Taunting the Living with the Threat of Widowhood

In today’s mail, an advertisement from a Trusts and Estates attorney:

“Reason to make an estate plan #7?  Elaine, your husband’s next wife.”

The 5×7 glossy postcard featured a woman, smiling up into the camera from beneath the brim of her floppy hat, lifting a glass of red wine, as if ready to toast. Next to her picture, the following list:

  • In the month since your death, has brought “home-cooked” meals to your husband six times
  • Each time she visits, wears a skimpier outfit
  • Can’t wait to redecorate your home, especially that hideous wallpaper
  • Thinks there is no good reason that money earmarked for your children shouldn’t be spent on more important things like jewelry, sports cars, and European spa vacations

Do you want her to get your children’s inheritance?

Estate planning is an excellent idea for everyone.  But do attorneys really need to capitalize on the trepidation of widowhood?

I wonder if there are equally outrageous ads addressing the gender flipside of  the widowed scenario? Are there glossy postcards mailed to not-yet-widowers, featuring a handsome man, his hand outstretched, as if asking the future-widowed-wife onto the dance floor?  The copy might read: ‘How often did you take her dancing? Will he sweep her off her feet…and take all your hard-earned money with him?’

Had I received this advertisement before I became a widow, I imagine I would have laughed and tossed it, finding the crass ad more of a desperate act from a struggling attorney. Now, having been widowed, I find the taunting text offensive.  The blatant scare tactics — your death, your husband’s next wife, and the careless disregard for children and family — are almost comical. Almost.

When I was first widowed, I was very careful about making financial decisions and general safety issues:  I had my brother and sister-in-law accompany me when I bought a new car, and had friends at the house when selling my late husband’s items on craigslist and later hosting a tag sale. Dealing with the death of a loved one is indeed scary. Apparently that’s good news and good business for some.






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