Remodeling Our Estate Plan

You know you're getting older when you catch your adult kids walking around with a tape measure envisioning the remodel after you're dead. Actually, in our younger son's case, he's sort of hoping for the remodel before we're dead.

"You could really do something with this place," he enthuses hopefully when he, his wife, the kids, and our granddog Winston are down for the weekend. He envisions, at minimum, a second-story master suite angled to maximize what would be an unobstructable ocean view, a wrap-around front porch for waving to the neighbors in our family-friendly neighborhood, and reconverting the ill-considered 1955 garage remodel back into a garage (amen to that). We're very clear that his fantasies include a remodel to his specifications on our dime.

We couldn't agree more that this tiny house on a prime lot could be a morphed into a really fantastic place. It's had a lot of interior upgrades over time but it's still the original 1947 square footage. It felt enormous when my ex and I bought it, much smaller when we added two kids, positively palatial when the kids departed, and now totally sardine-ish when both kids and families show up. We think it will make a wonderful remodel for someone. But we're not those someones.

I'll confess that a part of me has always regretted that the timing was never right for that view remodel (divorce, college bills, etc.). As we've explained to the kids, the house and their educations are finally paid for. Definitely not looking for more debt, except at tax time when we realize our deductionless tax burden singlehandedly supports several branches of state and federal government.

We've told Henry that we think all of his remodel ideas are wonderful and we'll be happily looking down (or up) on them when the time comes. He actually owns his own house in L.A. But I think if you grow up in San Diego, you never lose the draw to this place.

Of course, the other way you know you're getting old, besides the kids standing on the roof with a sketch pad, is you have to set up those nagging Living Will instructions. (It's pretty much all down hill when you open your mailbox on your 50th birthday and find both an AARP card and an appointment for a routine colonoscopy.) But one does have to decide at some point who will make decisions for one's health care once neither you nor your spouse are able to. Did we want to appoint our older son, the clinical social worker who runs programs for the homeless and has done hospice care? Or should we go for the younger son who has an MBA?

In our fantasies, the social worker kid is sitting by our bedside patiently listening to our endless repetitious stories as he quietly strokes our hands. The MBA kid, we envision, is parked on the other side, ear buds cranked up to 120 decibels to drown out the annoying stories, comforting us with one hand, and calculating the negative cash flow of long-term care on his iPhone with the other. Next thing we know, Pffft! Someone accidentally trips over the plug of whatever machine is keeping us alive, followed by a budget burial in the back yard.

For the record, the MBA kid doesn't find this story funny at all, insisting that a business degree would hardly prevent him from making compassionate decisions about our care. And besides, he points out, there's barely enough room in the back yard to park the two of us without having to re-route the entire irrigation system. And where's the economy in that?

Actually, said Olof, the tripping over the plug part didn't sound half bad. Put us out of whatever misery we were suffering from. Besides, for all we'd know, it was the social worker kid, driven cumulatively mad after the 500th repetition of the infamous dead possum story, whose foot suddenly intersected with the power cord. And if it came right down to it, burying us in the back yard (despite being massively illegal) actually sounds kind of charming given our fondness for the place. But one request: can we have a spot with a view?