Shortly after a death personal property of the decedant t starts to disappear. This is not pursuant to a will, or any court order. Instead it is some knob that is turned in the mind of the people who “knew him well” they all say, followed by “he wanted me to have this speedometer” or whatever.
What they really mean is “he doesn’t need this anymore and I want it”.
Most wills in our state have a provision for a list to found with the will at death declaring who is to get what after the author dies. The list has to be dated and signed but not witnessed, which is an exception to the normal wills acts formalities. Even so, no matter how easy the law is to follow most of the time people do not fill out the list and this leads to all kinds of mischief.
Instead things tend to evaporate causing friction among those of us left behind. Some of what is fought over is of little value, take this speedometer for example. I literally spent a day trying to prove the existence of old car parts and tools, as the decedant had left a large tract of land littered with old junked cars and the parts to go in them. This proved fruitless, let alone who entered the property and removed this speedometer to some “classic” auto which was still rusting there on the lot.
It is much harder it seems to remove a car that will not start and is covered in blackberry vines than a speedometer that is supposed to be entombed with the car.
It’s madness really. Stuff that was junk before the man died is now some prize to covet and obtain by any means and at any price. I was paid my fee for the effort. We lost.
I have literally fought in court over this speedometer
Among the Do It Yourself Will carnage we see after people pass on are amendments made by themselves on the face of their documents after seeing the lawyer and then apparently changing their mind.
Reviewing a will that comes into the office all marked up we have to first decide who made the changes; the testator or someone finding the will and unhappy with his decisions while he was alive. Assuming the former, I was astonished to find a statute here in Washington State that sets out the rules for a do it yourself change to your will.
Forever we have had the rule that one must have a testator signing his will in the presence of two witnesses that sign it as well. That has not changed.
It seems however to be that one can revoke any particular gift by drawing a line through it, this is without two witnesses. You may not however add terms without those witnesses.
But then there is some case law that says if the deletion materially alters the disposition of the will in an unnatural manner, the partial revocation is void. So for example deleting a distant relative of a small gift might be OK, striking out two of three children without a formal disinheritance through Wills Act formality would not.
Think of the opportunities for fraud or other mischief, leaving it to the lawyers to unravel. The attorney fees involved are exponentially higher than merely returning to the lawyer for a codicil, usually a modest effort.
This would probably make good television. I hope am played by George Clooney.
More often than not people want their remains cremated and ashes spread somewhere rather than be buried in a cemetery. They worry about the money I think, which is unfortunate as they cannot take it with them, and you know, maybe the family needs something more than a body of water to look at to remember the departed. Usually that body of water is Puget Sound or an alpine lake, but sometimes at some lookout or other special place like the Grand Canyon.
Unfortunately much of this is just a whimsical notion of a family standing around and tipping the urn over and having the remains flow out on a breath of wind dramatically returning the departed to the earth.
Instead what happens is some of the ash floats away, but most of it sort of comes out in a lump. The bone is not always completely incinerated and once it hits the water tends to remain cohesive for far too long.
Then there is the entire question of whether this violates an environmental law somewhere. I have always presumed it does, but have yet to have any agency levy a fine for this sort of spill in Puget Sound. In fact a member of my staff reports advising a Washington State Ferry employee of the intention to distribute the ashes from the boat, and finding the captain stopped the ferry mid-transit to allow for the event.
I wouldn’t count on this to be the norm.
Still I wonder how many people wish they had a headstone to visit when missing the departed. Somehow the Sound is just too public, to ambiguous, and feeds my sense of existentialist crisis.