I am reposting my earlier post on the importance — especially when events like this coronavirus situation erupt — for making sure you can deal without HIPAA hurdles and delay with your age 18 and over kids while they are away at college. Click here for my previous post.
My sample estate planning document provisions below are essential in many cases for helping prevent issues that I see in my trust and estate litigation work.
My experience indicates these provisions are not used frequently enough among estate planning attorneys. Also, readers of this blog cannot, and should not, rely on these sample provisions nor read this post as my recommendation for using any one or more of the provisions in a particular estate planning document or situation. But, the provisions should be on your estate planning checklist.
The following are, therefore in my view, important sample provisions for a trust document (the last two deal only with a married couple situation):
Fiduciary Duty. In exercising any power with respect to a trust created under this trust agreement, each Trustee, Co-Trustee, and directed trustee (Article XIII) shall at all times serve in a fiduciary capacity and act in accordance with fiduciary principles, including, but not limited to, the duty of care, loyalty, and confidentiality.
Allowable Self-Dealing. The decisions by my spouse Jane while serving as a Trustee or Co-Trustee under this trust agreement that may or could be otherwise construed as self-dealing with respect to Jane’s exercise or non-exercise of any power hereunder, or the time or manner of the exercise thereof, made as a prudent person in good faith, shall fully protect Jane and shall be conclusive and binding upon all persons interested in the trust estate; provided, however, that no self-dealing as to any charitable or non-profit interest under this section 1.7 is allowable to the extent prohibited by any applicable tax or non-tax laws or related regulations.
Divorce. [But, see my Important Note below.] Although Jane and I do not contemplate a divorce, we each acknowledge and are aware that in the event either one of us (i) files a complaint or petition for divorce in any jurisdiction or (ii) obtains a decree or judgment of divorce in any jurisdiction, Jane shall, as of the occurrence of the earlier of either of these conditions (i) or (ii), at such time be deemed for all purposes (including any position as a fiduciary and as to any trust created by exercise of a power of appointment or distribution-in-further trust) to have predeceased me as of my date of execution of this trust agreement.
Contemplation of Remarriage. Although neither Jane nor I contemplate the occurrence of a divorce from one another or a remarriage to another spouse, if for any reason following my execution of this trust agreement, I were to enter into marriage with anyone else other than Jane, my express and clear intention is that that new spouse shall not receive any property from my estate nor under the provisions of this trust agreement, with the result that all provisions in my Last Will and Testament and this trust agreement (whether or not either document is amended after my execution of this trust agreement) shall remain fully in effect and unchanged by reason of my marriage to that other spouse.
Important Note re the Above Divorce Provision
The estate planning lawyer who represents both spouses needs to memorialize and make clear to both spouses that each spouse understands the divorce provision can result in potentially adverse consequences to either or both spouses in the event of a future divorce. The estate planning lawyer, in my opinion, also should inform both spouses together that they have the option of seeking separate counsel to review this divorce provision before the estate planning lawyer includes it in the spouses’ documents.
And, I also believe the estate planning lawyer under the ethics rules cannot include the divorce provision only in one spouse’s document if that lawyer represents both spouses, even if the spouses consent; unless both spouses seek separate counsel. Otherwise, including the provision only in one spouse’s document — by the estate planning lawyer who represents both spouses — is substantively akin to preparing a prenuptial agreement only for one of the two spouses while representing both spouses.
We are each inevitably biased based on our own life experiences, education, community and family values, etc. The key in any discussion about bias is whether we are able, or willing, to step back and try more objectively at times to observe our own bias.
This blog post is my recommendation that you be aware of your lawyer’s own bias and how it may possibly influence your estate planning. I provide below only limited examples. But, my broader point is for you, as a client, to feel comfortable questioning and challenging your lawyer’s recommendations for the design of your estate planning.
Example One — My experience is that an abundance of estate planning documents I have read over the years include a descendants-only feature in the event, for example, a child (we will call her Susan) dies, who at her death has no children. In this event, this typical descendants-only provision requires that Susan’s share of the property now is to be divided only among her other siblings (and their descendants). This provision is designed to make sure Susan’s parents’ property passes only along the parents’ line of descendants. It does not include spouses of those descendants.
Carrying this Susan example further, assume Susan had been happily married for 20 years to Bob at the time of her death. Remember, Susan had no children. Bob always fit in well with all the family members, including Susan’s parents. But, with this descendants-only provision at Susan’s death, Bob gets nothing.
