Friday, October 21, 2011

I Need More Jewelry

As I mentioned, I am in the process of writing a will. I have a will questionnaire to fill out, which one would think would make it easy, but I still have decisions to make. One question asks about making special provisions for “family heirlooms, jewelry or other items of special value to be distributed to friends or relatives”. I do have a few items of real jewelry, and since I don’t have a daughter, I want to leave them to my nieces.

Since the items are of unequal value, I decided to rank them in order of value and leave them to the oldest first and on down the line. My wedding and engagement rings are going to my son, though, for him to treasure as a remembrance, give to his future wife or daughter, or sell at the nearest flea market. Leaving those aside, I have four other pieces of real jewelry: a diamond and sapphire ring, a string of pearls, a gold charm shaped like an elephant’s head, and a gold heart with four diamond chips. I have four nieces: my older brother’s two daughters, my younger brother’s daughter, and my sister’s daughter. So it works out nicely.

Except that my husband has a niece, and I have spent more time with her in the last twenty years than with my own nieces. I’ve already sort of given her a family heirloom, a locket that had belonged to my MIL that no one else seemed to have noticed or claimed at MIL’s death so it fell to me. But that’s not like leaving her something of mine.

Then there are my nephews. I have five of them, and it seems unfair to leave them out, but the point of leaving the jewelry to my nieces is that the jewelry is something with a high replacement value and low resale value, so it makes more sense to give it to people who might wear it than to lump it in with more liquid assets. I don’t have any “items of special value” that would be of interest to my nephews.

There’s also the small ivory carving of a mastodon that my husband gave me for the birthday we spent in Alaska. I want to leave that my former foreign exchange student from Thailand, because  the elephant (the mastodon’s modern relative) is the symbol of Thailand, and because it’s small enough to pack and ship easily. I have two other former foreign exchange students and no similar trinkets suitable for them. Not that it’s likely that they are going to come to the reading of my will.

One would think these decisions wouldn’t cause such angst for me. By the time these objects get passed around, I’m going to be dead and beyond caring. It’s just that I’ve seen how families react to wills. Wills are read when people are grieving and emotional and hanging out with those favorite targets for sibling rivalry, siblings. Decisions that were made on a practical basis, like, “I’ll just start with the oldest and work my way down” or, “M is going to inherit her mom’s opera length strand of 9mm pearls anyway so she doesn’t need my trinkets” get looked at as judgements of worth. 

I have a whole new appreciation for the vineyard owner in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. “It’s my money [stuff]. I can spend [leave] it however I want. If people want to be whiny ingrates, that’s their lookout.” Except that I know how people behave. I especially know how people in my family behave. It’s not fair to light a match and pretend nothing’s going to catch fire.

So the obvious solution is that I need more jewelry. A gold bangle that I can leave to M. A really nice cameo brooch to leave to our other female foreign exchange student. A sapphire and diamond necklace that, once I’m gone,  can be broken up into individual gemstones and divided up among my nephews, John’s nephews, my son and our male foreign exchange student so they can make manly cufflinks or pinkie rings.

I tried to explain this to John. His response was, “Wait, what?”

He has no concept of family values.


  1. Hi - here via the Slacktivist roundup.

    I think I'd be a "Wait, what?" as well.

    What do you intend your legacies as? Are they meant to be something of value or are they meant to be reminders of you?

    If you want to leave your nieces something that is valuable, you can compensate the nephews to the same extent by leaving them money. Though you might have to add cash to the jewellery legacies in order to even things up... Alternatively, have the jewellery sold and divide the proceeds between nieces and nephews. That's unquestionably fair.

    If you want to leave the jewellery because these are items you love, and you hope to pass them to people you love who will also love them, then match the pieces to the nieces or other recipients. If you want more jewellery, buy it for *you*, not as something to hold in keeping for the next generation.

    If you want your relations to have something to remember you by, then again, match the pieces to the nieces by something other than birth order and monetary value. And leave other mementoes to your nephews, matched by personality and/or need. Otherwise it sounds as though bequeathing the jewellery is actually more important to you than giving something to the nieces, which can't be right.

    Incidentally, I have a couple of pairs of earrings that were my grandmother's, which I rarely wear, but I am reminded of her more when I look at the shrub with blue flowers in my back garden, which came from her garden. And I have a rug, a piano stool, and two pictures created by my mother which give me much more pleasure than the pair of jade earrings in my jewellery box. Mementos do not need to have a cash value.

    Either way, I recommend you buy your husband's niece that gold bangle *now*, so you can tell her how much she means to you and see her smile.

  2. Pensnest, thank you for the comment. You obviously put a lot of thought and effort into it. If I really had planned to buy more jewelry just so that I could distribute it more evenly when I died, you would have given me a lot to think about. As it is, you've given me a lot to think about with respect to the enormous gap between what I see as humor and what my readers do.

  3. Well written post ! I also love wearing jewelry. Last week, I bought new bead bracelet. Its too gorgeous..I really loved it :))