decided to get a head start on food preparations. She was
going to have many of her children and grandchildren over for
dinner on Thanksgiving Day and wanted everything to be just
So Kay decided to make her
famous carrot pudding a few days early. But when she
looked in her kitchen she noticed that she was one cup short of
lived alone in her apartment, she only had to wander down the
outside hallway to ask a neighbor for the missing ingredient.
Kay was fortunate to be one of many seniors living at
Independence Village in Oxford, Michigan. Although many of
them, like Kay, were widowed and therefore lived "alone," they
were part of a community of caring and sharing -- considering
each other to be friends as well as an extended family of sorts.
found her sugar and set everything up on the kitchen counter,
ready to begin cooking. But she apparently stopped short
of turning on the stove because she did not feel well. So
Kay walked over to her bedroom and decided to rest.
asleep. She never woke up.
Some of her
children found Kay the next day, resting in eternal peace.
They also found that Kay left no mess behind for them to deal
was clean. Her funeral arrangements had been made in
advance. And most importantly, Kay had written her Last
Will and Testament, naming her executor, beneficiaries, and
Kay was among
the minority of people who don't leave their survivors in a
state of confusion. A recent Gallup Poll shows that about
60 percent of Americans do not have a will.
having a will is important for everyone of adult age, it is
particularly helpful for unmarried people. Without a will,
survivors must struggle to decide:
» who is in
charge of making decisions for the funeral,
» what type of funeral arrangements should be made,
» whether to sell personal possessions,
» what portion of the estate should be given to surviving
use the excuse of cost or legal complexity to justify not making
a will. Some states allow for handwritten wills -- no
lawyer is necessary. Other states have statutory will
forms which can be purchased from a stationery store or found
for example, has a statutory will form which allows people to
fill in the blanks, sign it, and have at least two witnesses
sign it too. Many other states also have "fill in the
blanks" will forms.
like California, also allow for handwritten wills. It
can't get easier than that.
California, for example, any adult can write out his or her
wishes on a blank piece of paper, stating who should be the
executor of the will to make sure their wishes are carried out
as directed, what type of burial arrangements they want, and
what should happen to their worldly possessions, including real
estate, stocks, bank accounts, furniture, or personal items.
If it is dated and signed the will is valid. Although
people can visually witness the signing of the handwritten will,
if there are witnesses they are not supposed to sign the
document in any way under California law.
For those who
do not yet have a will, an excellent resource can be found on
the website of Nolo Press, a self-help legal publishing company.
Nolo website explains who can do a "no frills" will and who
needs a lawyer to prepare a Living Trust or more elaborate legal
The Nolo site
hiring a lawyer to create a basic will
cost you several hundred dollars, and is usually not necessary.
You can use
Quicken WillMaker Plus, a software program
developed by the lawyers at Nolo, to create a comprehensive,
legally sound will for under $40. Not a bad investment.
though most people don't want to think about their own death, or
believe that it won't happen anytime soon, in reality "it is
later than you think."
Kay, do a little advance planning and don't leave behind a mess
for your survivors to clean up. They will be thankful that
you were so considerate.
Coleman was very considerate. She was also my mother, and
a good one at that.
Unmarried America 2005
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
firstname.lastname@example.org. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and