I am not suggesting Bob should or should not get anything. My point is that most lawyers do not address this situation adequately with clients and often use the “descendants-only” language in the estate planning document as a matter of habitual rote. I also believe many clients would be shocked to learn there are no options for a spouse under a circumstance similar to this Susan example.
Maybe your lawyer has himself or herself had a bad divorce in the past; or had a sibling or parents who experienced a painful and costly divorce. This is an example of the lawyer’s own experiential bias that can make its way into your estate planning documents — without sufficient discussion with you about other available options.
Example Two — To my “lawful” descendants is a term I still see frequently in estate planning documents that I believe may stem from the lawyer’s own bias (religion, community, political, etc.) and that is not sufficiently discussed with clients.
Here is what you need to know about this “lawful” reference to make sure you agree or disagree to use that term in your estate planning documents. Again, my point is this reference and its potential effects demonstrate another example of rote-mentality, too often not sufficiently discussed with clients. Here is an example:
Let’s assume I have a daughter who has a young son, but she is not married to the other parent. Assume also that we all love and treat that son (a grandchild in this example) fully as a family member with absolutely no distinction as to my daughter’s non-marital status. Assume also my own estate planning documents provide for my property to be divided and held in trust only for my “lawful descendants”. Assume also I die, in this example.
It is my opinion that my grandson (in this example) is most likely cut out of my estate plan because he is not a “lawful” descendant. Technically, he was born out-of-wedlock at the time of my death. Also, arguably this non-wedlock status is locked-in at the time of my death relevant to the “lawful” definition in my documents. I do not believe my daughter’s subsequent marriage — after my death — to the other parent cures this problem.
More importantly, I would hate for my family to face the above problem, including costly efforts to try and convince a court, etc., to include this grandson as a descendant for purposes of my estate planning.
In other words, the modifier “lawful”, in my view, does nothing more than set the stage for disagreement, disputes, and legal issues as to whether I intended to leave out my grandson with my use of that modifier in my documents. Courts are generally bound by the wording within the four-corners of estate planning documents. The term “lawful” simply creates far more problems than benefits for an estate planning document.
For those of you who wish to read more about the potential limitations of this “lawful” element, click here for a relevant 2010 Georgia court opinion in Hood v. Todd, 287 Ga. 164, 695 S.E.2d 31 (2010). Note also the dissenting opinion, indicating even the court had difficulty in determining what “lawful” meant in this case.
My recommendation is that your estate planning documents include a more expansive provision for the definition of “descendants” so as to bring the definition more fully into the light of current cultural and scientific realities. Make sure you discuss with your lawyer and conclude with a clear understanding about the final “descendants” definition in your estate planning documents.
Example Three — I remain surprised at the extent to which I see estate planning documents that fundamentally treat males and females differently. For example, the estate plan might provide for greater outright provisions for a son, but strict trust provisions for a daughter. Or, the estate planning document names only sons as fiduciaries, with the daughters not being named for these positions.
Again, I am not suggesting a right or wrong approach. But, in my experience, this is an area with a great deal of old-school lawyer bias, and without sufficient informed dialogue and consent from clients.
This blog post is merely to provide my key thoughts about this Trump impeachment process from my lawyer perspective. I also realize my perspective is only one of millions. It realistically has no more weight among all other views than a grain of sand. But, nonetheless, I voice my comments not for purposes of stating my position one way or the other about what I believe should have been, or will be, the conclusion of this present impeachment effort.
Rather, I express my great concern about the persistent chipping away — for the past 40 years or so — of the sanctity of our three-branch system of government. Our system appears to move each year toward a myopic vision of a simple-minded, one-party political system of government, blind to the three-branch element (regardless of which party).
And, I do not use the word “sanctity” in any sense of religion, morality, or political party; but, more importantly, from my great and deep respect for the ultimate importance and inviolability of our three-branch system. In my view, the longstanding success and freedoms we have in the United States rest on the three-branch system of checks and balances. This, in my opinion, is the primary reason our country has succeeded during its long test of time.
Here are my key comments:
(1) The House blundered, tainted a key underpinning of their procedural process, and by doing so failed to respect our three-branch system of government by not seeking judicial review of (or by not issuing) House subpoenas. A fundamental element of our great freedom in the U.S. is the ability to obtain judicial review when we are subpoenaed and assert grounds for objection to the subpoena or to the scope of the subpoena. The government (including the House) also has the ability to obtain judicial review and assistance in determining the necessity and scope of a subpoena. For you historical legal readers, the first U.S. Supreme Court opinion addressing House subpoenas was in 1880, in Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. 168 (1880). Click here for a copy.
