By Francis Koster, Ed.D.
Last week I was wandering along a beachfront shopping district in South Carolina, and found an interesting antique shop. The window contained all sorts of very old carpentry tools and ancient kitchen stuff.
I saw an old highchair which looked identical to the one which served me and four or five of my younger brothers and sisters before it was passed on to younger cousins.
It was being sold as an antique! My highchair!
As a repeat reader of my column, you know I am a student of how we can improve our society by listening to warnings about future challenges and putting in place known solutions already working elsewhere. Focusing on what I call the basic life support systems of air, water, food, fuel, and the public health implications of how we meet those needs, I can assure you that the future is scary indeed in these areas, but the potential for protecting our families and nation is also strong if we act together in our own neighborhoods.
Seeing my highchair being sold as an antique kind of focused my thinking on another issue I have been pondering.
One in two adult Americans does not have a will - and the number is rising.[i] Not having a will means that the state, not you, decides who gets what. [ii] This means a lot of problems for your family, such as increased taxes, and delay in passing assets to the surviving family members so they can be taken care of.
As a Futurist, I have been asking myself the question “if everyone dies, and everyone knows this is coming, why on earth would they not prepare a will?”
A will is a written legal plan about what to do at some inevitable point in the future.
Let us be clear here. You do not prepare a will for your own sake. You prepare one because you care about your loved ones with whom you have shared a life, and your offspring, and their offspring. People who prepare wills are role models to us all about how to think ahead to make the world a better place.
Do you see the link between writing a will and being a futurist?
Here is just one example of what happens if you don’t write a will: Suppose you and your spouse talked about the distribution of wealth upon the death of either of you. You both agree that in this case, the surviving spouse will get everything, and your adult kids nothing at that time, and when the surviving spouse dies, then the pot will be divided among the kids. Sound sensible?
Not going to happen unless you write a will.
Without a will, in North Carolina, the surviving spouse gets the first $30,000 (This includes a portion of your home equity), and one third of the rest. The kids split the remaining two-thirds….and have no obligation to support the surviving parent.[iii]
If you have no children, or they are comfortably fixed, you might decide to help create a better future by leaving your assets to your church, or to a scholarship fund for students studying the impact of toxics on birth defects, or even a political party. In any of these cases, you are helping shape the future.
Think back to the kinds of things your parents told you from the time you were in your highchair. Over and over they told you to be neat, clean up after yourself, and take care of your brothers and sisters.
You can demonstrate this kind of value system to your loved ones by making a will – and telling those you care about that you did. Then you ask them to do the same.
My strategy in writing this column is this: If you don’t plan to take care of those nearest and dearest to you, you will never take the necessary action to take care of other lovely people. Our next generation needs us to step up to protect aquifers we drink from, our fish supplies from toxic contamination, the land we grow food on, and a long list of other life support systems. Writing your will is the first step.
Start by taking care of those nearest and dearest to you. Then go to my website and read how you can provide leadership to take care of their kids and grandkids. www.TheOptimisticFuturist.org.
If you are among the one in two who does not yet have a will, get on with it...or I am telling your mom.