Monday, September 28, 2015

An Overlooked Bequest: Allowing a Garden to Live On

Image by M. Gustafson Gervasi, 2015
Back in July, as irises still bloomed in my garden, I sipped a coffee and glanced at our local free weekly paper The Isthmus.  A story on page 6 caught my attention -- America's longest-serving state legislator, Fred Risser, and his wife Nancy Risser, were profiled for creating an urban oasis in downtown Madison.  Over the years the couple worked to turn an apartment complex parking lot into a lush and welcoming garden.  Towards the end of the article a nugget of estate planning insight jumped off the page -- the bequest of perennials.

Nancy is quoted as saying "A garden is a living thing" after she recounted transplanting iris bulbs from her late-grandmother's home in Texas to the garden here in Madison -- the transplant spurred by Nancy's father's death.  While the focus of this article was about creating and fostering natural beauty in an urban setting, the estate planner in me saw the often overlooked bequest -- bequeathing perennial plants and bulbs.  Are you a gardener or an aspiring gardener?  Not a gardener but yet you hold a loved one's garden in awe?  What will happen to those plants when his or her time comes?

As a daughter who has had both parents pass on, I have transplanted bulbs myself.  Hostas and ferns that once sprang to life every spring and summer at my childhood home now have a place in our family garden.  My children pass them each morning on our walk to school, reconnecting me with my first walk to kindergarten, sparking a memory of carrying a rose from my mother's garden to give to my teacher, Mrs. Hoops.  And the estate planner in me has written at least one will in which the testator has made a gift of his or her perennials, and even much loved house plants.

As the sun sinks lower in the horizon and the northern hemisphere shifts into fall and heads towards winter, leaving plants dormant for the winter, ask yourself; could I?  should I? make a gift of the plants that wait underground for another season of warmth and bloom?  If so, talk with an attorney about how to make it so.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I feel a lot more people need to read this, very good info!......
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