(2) President Trump’s blanket snubbing of the entire process of subpoenas and witnesses is itself another serious failure to respect the sanctity of our three-branch system of government.
I wrote a blog post a few months ago about the Richard Nixon subpoena situation. Search “Nixon” in my blog search above. I repeat, now again, essentially what I said in my Nixon post. That is, the following question my constitutional law professor at Emory Law School (in Atlanta) posed to our first-year law class many years ago, which I have never forgotten: “If President Nixon had refused to comply with his subpoena, we would have experienced an extremely serious (and still-unanswered) constitutional crisis that would have substantially stress-tested our three-branch system of government. And, possibly the system would have failed. The crisis would have centered on “Who would, or can, force President Nixon to comply with his subpoena?”
Keep in mind the Nixon subpoena had been issued by the Department of Justice, a part of the executive branch (not issued by the House). Thus, if Nixon, as head of the executive branch, opted not to have his own executive branch enforce his subpoena, who would have acted to enforce it? Our Emory constitutional law professor posed the possibility of a military coup, or military tanks rolling up to the front of the White House, to step in and take over the enforcement effort, etc.
(3) I, candidly, have always been concerned the U.S. would not have withstood the above Nixon constitutional crisis if it had been pushed to an ultimate limit, nor recover minimally unscathed. This is the reason that particular law school class discussion is burned deeply into my consciousness. I truly believe the above Nixon crisis could have effectively dismantled, or substantially damaged, the longstanding balance of our three-branch system of government. One political party would have won the battle, but we all would have lost the war. A crucial question we each should consider at every juncture of our own respective political moves and attacks is whether we are helping to sustain, or erode, our three-branch system of checks and balances.
(4} We each, therefore, should also ponder seriously how all facets and participants leading up to this current Trump crisis have, or are, affecting this balance. And, we need to rethink everyone’s relative contribution to this situation. As an aside, I believe Nixon understood his tremendous constitutional crisis for our country, leading ultimately to his voluntary compliance with the subpoena, and ultimately his resignation.
(5) Back to my statement above about the success of the U.S. being based on the three-branch system of government. In my view, I do not care where one places himself or herself on a religious, moral, or political spectrum. That is one’s gift of liberty, and personal prerogative. However, the substitution of a controlling element of religion, morality, or politics, etc., as a decisive or tipping-point factor sidestepping our three-branch system of government places far too much power with, and simply by the whims of, those asserting — at any given time — their majority religious, moral, or political views. Keep in mind, everyone once knew the earth was flat.
As we start the new year 2020, I begin with, what I consider is, a great passage from William Faulkner’s novel Absalom. Absalom! I grew up with my father being an avid reader, including his great liking of William Faulkner. My late father, a lawyer, would say that Faulkner’s novels were very appealing as Faulkner never shied away from acknowledging the negative underbelly of life, but at the same time never included these elements with a sense of judgment or preaching. These negative elements are depicted as an inevitable, and universal, component of our lives.
On the flip side, my father also often reiterated that this non-judgment does not mean that we simply become a passive doormat and let the world’s negative elements run us over. No. We should deal, as necessary, head-on with these elements using whatever response, including reasonable force, is required.
Now, after I have been lawyering for many years, where I believe we tend to veer off this non-judgmental path is when we fret and fume about the principle of a negative element. If not held in check, we focus more on being upset, and wasting valuable time, pondering and ruminating in principle about the “why”, “how dare they”. “why does it have to be this way”, “why do we have evil”, etc. Instead, I believe we are better off trying to concentrate only on actually addressing these situations directly and head on without the wasted expenditure of unnecessary fretting and rumination. This is simply my offer of food for thought as we begin 2020.
Below is the Faulkner excerpt that, in my opinion, plays directly into the suggestion I set forth above for all of us (including for me). I believe Faulkner’s commentary is a great, realistic summary of life that can help us not fret and fume in wishing it were otherwise:
You get born and you try this and you dont know why only you keep on trying it and you are born at the same time with a lot of other people, all mixed up with them, like trying to, having to, move your arms and legs with strings only the same strings are hitched to all the other arms and legs and the others all trying and they dont know why either except that the strings are all in one another’s way like five or six people all trying to make a rug on the same loom only each one wants to weave his own pattern into the rug; and it cant matter, you know that, or the Ones that set up the loom would have arranged things a little better, and yet it must matter because you keep on trying or having to keep on trying and then all of a sudden it’s all over and all you have left is a block of stone with scratches on it provided there was someone to remember to have the marble scratched and set up or had time to, and it rains on it and the sun shines on it and after a while they dont even remember the name and what the scratches were trying to tell, and it doesn’t matter.
