Certain superstitions are silly: “Handling a toad gives you warts.” “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” “It’s good luck to find a horseshoe.” (Unless, of course, it’s still attached to the horse).
Other superstitions have intellectual issues: When Punxsutawney Pete looks for his shadow on Groundhog Day, how does he know what he’s looking for? Or does the shadow know?
Other superstitions come with directions: “Pull off the petals of a daisy one by one, naming a boy (or a girl as the case may be) at each one, thus: Jenny, Fanny, Jenny, Fanny, etc. The one named with the last petal is your sweetheart.”
Life and death have their superstitions. If you’re having thirteen for dinner in Brookline, MA, “the last one who sits down will not die.” In nearby Somerville, “the one who rises first from a table of thirteen will not live through the year.” So if you’re invited to dinner in New England, take your time showing up and chew your food really, really well.
Here’s a superstition which is both worthless and dangerous: “If you discuss your Will with your children, you die really soon.”
Now of course, you can avoid making your parents uncomfortable. But you’ll pay for it in other ways.
The problem: where is the Will hidden? Or even, was a Will ever signed?
Consider the first couple I ever did Wills for. Really nice people. They moved out-of-state with the admonition to get their documents checked in their new state. “Instead,” said the wife, “Whenever we talked about it, we decided we liked what you did and never did get it checked.”
How do I know? She called us 25 years later, after her husband died while jogging. She didn’t know where he had stored the original Will. She never did find it.
Or how about the daughter who had no idea where her mother stored her Will and refused to discuss it. After she died, her daughter couldn’t find the document.
As a result, daughter had to start an “Administration” in Probate Court. That costs an unnecessary bundle, takes too much time, and requires filing inventories with the court. And more.
Then it got worse. While cleaning out the attic of her parents’ house, she found her mother’s Will.
So she had to go back to court, stop the Administration, and then start Probate proceedings.
All because the mother refused to give any information about her Will.
The problem with all this: what you don’t know will hurt you. What you can’t find will hurt you. And in turn, will cost you.
Isn’t a safe deposit box the answer? Well, it could be. But at which branch? Who’s on the signature card? And where’s the key?
So you still need to know. You still need to ask. And you need to get answers.
What if your parents still won’t tell you? Well, leave ‘em a copy of this article. Or bring them a horseshoe and a daisy, which you can explain as a prelude to the “Let’s not talk about it” superstition.
And if they’re still not convinced? Find that toad. So if this superstition works and they get warts, they’ll definitely need to tell you where their healthcare documents are. Hopefully the Wills will be nearby.