A long time ago, it seems like a lifetime ago, I had a will done. Yes, way back in 2002 Jay and I bought “I will make you a will” from a lawyer at a Scout Fundraiser. We had heard you were supposed to, so this was our chance. If anything happens to me, Jay gets what I left behind and visa-versa. I think that’s what the few pages of documents said that we signed in July 2002. Alright- so sometimes young people die and everything, but only to those people on the news or the movies. Not to me. Cross that off my list and put it in the safe deposit box and hope to never deal with that again. œ…
6 years later, almost to the day, Jay died. Wow.” Did Jay have a will?” was the question I was asked immediately by people around me who seemed to know what they were talking about. Yes- in our safe deposit box at the bank. I had no idea what they needed it for. I went to the bank- it was one of the million things I had to do within a couple of days of when he died. I took it out of the bank and handed it over to my brother-in-law. Maybe I should have copied it because I never saw it again. I had no idea what they did with it, but he said it was really good Jay had a will and it is now recorded with the state or something like that. Some other words like probate, trustee, and executor were thrown by me and I chose not to put them in my head. I was just glad someone else was taking care of the legal stuff for me.
2016, 8 years after that, (REMINDER I am now happily married to Matt) I still have my 2002 will that states if something happens to me, everything I have goes to Jay. What would they do about that? This question would come to me now and again at night when I’m trying to sleep (not when my head should be thinking WHAT IF!) I would forget by the time I woke up that consulting a lawyer may be a really good idea! Questions floating through my brain for years… Would my kids who were on that will go to whoever I listed as guardian in 2002? What about Matt- what if something happened to him? Where would his kids go? Would I still get to raise them? I’m not in his will either.
Enter BLESSING! Our neighbor, David, is a lawyer and contacted me about doing a blog on wills and trusts. He made an appointment with Matt and me to discuss wills. As you know I am BIG on awareness and was so excited to learn more! Why did I wait so long to ask about creating a will and trust? That’s what I am asking myself right now. I didn’t even think through who I would ask, what I should ask, and what it would cost to ask. Now was my chance to ask David some questions. Do I need a new will? Does Matt need a new will? Is mine and Matt’sthe same? What’s the cost? What’s a trust? trustee? probate? I think my brain is out of RAM, so what do I HAVE to know?!
David made it simple in my non-lawyer vocabulary. He created a new will for me and other documents so I could see how the process works. I will share with you what I learned…
I realized how important it was that Jay had a will when he died. Yes, I should create a new will. It is wise to update it every 5-10 years or when a life event happens or there is a major change. Every person has their own will.
When I said, “I do” to Matt that made him the legal guardian of my children under 18 if anything happens to me, and the same for me if anything ever happens to Matt. He is also the beneficiary of my stuff. (That alone would have saved me many lost hours of sleep. Gosh!)
There are 4 legal documents that everyone should have in case of an emergency. They can help you protect resources, provide solutions, and prevent problems for your loved ones.
1. WILL: A will instructs those you leave behind what to so with your stuff upon your death. You may think that nobody will want your stuff, but think again! Things that are sentimental are usually what loved ones fight over. Leaving them a will is a considerate way to provide clarity and understanding.
A will designates a guardian in the tragic event of the loss of a mother or father of young children. This helps lessen uncertainty and confusion during a difficult, heart-wrenching time.
Probate is the legal process of proving a will. It identifies the deceased person’s property.
2. LIVING TRUST: A trust is a document that provides a way for you to pass your property on to your beneficiaries while eliminating the time and expense of the probate court process, which will cost about $1,500 or more. It lets you continue to use, control, and enjoy the property you transfer to it. (Ah-ha! I had always thought a trust was a bank account)
3. DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY (POA): If injury or illness leaves you unable to take care of your finances and property, a person you appoint through a POA can do so for you. It is effective while you are alive but incapacitated. Appointing someone who is good at managing finances is a plus.
4. HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY & MEDICAL DIRECTIVE: You authorize a person to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to. This is important as we age. In this document, you indicate your wishes in the event you are on artificial life support or would have to be placed on life support to continue living. Do you want your life prolonged? Do you want pain medication to be administered? These and other questions are addressed. Appoint someone who loves you dearly, but can be level-headed in a crisis.
It helped me so much to go through this process. David let me think about who I wanted to appoint on these 4 documents for as long as I needed. I thought I knew right off who I would choose, but after a week or two, I changed my mind a few times, then was sure. (No wonder he gave me lots of time to decide!) Oh, and he came to my home each time- so I didn’t even have to leave or get out of my yoga pants! This is when I signed the final documents with David, Amanda (notary public) and Adam the witness- haha who took the pic for me.
You may be a DIY type, but I recommend you talk with a lawyer to make sure things are done properly. You might save money doing it yourself, but not if it is done incorrectly. If you have questions please reach out. I have listed David and his info at the bottom of the blog if you would like to contact him. He is someone I trust.
One thing life has reinforced to me is the need to plan ahead. I know these things aren’t fun to think about, then take action on, but it is so important. It isn’t hard. I didn’t have to provide much information other than my kid’s names and birthdates and a list of names who I wanted to appoint for the above documents. The cost to create these documents, without it being a complex situation is normally well under $1,000. Much cheaper than court if a will is never created. If you die without a will, you have died “intestate”. The laws of the state you live in will determine how your property (bank accounts, real estate, assets) is distributed.
You don’t always know what the future holds, but you can prepare. Do your loved ones a favor – Please, please create a will and the documents listed above. My heart and mind are now at peace.œ…
David Wood. He even shaved and wore a tie!
David Wood phone: 801-613-8LAW
If you have more questions, he has a lot of info on his website that I didn’t cover here…
I asked Dave a few more questions and thought it was helpful… Some things are different in a second marriage…
When you pass away and your spouse is still alive- does everything go to them? If you die intestate (without a will) everything goes to your spouse. That may be just fine in a first marriage with no kids or where the kids are still minors, but in a second marriage where there are kids on each side, like in your situation, the result is not ideal or desirable for most. In Utah, Idaho, and probably every other state, you cannot completely disinherit a spouse- spouses can be entitled legally up to 50% of the estate so that they are not impoverished- but having a will can ensure the spouse doesn’t get everything. Having a trust can accomplish the same goals more efficiently.
I wrote some items that I would like my children to get if I pass away. Do the kids have to wait until the spouse passes away before the kids get the jewelry or other things? A designated beneficiary of a will or trust does NOT have to wait until both spouses pass away to receive the designated property. The executor or trustee has a legal duty to transfer that item of property to the beneficiary per the directions of the document.
Do the kids stay with the spouse if only one parent died? A guardian must be appointed when there is a minor or disabled child with no living parent. Normally, the surviving parent gets sole guardianship regardless of the will language. However, there are circumstances where the surviving parent may not be a fit guardian -drug addiction, abuse, or imprisonment. So the will should always designate a guardian when kids are young and the surviving parent may not be the guardian in some situations.
How much does it usually cost to do a will or all 4 documents? Typically, to do a complete estate plan for a couple will run $1000-1500, depending on the complexities. When people have possible estate tax issues and/or a lot of property to transfer to the trust, it just takes more time and work. To do planning for a single individual will be under $1000. Drafting a single will or a single power of attorney will generally cost under $200.
As you will see, every situation is a little different, so please consult a lawyer.