Could A Will Have Saved Ebenezer Scrooge?
It's eerily morbid to some, but to others, Christmastime and death go hand-in-hand. Check your local theater to see the latest horror slasher, or turn on the family classics to find narratives on what might happen if you never existed (à la “It’s a Wonderful Life”). For many people, the holiday season is a time to reflect on what might have been and what still could be, and they take this opportunity to begin planning for the next year. For some, that planning might include drafting a Will.
New Year’s Resolution: Draft a Will
Creating a Will is something everyone should do, no matter how little or how much you own. And because you never know what tomorrow will bring, it's never too early to put your wishes on paper.
If you die without a valid Will, you forfeit any direction in how your possessions and estate will be divided. For those with few possessions, do you really want the State to gain ownership rather than a surviving family member, friend or charity? And when considering those who own properties, multiple bank accounts, bonds, stocks, investments, retirement funds, etc., it is unfathomable to probate lawyers such as ourselves when those individuals fail to provide a plan for their assets.
One infamous holiday character is not known for planning although he is known for his fiscal acumen: Ebenezer Scrooge. "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens is a wonderful classic enjoyed year after year. At our probate law firm, it isn't too far fetched to wonder, in the midst of holiday sharing, goodwill and cheer, if things might have been different for Ebenezer Scrooge had he put his frugality to good use and constructed a Will.
For those who are not familiar with this tale, you can read it in its entirety at literature.org. For those who need a refresher: Ebenezer Scrooge is the main character who has taken for granted his sole remaining family member (his nephew Fred), as well as his employees and everyone around him, in his bitter old age. However, through the meeting and interaction with his now-deceased ex-partner Jacob Marley and three other Spirits, Scrooge’s heart of coal warms to the flicker of humanity.
The Power of a Will
So, could Scrooge have avoided the shocking scene with the Ghost of Christmas Future played out in Chapter 4, "The Last of the Spirits", by simply visiting a probate law firm and drafting a Will? It's possible, and here's why.
When you draft a will, there is really only one main purpose: figure out what is going to happen with all of your "stuff" (or assets and properties). For a majority of our clients, that means taking inventory of assets and debts, and then determining which heirs and beneficiaries should receive the assets.
For someone like Scrooge who only has one heir, it's likely that Fred would inherit everything, but only if Scrooge had a Will! Otherwise, the State would act, and depending on the type of probate administration, Fred may only receive a few assets or none at all.
Of course, it's possible that Scrooge, in his curmudgeonliness, would write-off Fred and Fred's wife in an instant. Scrooge certainly had no problem doing this at the beginning of the tale with a "Bah! Humbug!" to Fred's "Merry Christmas". But, who's to say the Will could not turn into a savior of Scrooge in a very different type of "Tell-Tale Heart" — with the Will sitting on Scrooge's shelf, day after day, Scrooge would be forced to reconcile his actions. Could Scrooge go on living knowing he left his nephew nothing? Would he resolve to revise the Will one day when his heart felt lighter and perhaps its icy exterior had melted?
It's true that it took quite the effort of four Spirits for Scrooge to see the error in his ways and that he was truly happy before and could be happy again if he allowed himself to be. Although he trembled in the presence of Marley, once the Spirit had left, Scrooge was ready to forget the phantoms for good. And when the second Spirit was scheduled to appear, Scrooge readied himself "to challenge the Spirit on the moment of its appearance." This determined old guy was not backing down!
At the end of the visit with the Ghost of Christmas Present, however, Scrooge was not so defiant. By this time, he had seen the Christmases of long ago, watched his love turn sour and had gazed upon his only remaining family laughing at his expense. Yet to come is Scrooge's realization that, if he does not change the present, a frightful future of a town rejoicing in his death was sure to play out.
It is no small feat that Dickens' character evolved due to the interference of the Spirits and what they showed him. But is it not possible a similar ending could be gained from a different story entirely?
When faced with our own mistakes in judgment, staring down our embarrassments and lapses in humanity, we often find our own truths. Perhaps not even the greatest of probate lawyers could convince Scrooge to share his wealth, but maybe, just maybe, the ticking embodiment of all his hatred, disappointment, morosity, indifference and indignation could have allowed him to see that if you push others away while you're alive, there's nothing to keep them close after you're gone.
Contact a Probate Lawyer Today
So, this holiday season, whether you find yourself aligned with Fred's cheerful disposition and love for the hustle-and-bustle, or you prefer to lock yourself away from the 24-hour Christmas music while muttering "Bah! Humbug!", take some time to evaluate your own Christmas Past, Present and Future, and contact the Law Offices of Silverman, Mack & Associates to draft your Will.
“And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!”