Much to our delight, we’ve seen the Six-Word Memoir format used often in schools as a tool to help students reflect creatively—and succinctly—on their lives. We think this is awesome. But we were thrilled to discover that Six Words has graduated to higher ranks, too, finding homes in graduate school classrooms like Herb Hinkle’s “Estates & Trusts” at the Rutgers School of Law–Camden. When Professor Hinkle picked up a Six-Word Memoir book, he thought it would be a useful template to help his law students summarize their lengthy papers.
Those of us without a law degree may wonder what, exactly, “Estates & Trusts” entails. Cue Professor Hinkle: “Estates & Trusts covers the basics of writing and executing fundamental estate planning documents: a will, durable power of attorney, medical directive and trust.” Students in Hinkle’s class are also required to write a short paper on a related topic—such as what to do if a person declared legally dead returns to the living; establishing trusts for pets; and how to handle bitcoins–and present that paper to the class. After these presentations, Hinkle had students create a six-word summary on their topic, and then the class voted on the best Six for each subject.
Although being a successful lawyer may seem like a profession that’s all business, these crafty future counselors proved that they can think humorously about their work. And this is exactly what appealed to Professor Hinkle, who understands that Six Words “underscores how much can be conveyed in a few words. Despite all that is said about legalese, there is a need to be clear and concise, especially when writing documents or examining witnesses at trial. It is also necessary for lawyers to be aware of how words can carry multiple and sometimes unintended meanings.”
Here are the best Six Words per paper topic, as chosen by Professor Hinkle’s students:
On Bitcoins: “Damn, I should have bought more.”
On Transferring Oil & Gas Interests: “Never been prouder to have gas!”
On Living Wills: “Medical care is expensive; kill yourself.”
On GRATs (Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts): “American Dream: Be rich, avoid taxes.”
On Charitable Giving: “Charity shows all: duty and grace.”
What if the dead come back?: “Missing – spouse with policy. No reward.”
On Season Ticket Transfers: “Lose your life, lose your seat.” and “Waitlists are full of murder suspects.”
On Same Sex Marriage: “Now, Even Estate Planning is Fabulous!!!”
Inspired by Professor Hinkle’s students, we’ve come up with our own six-word summary of Estates & Trusts: “You can die in peace now.”