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Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Dear Kate,

I was doing the bills this morning, when I came on a couple of checks payable to you, and didn’t know what to do. So I called Dan and after the usual condolences—always the usual condolences—he switched into his lawyerly mode and said I could deposit the checks but should keep a record for future reference. He also assured me that our joint ownership of the house means that your half of it automatically passes to me. But when I told him about the investments for your nieces and nephews, he said we’ll probably have to probate your estate and told me that he needed to see your will. "You've got it," I said. "No,” he said, “I only have a copy—I need to see the original, and you’ve got it.” Original? Photocopy? I couldn’t help wondering what difference it makes. I also wondered where the original might be, for I assumed it was on file with Dan, and when I looked in your desk, the only thing there was a photocopy. Then I called Sue at the bank, and asked if I could make the change in your investments that you and I discussed a few weeks ago. So, as your trusty trust officer, she also wants to see the will, to make sure I’m the executor, in which case the bank will make the changes that I recommend. Will, will, will—I’m beginning to feel the force of your will as never before, and the will of the legal establishment too. I mean, what’s the point of making photocopies if the original is the only will that matters? And what if I can’t find the original? What then? Is your will in a state of indefinite suspension? A legal limbo without recourse? Or does the legal establishment have a legal escape mechanism for this as for all contingencies? Stay tuned for further developments.

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