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Students' Wills Reveal a Lot About How They Live

December 11, 1987|SAUL PETT | Associated Press Special Correspondent

LEVITTOWN, N.Y. — They are high school students and they live in Levittown, a landmark in the first flight of Americans to the suburbs and the small house and piece of greenery young couples could afford.

That was 40 years ago. The expansion attics have long since been expanded, the carports enclosed, the porches or family rooms added. The adolescents who frolic or sulk here now represent the second generation of teen-agers in the development.

A recent classroom exercise reveals remarkable strides in their life styles and support systems. They were asked to write their wills.

These students live on lanes and roads--not streets--named Orchid, Sparrow, Periwinkle, Castle, Harvest, Mistletoe, Pasture, Vista, Morning Glory, Abbey, Blacksmith, Sandpiper, Chimney, Bayberry.

They belong to families named Kelly, Rijo, Hefferman, Berju, Beller, Cody, Weese, Grimes, Failla, Calabro, Wengerter, Mittel, McDonough, Czachor, Cocoman, O'Shea, Talkachov.

Elementary Law Course

They are 16 to 18 years old, 11th- and 12th-graders in Division Avenue High School, Levittown. They were taking an elementary course in "everyday law" from Susan Galland, learning about criminal and civil law, about laws relating to contracts, consumers, marriage, divorce, adoption, wills.

For their will-writing assignment, Ms. Galland stipulated that their bequests deal with their actual worldly goods, not fictional assets.

Well, now.

Kathryn was prodigious in her bequests to her four sisters. To Margaret, she left her jewelry. To Elizabeth, "my shoes, clothes and my softball glove." To Lorraine, "my hair spray, blow-dryer and brushes." To Patricia, "my car, stereo, cassettes and my retainer."

The laws of probate do not require Kathryn to specify whether the aforesaid retainer relates to music or teeth. If her car bequest seems casual, it is because more than half of her classmates own their own cars. Among the early settlers of Levittown in 1947 and 1948 most parents were lucky to own a car.

The wills submitted to Galland suggest that today's high school student is building a varied estate.

Joseph bequeathed his 1967 Mustang to his father; his radio, Walkman and tapes to brother Michael; his baseball gloves to brother James; his weights to Michael; one lacrosse stick to each brother; his "bank account and cash" to be divided equally among his parents and sister and, finally, "my car magazines to my friend Thomas."

A Diversified Portfolio

Marc revealed a particularly fine hand in assembling a diversified portfolio.

He left his car to his friend Dave; his diamond ring to his father; his gold rope chain to his brother Scott; his gold Yankee (baseball) and Islander (hockey) charms to brother Ian; "all of my baseball and hockey equipment" to his friend Sal; his color television and stereo to his friend Joe; his gold bracelet to his friend Wendy; $500 in savings bonds to each of friends Mike and Rich; his NBA basketball and NFL football to friend Bill; $2,000 to each of his brothers; "control of my stock account" to his mother and father; "all the rest of my property" to his parents. If any of the legatees dies before Marc does, he stipulates that their gifts become part of his residuary estate, which estate, he further stipulates, will pay "all taxes." Marc got an A-plus.

Norman left his 1974 Super Beetle Volkswagen to his buddy, Anthony, and his jewelry and part of his bank account to his girlfriend, Suzy. Glenn left his lacrosse sticks and all of his bank account to his girlfriend, Lynn, but not his "Air Jordan" basketball sneakers. They went to Tom.

Noreen consigned her bagpipes to her father, her teddy bear to her brother Jerry "to give to one of his children when he has them" and, to her friend Kathleen, "my Swatch watch and all the clothes I never gave back to her."

Lest readers assume that the young testators of Levittown think only materialistically, Julia's last will and testament should be noted. To her brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews and friends, she bequeathed her jewelry, pink radio, light bulb poster, stereo, stuffed animals and favorite pillow.

But she added the proviso that these assets should go to Goodwill Industries if her beneficiaries predecease her.

If 'Paid in Full'

Kim left her "K" ring to friend Kerri, her heart ring to her cousin Jody and "my ring on layaway (if it is paid in full at the time of my death) to my mother."

To other family and friends, she left her radio, tapes, watch, earrings, gold bracelets, gold chain, bicycle and bank account. And she specified that her Archie comic books be given to a retarded boy in her school.

Thomas was probably the star of the class philanthropists. He provided for a fund to be administered by his brother Michael. That would include money from Thomas' bank account and money obtained from the sale of his car, television, VCR, stereo, phone, phone answering machine and "all other personal possessions."

All monies in the fund, Thomas instructed his executor, were to be used for the care, feeding and "extra needs" of his dog, Dokey.

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