William Faulkner, from Absalom. Absalom! [Vintage International Edition 1990]
I typically do not recommend use of transfers to minors accounts, compared to the alternative of more-targeted trust planning. But, many clients still end up running into questions and situations dealing with transfers to minors accounts (sometimes called a minor’s custodial account). Also, I get questions from time to time about whether a child will get the minors account property at age 18 or 21.
Here is a quick cheat-sheet. Depending on the situation, there are both age 18 and 21 answers. This age 18 / 21 distinction under Georgia law is at O.C.G.A. Section 44-5-130. Click here for a link to the full gamut of these Georgia transfers to minors statutes. These age 21 situations are limited exceptions to the adult age of 18.
Hands on the Account at Age 21
The minor gets the account at age 21 if the transfers to minors account was set up intentionally as a transfers to minor account. This is the most typical, garden-variety transfers to minors account where, for example, grandmother sets up and funds the transfers to minors accounts for grandchildren, etc. Or, where the parents or anyone intentionally and purposely sets up the transfers to minors accounts.
In the above garden-variety situations, the minor has to turn age 21 before getting his or her hands on the account (even though the minor at age 18 is an adult for other purposes under Georgia law).
The other age-21 exception deals with trust and Last Will and Testament documents. Read the following section of this blog post carefully, as it affects whether the minor gets hands-on at age 21 or earlier at age 18.
Assume a minor stands to get a distribution of cash or property from a trust or from someone’s estate under a Last Will and Testament. If the trust or Last Will and Testament documents include an express reference — in the trust or Will document itself — allowing the trustee or executor to make the distribution into a transfers to minor account, then the trustee or executor can open and create transfers to minors accounts, make the distribution to the account, and age 21 applies.
The take-away point is that the trust document or Will must include an express reference to the trustee or executor having the power to distribute to a transfers to minors account in order for age 21 to apply. In other words, the person who created the trust or Will must have intended for the trust and Will to use transfers to minors accounts. This is the tie-in to my above comment about an intended use of these minors accounts.
The above age 18 / 21 point is that age 21 applies only under the above intentional circumstances.
For this intended age 21 element to apply for estate / trust planning, it is, therefore, imperative that your trust and Will documents include express authority for the trustee or executor to make distributions to minors into transfers to minors accounts. The express power to create and make distributions into transfers to minors accounts also applies if the trust or Will document incorporates expressly by reference the Georgia fiduciary powers under O.C.G.A. Section 53-12-261 (see Section 53-12-261(b)(27)(B) referring expressly to the power to create and fund transfers to minors accounts).
Better yet, create longer-term trust provisions for the minor beneficiaries so that the trust can exist for longer periods beyond age 21. My view is that age 21 is much too young for large amounts of property or cash to fall into the hands of any of these younger beneficiaries.
Hands on the Account at Age 18
By contrast, age 18 is the broader, general rule — even for transfers to minors accounts — when minors become age-18 adults under the law. Accordingly, in virtually all other situations not falling under the above age 21 exceptions, the creation and funding of transfers to minors accounts is still allowable and can be created for a minor, but the minor gets the account at age 18, not 21. The above link to the Georgia transfers to minors statutes provides much more detail than I include in this post.
Keep in mind in this age-18 situation there can (and will) exist a transfers to minors account to hold the property or cash, but the account will be subject to the age 18 element. This is because these age-18 minors accounts are not created under the above intended garden-variety and trust / Will exceptions. The nuances above likely appear overly academic; but have real consequences for this age 18 / 21 distinction.
Now, a final, negative kicker. If the trust or Will document does not include the above authorization for use of a transfers to minors acccount and the distribution amount exceeds $10,000, then a legal guardianship (and conservatorship) will be required for oversight of the property (or cash) until the minor turns 18. This is not an easy, cost-free option. For readers interested in technical details about this conservatorship result, start with the link above for reference to O.C.G.A. Section 44-5-116(c)(3). See also O.C.G.A. Section 29-3-6.
