A deathly conversation ensued the other day at my local pub in Great Marton.
A solicitor specialising in probate was recounting disturbing calls from relatives anxious for bequests from wills.
“How long before I collect?” One caller demanded. “He left everything to me.”
“When did he die, exactly?” Queried the lawyer.
“Just now. I’m at his bedside.”
Another caller with similar demands had to admit: “Well, she’s not actually passed on – but the doctor said it doesn’t look good.”
In a week when we salute those who died to give us freedom, it was all rather shocking.
However, the legal eagle was stressing the importance of a will. Even with simple estates, family wrangles and long delays can follow those who die intestate. Someone remarked that other cultures prepare better for the end and are more respectful.
The Chinese traditionally buy their own coffin once getting on in years. This is kept in a corner of the bedroom and regularly polished with pride.
In Africa and Sri Lanka they refer gently to people “becoming late”. (However, the easy going Irish would be “late for their own wake”.)
In past years pensioners here kept savings at the Co-op for those inevitable final bills.
Now, of course, many favour lower-key farewells.
“You can opt for a cardboard box,” one bar-fly observed, “and get dug in under a sapling in a field.”
But it’s good to go off with a touch of style. Those New Orleans funeral processions with jazz bands at the fore might be a bit over the top, but a well-informed vicar followed by hot buffet and free bar hit the mark.
“Some even have a ‘do’ before they go,” said another drinker, “just to see who turns up and what they say.”
After that, of course, the last will and testament might leave everything to the dogs’ home!
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