Dream of:08 April 1996 "Life Estate"
I was standing in the living room of the Gallia County Farmhouse, talking with my father and my grandmother Mabel. We were discussing my grandmother's age – how that she was in her late 80s, and how amazing that she continued to live year after year. I compared her to my father's aunt Dorothy, who I thought was also in her 80s, and to my father's uncle Curt, who I thought was in his 60s, and I decided that my grandmother was the oldest of the three. Yet as old as my grandmother was, she still seemed healthy and energetic; it was difficult to tell how much longer she could live. At the same time, however, my grandmother realized she was approaching the end of her life, and she seemed prepared to go at any time.
My father and I left the Farmhouse together and boarded the front seat of a car which he was driving. It was almost the end of the day and I would be leaving soon; but every time I visited the Farm, my father liked to get into a car and ride around the Farm while he talked with me. So we took off through the grassy fields, with the hills all around us.
As we rode along, my father began talking about the Farm. Although I called it the "Farm," precious little farming went on there. My father didn't live on the Farm, and the Farm's 386 acres were mostly allowed to grow wild. However, my father pointed out that he had employed someone to cut down the grass in the fields so the weeds wouldn't get out of hand. I asked him if he had just left the cut grass lying in the fields instead of making hay out of it and he said that was exactly what he had done.
As we continued riding through the fields, I recalled that I wanted to tell my father something about the Farm. I didn't know whether my father had a will, but I had been thinking about the future of the Farm after he died. I knew he wanted the Farm to stay in our family; he was concerned, however, because I didn't have any children, and (because I had long ago had a vasectomy) that I would never have children of my own. It was still possible that I might adopt, but with each passing year, adoption seemed less and less likely. My sister, on the other hand, had three children. I was therefore concerned that my father might incline toward making provision that the Farm would go to my sister and her children, instead of to me.
I thought about how short life was; I myself would soon be passing on. If I were to die, I would leave everything to Carolina. In a way, Carolina was like a daughter to me, since she was only 23 years old – 19 years younger than I. But I understood that my father's feelings toward Carolina weren't so sanguine; he wanted to see the Farm go to his grandchildren and their children and so on.
I had little problem with my father's desires, and I understood how he felt. So in pondering the situation, I had come up with an idea: I would tell my father that he might consider bequeathing the Farm to my sister, but leaving me a life estate in the Farm. Basically a life estate would mean I would have the Farm as long as I was alive, and that at my death the Farm would pass on to my sister and her heirs.
This solution seemed workable to me. I loved the Farm, and I wanted to spend time there, but I didn't have an overwhelming concern about what would happen to the Farm after I died. As long as I had use of the Farm while I was alive, I would be satisfied. At the same time, however, I wanted to stress to my father the words "at least." I wanted him to know that the "least" I wanted him to leave me was a life estate in the Farm; I wanted him to know that if he felt inclined to leave me more than a life estate, I would certainly be happy to receive it.
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