I often tell clients I did not become a lawyer to “help” people. In my view, “help” is nothing more than a conclusory term with no common meaning sufficient to guide a client or his or her lawyer through difficult disputes (and related litigation). It is also simply a relative word that I assume each lawyer in a dispute can easily voice as to how he or she is “helping” their own client. Using the word “help” more accurately means a lawyer is “fighting” for his or her client’s position.
As to these kinds of legal fights, the passion and joy I get from lawyering is helping level the playing field when another party unreasonably overreaches. The overreaching can occur for a myriad of reasons, including, as examples in many cases, an elevated sense of entitlement, an assumed superior right, or closed-minded ignorance. As I continually assess the progress of my litigation cases, I not only have to be well-versed on the facts and law of the case, but also attuned to assessing motivations of an opposing party; again, especially when I conclude entitled overreaching is at play.
Now, what do platitudes have to do with the above paragraph, such as “be friendly”, “be a team player”, “be kind”, “be considerate of others”, “turn the other cheek”, “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”, “god helps he who helps himself”, etc.? My sense is these platitudes originated from those already sitting in the upper winning or dominant position. Platitudes are merely armchair, conclusory statements that assert nothing more than their own conclusion or result. For example, merely repeating a platitude fails to consider why someone might not be able to “pull” himself up from his own bootstraps, or why a person might need to know what to do after once turning the cheek (e.g., what does he or she do next?). Platitudes in most cases are simply diversionary icons that do nothing more than suggest their own non-substantive meaning.
I could write pages about this platitude topic in its many everyday forms and effect. But, I will not bore the reader. However, last night I stumbled across an extremely compelling example of a speech that effectively goes well beyond simple, conclusory platitudes. This is a December 7, 1964 speech in London by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that was discovered only recently by Pacifica Radio Archives. Dr. King gave this speech before travelling shortly thereafter to Oslo, Norway to receive his Nobel Peace Prize. Click here for his speech.
I urge readers to listen to this speech in its entirety, and keep in mind one can still substitute — even today — in the context of Dr. King’s powerful speech all marginalized groups (who are persistently subject to entitlement-minded overreaching by others). This speech, in my opinion, is an extremely effective argument against the above simple use of platitudes. It also speaks to leveling the playing field, right up my alley.
At a minimum, listen to this speech beginning at 37:20 where Dr. King’s commentary about non-violence illustrates superbly the difference between someone merely voicing “non-violence” as a feel-good platitude, compared to Dr. King’s powerful and substantive expression of how one actually can practice non-violence.
I published a very good primer on directed trusts last week for Leimberg Information Services. Click here for a copy of the primer. You are welcome to reprint or email this pdf primer for other readers. For many of you I believe my discussion about using a directed trustee for investment management is important, and can greatly help prevent Madoff scams. Please contact me if you have any questions: email@example.com
This is my second blog post dealing with the increasing Brave New World of “digital assets” and how these assets fit with a person’s estate planning. Below are a few of my brief comments about cryptocurrency:
(1) In the cryptocurrency world, a person’s “private key” is the crucial element separating access to one’s cryptocurrency and its loss (likely permanent). The private key is analogous to a password. My strong point here is to keep a backup of your private key, and let trusted family members know where they can find your private key in the event you are unable to provide it (your death, disability, etc.). There are hundreds of web references to individuals having permanently lost millions of dollars in cryptocurrency due to lost private keys. Click here for an example from Wired magazine referring to a CEO who recently died; and no one can find his private key to an estimated $137 million in cryptocurrency;
(2) The above access / backup problem is particularly elusive, and difficult, as many cryptocurrency users are extremely private about this subject, often to the intentional exclusion of their family members, etc.;
(3) As a related aside, the IRS, no doubt, is interested in your cryptocurrency. IRS Notice 2014-21 is its first published guidance in the form of answers to frequently asked questions. Click here to read this notice;
(4) The above IRS Notice includes a great deal of information. Two points likely a surprise to most readers are: (i) the IRS is treating cryptocurrency transactions for income tax purposes as a “sale or exchange”. For example, if you use $50,000 of cryptocurrency to purchase an item; you will trigger gain or loss on the $50,000 depending on your cost basis in your cryptocurrency, etc. I purposely do not include more detail about this gain / loss treatment for this post; and (ii) Notice 2014-21 expressly states the IRS will treat cryptocurrency as property, not as currency. For estate tax planning purposes, this means cryptocurrency will be inludable in the owner’s estate at death, with a stepped-up (or stepped-down) cost basis based on the cryptocurrency FMV at the person’s death;
