because we were learning more about each other in the process. But also because Eric and I really enjoy analyzing trends, culture, rituals, and the laws regarding them, and then talking about them for a while, until they lead us in a new direction, and then another, and another, until finally one of us insists we call it quits because we’ve realized, oh shit, it’s almost morning. My point is, talking about death and the laws and customs surrounding it was actually a really interesting topic for us and so we enjoyed it like we would any other conversation.

We did let the “till death do us part” aspect of the conversation sink in too, and while I know that’s implied with engagement and marriage, talking about it and planning for it was…reassuring. It was less depressing and more comforting than I expected. After we wrote down the things we wanted and didn’t want for our funerals, we moved on to making our wills. We both got out our laptops, found websites for making a will (he used Law Depot; I used LegacyWriter), and got down to business. I had heard it was pretty easy to make a will if you’re young and don’t have a lot of property or heirs, and it was. We worked on them for about an hour, mostly in silence, though every few minutes, one of us would look up and say things like , “Wait, so who should get the dogs if we both die?” and “Hm. I think I only have two specific gifts to bequeath…can you think of anything else?” and “Wait, so what happens to your debt when you die?”

Once we finished, we paid ($20 each), read the instructions on how to make it official (hint: you actually have to go through a “Will Signing Ceremony,” at least in Texas, which isn’t a big deal but sounds sort of funny and archaic), and now we’ve gone ahead and made it official! And it’s been kind of a relief. Not because I think about death every second of the day, but because when I do think about it, I imagine the worst worst-case scenario. In my mind, not only would one of us be devastated if the other died…we’d be devastated with two dogs, an apartment, very far from our family, and facing insurmountable court battles with the other’s family.

But now we only have to worry about being devastated. And, like I said, that we made it a priority to get to that point feels way more romantic than I ever expected.