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Saturday, September 20, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 5/7/2000

Passing on one's treasures is a challenge

Trust is a mighty big word.

We trust bridge construction workers to insure that the bridge is safe to travel over. We trust the doctors who diagnose our pain. Couples trust one another when they say their marriage vows. Children trust that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny will not forget their house. Even our money is printed with "In God we Trust."

The trust facing me daily is a real biggie. It's the trust that names the people and organizations that I hope will honor and value my possessions after death. A better way to put it is that the list will comprise the names of those I decide are the most deserving of the possessions I am surrounded with daily, and any money that I don't manage to spend before D-day, although it's doubtful that there will be any.

Trusts are legal papers that are like a will, but do not have to be probated, which the attorneys say reduces after-death taxes and detail work for the person who is named the head honcho for the give-away soiree.

The challenge is different for childless, single people than it is for parents who can will it all over to the kids and let them fight over it, or have an auction. We have to select the special people in our lives who will be thrilled to be remembered.

When I ask close friends what they would like, they give the standard answer. "Don't talk like that." Or, "Nothing, just your friendship is all I want."

The exception is the jade bracelet I have worn for 30 years, which at least five people have asked for, so I have decided to take it with me and not hurt anyone's feelings.

The catch is that everything in this house is special to me. If it were not, it wouldn't be cluttering up the walls and end tables and closets. If I didn't think the antique lamp, the first electric light my aunts studied by, was precious, I could have sold it years ago.

But who will care about that story enough to find a spot for the old lamp in a contemporary home? Or who will take good care of mother's Noritake china that has been packed for safe-keeping for 30 years or even the set of Mexican dishes shipped from Guadalajara?

Will anyone, even a family member, make room for the pair of large rockers that Grandma Perkins got by saving Pears soapbox tops that were always in her parlor, or the rocker that Grandpa Perkins bought for his mother with money earned as a young man working on Plank Road, which is now U.S. 223?

When I take cousins on a tour of the house and point out family treasures they might like, they simply say, "That's interesting."

The list is long and probably only meaningful to me: the child's rolltop desk where I wrote my first story for Playmate magazine, the candelabrum received when I was president of the National Food Editors Conference, and paintings that mean much to me. The next guy may not care about the seascape I paid $10 for at a garage sale and have been offered $400 for more recently.

The cupboards are loaded with so many dishes that when two English bone china cups fell out and broke recently, I just thought, well, that's two I won't have to worry about.

The drawers are crammed with linens. Then, there's the clown collection that grew after I made the mistake of telling someone I liked clowns. How about all the photos of travels around the world? We know where those will end up. Should we mention engagement rings and wedding pearls?

Faced with the inevitable, I can see several solutions. First, there must be a list of prospects. Then applications could be sent to each with a list of what's available and a check list.

Or I could glue the name of a person who would get the contents under each cabinet, dresser, or cupboard. That would be similar to the procedure at club meetings when they can't think of a better way to dispose of the table centerpieces. Everybody jumps up, turns their chairs upside down, and whoever finds a mark on the bottom of his or her chair other than the manufacturers' name or the price tag, gets the centerpiece.

By that method, the heirs could have a real field day sorting miscellaneous contents from the container with their name. My sympathy goes to the person who gets the cabinet with all the Tupperware.

A more fair method would be to number each item that I consider valuable enough to pass on and then a drawing could be held with the folks on the receiving list present..

Because I always enjoy a good movie with a surprise ending , I think it would be fun to produce a video. I could be the star, of course. It would include several surprise elements, including why I decided to omit some people from the list.

Whatever the solution it has to be recorded legally. Then the heirs can have at it to their heart's content.

I just hope they trust my judgment.

Mary Alice Powell is a former Blade food editor.



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