(5) Finally, I strongly recommend an express provision dealing with crypocurrency be included in a person’s estate planning documents (trustee, executor, power of attorney powers, etc.). Below is my current draft of possible language for dealing with cryptocurreny (again, this is merely my example language for this post; no reader may rely on this provision as legal or any other advice from me or my law firm):
“To handle on my behalf any of my digital asset “cryptocurrency“, defined for purposes of this DPOA [durable power of attorney] as digital assets that are exchanged electronically and based on a decentralized network or exchange, with such exchanges not requiring a reliable intermediary and managed using distributed ledger technology. In broad terms I give my agent under this DPOA the power to accept or pay on my behalf any cryptocurrency, digital asset currency, funds, or other value that substitutes for currency from one person to another person and the transmission of currency, funds, or other value that substitutes for currency to another location or person by any means. The above term “other value that substitutes for currency” encompasses situations in which the transmission does not involve the payment or receipt of cryptocurrency, but does include, but is not limited to, my private and public keys, blockchain and ledger information, bitcoins, bitcoin addresses, and any other cryptocurrency user or account data or information related to such transactions or to any convertible currency related thereto on my behalf. My intent also is that my reference to “cryptocurrency” under this paragraph be read together as broadly as possible in the broad context of my reference to electronic communications content and the definition of “digital assets” under O.C.G.A. Section 53-13-2 (as amended) included in paragraph (gg) below;”
The title of this blog post is purposely a teaser, hopefully getting you to take a moment to read it. But, on a serious note, this title goes to a theme I believe we all should follow; a theme I also express consistently to my daughters to help them chart their way in life more successfully, more powerfully, with greater happiness, and with fewer hurdles and stumbling blocks created by others.
I express these same points often to clients as a preventive recommendation in an effort to help them avoid problems and issues (legal and non-legal) that otherwise occur from merely responding to life with a “go along to get along” attitude. I also refer further below to a related book I just finished yesterday about the Vietnam war: “The Things They Carried” (1990), by Tim O-Brien.
The key point is that we all should not simply, and without question, accept 80 percent of what anyone tells us. Yes, from anyone. My reasoning is not that others are necessarily dishonest or purposely trying to mislead us with misinformation. But, rather, that we all communicate with inevitable limited information, bias, partiality, dogma, etc. We most often communicate only within the limited sphere of our own experience. This is normal. We also shade our communications frequently in a way to try and trigger a certain feeling in the listener (or reader). It is extremely difficult, and ineffective, to communicate only with unbiased, objective, neutral facts. This might sound possible in theory, but, in my view, it is fundamentally unrealistic.
Therefore, resting on the notion that there can be no (or very little) unbiased, objectively neutral discourse, we should discount most of what we hear from others, until we thereafter run it through our own framework. In other words, stop and view the information through your own perspective before simply accepting the information someone else places before you. You will be much happier in life, and (because this is a legal blog) likely end up with fewer unintended, or blindsided, problems that require you to seek costly legal counsel.
Now, my last point. Feelings? Seriously? Why do I refer to our wanting to convey a certain feeling to others in the context of our communications? What I am trying to say is that our communications are much more effective if we can trigger a desired feeling in the context of what we are trying to communicate. Whether we are consciously aware of it, we are bombarded every day with communications, arguments, platitudes, dogma, advertising, all designed to influence how we feel about the information.
This idea of purposely triggering feelings really jumped out to me in the book The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien. Click here for more info about this book. It is about O’Brien’s late-1960s infantry stint in Vietnam. It is one of the most powerful Vietnam books I have ever read. O’Brien discusses along the way in this book how he purposely augments and fictionally shades certain of his war stories in order best to convey the feeling he trying to express to the reader.
In other words, without O’Brien augmenting his war stories with these shadings, a reader might become aware only of the objective, factual nature of the war event, but will not feel the experience. I have never prior to reading The Things They Carried had anyone better than O’Brien express this “feeling” distinction about the art of writing. I also have never felt a war experience from any book more powerfully than from The Things They Carried. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in further refining the art of writing, or who simply wants to envision and feel what it was like to have fought in the Vietnam war.
Finally, and as to my legal work, I am not suggesting we shade or fictionalize facts when we are required to present those facts ethically, truthfully, and honestly. But, we need to be aware (and be on alert) that even a recitation of ostensibly truthful facts can be presented in a manner (with inflection, rhythm, adjectives, related metaphors, etc.) substantially coloring how one might feel or react to those facts.