When it Works (probate, that is)

It occurs to us that we write an awful lot about problems in probate, trusts, administration, executorships and much more. That’s probably because it’s a lot easier to learn from mistakes than the flawless execution of a document. As an old law professor of mine once said, casebooks are hardly filled with great cases.

I thought about this when I ran across a news story this week that reinforces what a solid will and a rock-solid executor can accomplish when things are, well, done right.

If you’re not familiar with him, Terry Pratchett was an award winning fantasy novelist and one of the best selling authors of all-time. Virtually everything he wrote became a bestseller. He was going strong when he was diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s.

He was still writing at time, like a lot of writers he he had several projects going at once, some were destined to be published and some were going to end up in the trash as not up to Terry’s usual standards.

Pratchett was very open about his condition and discussed it often with friends. Along the way he told them that “whatever he was working on at the time of his death was to be taken out along with his computers, put in the middle of a road and run over with a steamroller.”

His friends, most notably Neil Gaiman of American Gods fame told him that was not going to happen. Unfazed, Terry talked to his lawyers and had it added to his will. Any writings that were unfinished or had not been submitted to his publishers were to be destroyed upon his death. By steamroller.

When he died, Pratchett had ten unfinished novels on hard drive. His estate moved through probate, it was noted that those unfinished writings were valuable, it was also noted that Pratchett had been clear about his ongoing literary legacy.

Last weekend, Terry’s hard drive was placed on a road and a vintage steam roller rolled right on over it. It survived better than expected so it was then put in a stone crusher. The now unreadable hard drive will be on display at a museum.

All exactly as wished.