We were almost done signing the updated estate planning documents we’d put off for so long. In the course of a move we found our wills in a file cabinet and, after reading them, saw that they didn’t even mention our younger son. Who knows what sort of multi-generational Cain-and-Abel conflict that omission could have touched off.
The papers had piled up: two wills; two “pour over” trusts–not sure exactly what they poured or where they poured it into; durable power of attorney; living will–in case we lived forever instead of died, I guess; health care proxies.
“Are we through?” my wife asked our female estate planning lawyer. My wife figured if there was any funny business after she died her lawyer would at least be on the same team.
“Well, it’s an add-on to our basic estate plan, but do you want to do Living Beauty Wills?”
“What’s that?” my wife asked.
“It’s like a hybrid of a health care proxy and a living will, but it covers your physical appearance once you no longer care how you look.”
I looked at my wife. “We’ve already spent $1,000,” I said, and then to the lawyer–“Is this really something we need?”
“It’s entirely up to you,” the lawyer said, but I noticed she didn’t close her fancy burgundy portfolio. Didn’t want to lose the sale I figured. “It’s only another hundred dollars.”
“How does it work?” my wife asked.
“Well, you sign in front of two witnesses, and you specify the particular beauty tasks that, if left unattended, would make you look like a groaty old person.”
I searched my mind for things in that category that I might actually care about. The usual male problems of bushy eyebrows that start growing like weeds and ear hair that afflict old men wouldn’t be a problem for me because I don’t have a lot of body hair to begin with, and I read when I was in my twenties that these two phenomena were signs of a zinc deficiency. So I eat plenty of shellfish and take 50 milligrams of zinc whenever I think about it. “I think I’ll pass,” I said. “I don’t have a lot of beauty to begin with.”
But my wife wasn’t so sure. “So, if I stop taking care of myself, and the . . . uh . . . condition I care about grows worse–what happens?”
“Your designated Beauty Proxy is contacted and, without having to go to Probate Court, is allowed to attend to you if your heirs and/or surviving spouse doesn’t.”
“I think I’d like to get one of those,” my wife said. “I couldn’t count on him”–here she nodded her head at me–“for anything really important.”
“Like?” the lawyer asked, as she turned to her computer and called up a document template. It really isn’t true that lawyers can just push a button to make a document appear; they also have to fill in blanks by tapping on their keyboards, then they push a button and print them out.
My wife gulped, then composed herself, and said in a voice that was barely audible, “Chin hairs.”
“Chin hairs?” the lawyer boomed out, loud enough to cause the tropical fish in the waiting area to turn around with a look, as John Keats would put it, of wild surmise.
“yes,” my wife said, shifting to lower case in an effort to keep the receptionist and the other waiting tortfeasors and tortfeasees from hearing.
“Well,” here she hesitated again, “maybe hairs growing out of moles, just general clean-up.”
“Sorry, this is a legal document, we have to be very specific.”
The lawyer tapped some more and, when the document was done, brought it over for my wife to sign.
“Do we really need to have two witnesses?” she asked, fearing to spread the curse of her chin hairs any further than necessary.
“Not really, but if you need to go to court to enforce it, there might be some question,” the lawyer said. “If you trust him, you can sign it as is.”
My wife looked at me with the expression I see whenever I gaze at our wedding picture; I call it “hopeful resignation,” as if she’s feeling that I may be a doofus, but I’m her doofus.
“Okay,” she said, taking up the pen. “Get the witnesses back in here.”