If you are like me, you haven’t given this question much thought if any at all. It wasn’t until recently that I considered it either as all of my personal finance focus has been on gaining and building assets. I never thought about what would happen to them when I pass away. I was reading an article last week about a celebrity who passed away with an estate of $80 million and no Will to help distribute it.
I thought to myself:
“What kind of idiot wouldn’t have a Will, especially someone with significant assets?”
I quickly realized that I AM THAT IDIOT! Although my monetary assets are miniscule in comparison, I have some $$$ saved up and I also have two small children who would need significant long lasting support if I passed away. This support level goes up 1,000X if god forbid both my wife and I died.
My next thought was:
“Well our parents (grandparents to our children) would take care of our kids.”
We are very fortunate that all four grandparents are still around and very actively involved with our children. So I’m not too concerned that we would struggle to find guardians for them. However, I quickly realized our family would have no idea what do with our children. How could they? We have never had one single conversation on the topic and there are so many questions:
Which set of grandparents are the primary guardians?
What type of schooling do we want for our kids?
Who manages the life insurance and other assets until they are adults?
What assets do we have?
How do you login (username & password) into the accounts?
Where is the critical paperwork (birth certs, SSN, deed, etc.)?
At this point with all of these questions I was completely overwhelmed. I have no legal background or experience with Wills or similar documents. Also, both my wife and I come from families where the only topic more taboo than money is death so our families weren’t going to be any help.
Like any good Financial Independence aficionado when I need an answer I “Google” my question. So I pulled out my laptop and searched “How to Create a Will”. The search returned several good reads including:
The main take away that I had from these articles was that a Will is actually a very simple document and only contains the following:
- It names an Executor of the estate which is responsible for distributing the contents
- It instructs who is supposed to receive what assets and in what amounts
- It establishes Guardians for any surviving dependents
- It may include addendums such as An Advanced Healthcare Directive and/or Power of Attorney
Once a Will is completed, it must be signed by the Originator as well as by Witnesses. The requirements for Witnesses differ in each state, so be sure to confirm the requirements of your state. Often times it is suggested that one of the Witnesses be a Notary, however in most cases this is not required.
I also discovered that there are several FREE options that can help you create a Will on your own. The few that seemed to have the best reviews are:
NOTE: Both of these free options are targeted at relatively simple estates and may have limitation that make them unusable for more complex situations.
There are also several online options that will generate a Will for you for a nominal low fee. The best regarded of these options are:
Currently, my wife and I are developing a list of our assets and deciding on how we would want them distributed. We will also be working on coming up with a comprehensive plan for our children which goes beyond just Guardianship so we can include that as well. One critical step will be interviewing family members to verify that they would be willing to take on this large burden with our children. Our main concern is that our parents would likely never tell us no, even if that is how they really feel.
Since this is our first time creating a will, I think we will probably use one of the fee based services just so that we have a comfort level that everything was done properly. I plan to post an overview of our estate plan that we put together as well as a step-by-step guide to the service that we ultimately choose. I hope that this allows others to steal shamelessly from our effort to make this process easier for themselves and their family. Please check in for updates in the near future.