Intestate on the Interstate

Posted on 04.29.08 11:13AM under The Everglades Room

Sitting in a miles-long traffic jam in a rented car, I’m trying to figure out the satellite radio, scanning the stations, way too many stations. When we start rolling again, I let go, somewhere in the news/talk end of the band. They’re in a commercial.

“All across America, people can feel it,” says the announcer.

“Feel what?” I ask, never shy about talking to the radio, or myself. “Hunger? Heartburn? Hemorrhoid pain?” I figure it’s a commercial for all you can eat something, or what to take afterward.

“The days are getting warmer,” he says.

Now I’m thinking sunscreen, air conditioner maintenance or retractable awnings.

“You can hear distant voices calling.”

Is it Ouija boards? Existential dread? Mental illness?

“Summer vacation season is right around the corner,” the announcer teases, “And you know what that means.”

I sure don’t.

“That’s right!” he exclaims. “Those priceless family trips, visiting the relatives, the beaches, the national parks.”

Or nobody and nowhere, I’m thinking, what with record high gas prices, as we come to a dead stop.

“But what if disaster strikes while you’re on vacation?” the announcer asks, then warns, “Don’t be one of the seventy percent of Americans without a valid will, when you pack up your family and hit the road.”

This is a joke, right? You can’t roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer anymore until you’ve prepared your last will and testament?

“Hi, I’m Justin Case from the ‘Trolling for Clients’ show,” he says, “And I’m here to tell you about my good friends at Not to say it would happen, but you don’t want to die intestate in a terrible car accident, do you? Now, you might think intestate means you were castrated and bled to death, and that certainly could happen in a terrible car accident.” He pauses. “But intestate means dying without a will,” he says, “And if you die without a will, state law might give all your assets to your surviving spouse, or child, if your spouse also died a horrible death when you were castrated and bled to death.”

“Excuse me?” I ask. “Didn’t this used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave? Now we’re afraid of vacations?

“How will you protect your assets if you die a horrible death?” counters the announcer.

I’m hoping the drivers around me aren’t listening to this. After all, we’re on the highway in heavy vehicles that will get moving again, sometime.

“Just go to,” says the announcer, “And you’ll decide who gets what, not some formula devised by government, which can’t do anything right anyway and presumes you’d want your closest family to have your stuff. Hey, what do they know? And what if you have no family? How can you ensure that Fluffy the ferret gets it all? There’s only one way. You need a will that names Fluffy your sole heir, and has it.”

I bet the copywriter has a ferret.

“If you really want to enjoy your summer vacation,” the announcer says, “Don’t die intestate, protect your estate. Drafting a will can be fun for the whole family, sometimes. And these forms make it easy. Even if you’re leaving tomorrow, it’s not too late, yet. Just go to, sign up online, download the forms and prepare your will right now, quick, before you leave, for peace of mind if the bungee cord over the canyon breaks or the clowns at the rodeo fantasy camp are first-timers, too. When you’re about to be gored by a bull, you want your affairs in order, with a will from”

In my mirror, I can see the guy behind me starting to fidget in a strange way. And that RV in front, I bet they’re wondering which one gets eaten first to save money for gas. Maybe I don’t really want to be on the highway right now. Where’s the next exit?

* * *

Alan H. Rolnick has practiced law in Miami for twenty years and has appeared in numerous high-profile cases. His first novel, Landmark Status, received such ecstatic reviews he wondered if his publicist had scandalous pictures of the reviewers in her safe. Alan consults on legal matters for the entertainment industry, provides trenchant social commentary in any medium, and is Executive Producer of the independent film Canvas. To learn more, visit or e-mail

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