When I read the story about a Pittsburgh woman who’s leaving thousands of dollars in her will to her beloved house plant, I got to thinking about the importance of estate planning.
Whether you’re leaving your money to animal, vegetable or mineral, it requires a lot of thought and preparation and professional advice.
And even though I don’t have a close relationship with our house plants (at least not yet), I’m still going back to our attorney to revise my will. I may even dump some of my original heirs.
If you think I’m making this up about the woman and her beloved plant, I assure you I’m not.
A recent story in The Wall Street Journal said that Ronna Scoratow, a 63-year-old landlady who rescued a philodendron in 1972, was leaving $5,000 in her will for the continued care of the seven-foot-tall plant.
That generous act may come as a shock to people who aren’t plant lovers, but I understand completely. Some of my best friends are plants.
In fact, I once had a rosemary bush that I absolutely adored. I’d snip off a few sprigs for seasoning every time my wife made roasted chicken.
It served us well for years until someone, who shall go unnamed, gave it too much water and drowned it.
(Now I’m beginning to wonder whether this plant was drowned so it couldn’t get its rightful inheritance.) Anyway, there’s no more roasted chicken seasoned with rosemary. Now, it’s just Chicken McNuggets.
So forget the plants. Instead I’ve decided to leave a large part of my estate to my dog, who will probably want to share it with my wife because she likes my wife more than me.
Plus, she needs someone to buy her doggie treats.
All of this reminds me of hotel heiress Leona Helmsley, who had a better relationship with her Maltese, Trouble, than with her family and friends, so she stiffed all of them and left the dog $12 million, making it the richest pooch in the world.
(A judge later cut the canine inheritance to $2 million.)
I’m putting the dog in my will to ensure she’ll have organic gourmet biscuits well into the future, not to mention regular trips to the groomer and a generous supply of squeaky toys from Petco.
Let’s face it, wouldn’t you rather leave your millions or thousands or hundreds to a loyal parakeet or cat than to a bunch of kids who did nothing but give you agita and then stood in line with their hands out, waiting for payday when you croaked?
Of course, I’m not referring to my kids. I’m only speaking theoretically. I hope.
Ultimately, after some thought, I came up with several radical and innovative ideas for rewriting my will.
First, I’m leaving money to Metro-North, which has been an integral part of my life since 1985. However, they’ve fallen on hard times, and can’t get the trains to run on time. They’re crowded and they’re constantly in crisis.
With my gift, I probably could get my name painted on the side of a train car just like Nathan Hale, Mark Twain and all those other historical figures, who didn’t leave Metro-North a cent.
My estate isn’t large enough to get my name on a building at, say, Yale or Harvard, but I’d settle for a small plaque at the entrance to Trader Joe’s or the men’s room at my college dormitory, where many a zealous partygoer spent the night recuperating.
In addition, I have a favorite 10-speed road bike, a mango-colored Bianci made in Italy that I rode for thousands of miles. It has been loyal to me, and I’ll leave a few hundred dollars to have it regularly tuned up and oiled.
As for my wife and kids, I want to keep them guessing so they’ll take care of me in my old age. I don’t want them to be too sure of easy money.
Even though there are many things, animate and inanimate, I’d like to remember in my will, my first choice is to spend it all on myself before I pass into the Great Hereafter because there’s nothing more important than Number One. It’s the American way.
Joe Pisani may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.