“Will” You Or Won’t You

This isn’t legal advice. It’s not illegal either. Obviously, I’m not an attorney. If I were, I’d bill you for simply reading this. Or, more likely, I’d sue you for sharing conspiracy theories.

I know you’re immortal and will live forever.

Planning ahead regarding your death isn’t going to cause a Final Destination scenario. Or it might. Either way, as an adult, it is up to you to do the minimum to help the people you love once you’re gone. You never know when a giant log might fall off a truck and take your head off.

That’s no way to roll!

Every year at this time, I think about my thirty-one-year-old wife dying unexpectedly. Or the expert pilot getting thrown out of his parachute and falling to the ground at my feet. Neither really thought, “This is it.” No one does. They know it could happen. They turn an unseen corner and darkness falls.

If you don’t have a will, you’re leaving the people behind with extra baggage they don’t need. If people don’t have access to your financial accounts or your phone when you pass, I promise you that you’re causing needless agony on top of the grief they’ll suffer when you pass. It’s also a great way to encourage family members to behave like contestants on “Survivor.” And trust me, none of them will be as good-looking as those phony participants.

A handwritten will is acceptable. One that’s witnessed is better. The best is one witnessed and notarized. Probate courts love those. It’s one of the best gifts you can give your friends and family. (Not quite as good as living trusts and automatic survivorship or ownership – but much better than no plan.) Once you have one, I recommend telling your family you have one and what the contents are. It will be invaluable after your death if there are no surprised family members or someone claiming you said otherwise.

If you’ve not completed a will because it costs a lot or is a hassle, you’re wrong. It’s neither. You can do one from home in thirty minutes to an hour. After that, get it witnessed at a minimum and notarized if at all possible. The best part? It doesn’t require a lawyer. Doing it this way isn’t for everyone. But if you don’t have one, it is very likely that it will work perfectly for you.

Now that I’ve said all that, I can’t think of why everyone doesn’t have a will in Arkansas. Or share their passcodes.

Rocket Lawyer is my favorite do-it-yourself service. There are others. You can sign up for a trial and try it out. It is NOT expensive or complicated. You can edit it, download it, and easily use it. If you need help, have someone you trust to come to assist you. That will also help if a family member questions the contents. I won’t bore you with horrific family stories that ended in huge fights, court battles, or worse. We’ve all heard or been involved in them. I’ve known several people who died without wills and then had other family members destroy each other over alleged wishes and property. The simple truth is that you cannot know whether your wishes will be honored. Money and emotions cause uncountable family rifts.

If you have a lot of assets or are rich (define however you wish), it’s very likely you already have a will. For the rest of us, don’t worry about lawyers screaming that you should always use a lawyer to prepare one. If you have the money for a lawyer, please use one, but know that most of them use common template-generating software to fill in the information you’ll provide. Lawyers take time and money. It’s better to get one and then worry about “doing it perfectly.” Get a basic will now that covers most of the bases. THEN, follow up with the next step, even though we both know you’ll probably sit on the couch eating from a bag of chips instead.

Trusts and automatic transfer of your property are much more desirable than relying on a will, which might trigger probate. If you use a lawyer or estate planner, he or she will, of course, fill in the blanks for you. It’s best to have your property and assets automatically transferred to the person or people of your choice without the need for additional steps.

I live in the real world and know that many people don’t think ahead. They falsely believe that they will have time later – or that those whom they leave behind will capably take care of it. That’s foolish. All of us must face the idea that today might be our last day to grace this world. A few minutes of your time will save countless hours of agony. If someone you trust doesn’t have access to your phone, your computer, and your accounts, you are causing them avoidable agony.

Now that you know that it doesn’t have to be hard or expensive to get a will (or take the time to visit a lawyer), what’s stopping you? Most lawyers know better than to bite you, even ones who live in Madison County. I hope you live another thirty years. And if you don’t, that you take a little bit of your life to make your passing easier on your loved ones once you’re gone. If you’ve got time to watch an hour of SportsCenter or The Bachelorette, you have time to make a will or talk to a lawyer, estate planner, or psychic.

Do Your Own Will
Trust & Will
U.S. Legal Wills
Nolo’s Quicken WillMaker
Your preferred lawyer or estate planner
Random Guy On The Internet

PS: 90% of the things that you think are valuable are valuable – but only to you. Your death cuts the cord of connection. Reduce, give away, donate, and triage your stuff so that what remains is the essence of what you treasure. Simplicity is its own reward y’all. If the things you have are valuable in the real world, sell them and use the money to live the life you want or to help those who need a hand. It could be anyone’s last day on Earth. Buried treasures help no one.

Love, X

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