Will Drafting: Art or Science?
The March 2009 issue of Vanity Fair includes an interesting (albeit cheeky) article entitled "Final-Exit Strategies." Citing such works as Tuesdays with Morrie and The Last Lecture, the article notes the recent prevalence of works of fiction and non-fiction that are written from the perspective of someone contemplating their own imminent demise. "The Grim Reaper as Life Coach" (one of the numerous tongue-in-cheek observations in the article) may not be the most sensitive assessment of such works but it does contain a kernel of truth: "given that we’re all on death row, existentially speaking, finding a good writer to keep us company may be as good as it gets."
It got me thinking about how, for most people, their Will is likely the only document written for an audience to consider after their death. And its aim is, of course, strictly businesslike: who gets my stuff when I die? Rarely does one see a Will which pronounces in any way on an individual’s personal philosophy or the conveying of life lessons. But that may be changing. In a past blog, Paul Trudelle commented on "Ethical Wills" (and see www.ethicalwills.com) which are created for just such a purpose, and Ian Hull and Suzana Popovic-Montag explored this issue in further detail in a podcast.
Whether the legal profession will be prepared to embrace this broader concept of the purpose of the Will is an open question. Of course, the odd Holograph Will will contain some candid personal insights that would not otherwise be seen in a lawyer-drawn Will and, it could be argued, stand a better chance of getting published!
David M. Smith