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  • The Last Word

    Janet I. Delorey

    Published Date : April 1985
     A few years ago, my penniless college student son strolled into one of the more prestigious stores in New York City and requested a charge account. When asked the source of income of his non-employed mother, he promptly replied, “She’s an heiress-in-waiting.” An unlimited charge was granted on the spot. All of which led me to reflect on the power of anticipation.

    Take the case of Francis Jordan whose six daughters must have been shocked when he left all to his wife with the provision that she, in turn, could leave to her children and grandchildren “who best behaved toward her.” For fifteen long years they must have struggled to hold their tongues and be at her beck and call: all but one succeeded as they were given a small legacy while a granddaughter, who had obviously figured out how to dance attendance, received the lion’s share. This would seem to be a case of where they indeed got their inheritance the old fashioned way - they earned it!

    Amos Stoning certainly had more than a little concern as to how his third wife would fare after his demise. In addition to what she brought to the marriage, she received half the house, privileges in the cellar, well and dooryard and provisions that were spelled out down to the last bushel of corn and barrel of cider. After two pages of whereases, wherefores, and ample provision for his unmarried daughter, he also remembered that they would need wood cut to a certain length, double in quantity if they were sick, needed to bake or do laundry. The final indignation was the provision that the house was to be kept comfortable and in good repair - at the expense of the administrators. Small wonder that no one wished to administer that estate!

    The fantasy of tight-knit families is eroded when one ponders the will of John Kimball. His widow was not only granted permission to occupy three rooms, she was also given the “liberty of passing the stairs to the cellar and chamber.” He was an anticipator of another kind.

    Yet another Kimball left a will which obviously did not please his heirs as a son, Joshua, petitioned the court to “order my brother Daniell to acquaint me when ye will he has got he saise is my honnored fathers” was to be probated.  Unfortunately for Joshua and his high hopes, the will stood.

    William Sylvester left an admirable will, bequeathing liberally to all his children - or so it seemed. As an afterthought, he tucked in a memorandum to include a daughter, Charitee. The memorandum is so well concealed in the flourishes of an early hand that poor Charitee has yet to make any of the genealogical references as his child.

    But, my favorite is Thomas Linekin, the optimal anticipator who left lavish bequests while not possessing a sou of money - did he anticipate a windfall before his demise? Whatever, picture, if you will, the treasure hunt that must have ensued for a non-existent fortune!

    As I have dutifully deciphered and transcribed the old script of ancient ancestral probates, enhancing my vocabulary with such words as “enfeofed,” “demised,” etc., the tune “Oh Give Me Something to Remember You By” keeps running through my mind. Few were or are prepared for just what that something might be.

    A five-year-old granddaughter of a friend has already learned how to take the guesswork out of [38] anticipation. After admiring her grandmother’s diamond ring, she was told that when Nanna passed on, she could have the ring. After a thoughtful few moments of silence, the five-year-old spoke up, “Nanna, when you go up to be with Jesus, could I have your WHOLE jewelry box?”

    As for my heirs-in-waiting? They know better than to anticipate. I’m spending their inheritance as fast as I can!

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