A few years ago, Nicole and I finally completed our last will and testament. We procrastinated for the better part of two years because we were binge watching Game of Thrones and House of Cards. Excuses yes, but these are some epic shows!
Nevertheless, (HOUSE OF CARDS SPOILER ALERT!) when Frank Underwood pushed Zoe Barnes into oncoming Metro Rail traffic, it was a wake up call that life is short! Thanks to Frank’s murderous rage (and the fact that we love each, want to take care of our kids and to ensure there is no confusion when we die), we got that will going right away.
To show you that this very important task can be easily done, I’ve listed out the 6 steps that Nicole and I followed to get the will prepared, signed and stored.
Answer some important questions together with your spouse
In marriage, communication is the key to success. The same goes with preparing your last will and testament. With that spirit in mind, block out 30 minutes to chat with your spouse and answer the following questions together:
If we both die, who do we want the executor of our will to be?
This is the person who will manage your assets and the plan you set forth in your will. Choose someone that you trust and that you know will ensure your wishes are seen through.
Who do we want to be the guardian of our kids if we both die?
When making your decision, consider the age, health and location of the family members you are contemplating. If you’d really like your kids to live with your brother, but he lives across the country, is that best for your children? It may be. It may not be.
What special arrangements do each of us want to celebrate our lives?
For example, this could include donations to certain charities, leaving gifts to family members and whether or not you want to be cremated or buried in a Superman costume. Nicole and I both plan to use The Living Urn and become a living memory in the form a tree after we die (for $5 off, use MKM5 at checkout).
Talk to the people you’ve designated and let them know
You don’t want the “will discovery” to be a big dramatic movie when you die. Make sure your chosen executor knows that you want them in this role and make sure they are okay with it.
Regarding being the caretaker of your kids, this is especially important to talk with this chosen family member or friend to ensure they are up for the responsibility if the situation arises.
Choose a will creation service that works best for you
If you feel like you have a fairly straightforward family and money situation, an online will can work for you. Online will creation services like LegalZoom, Quicken Willmaker or US Legal Forms all carry the same legal weight as consulting with an attorney as long as the will complies with state laws. Make sure you choose your specific state when developing a will online. Nicole and I used US Legal Forms. It was a downloadable kit for $39. We have the ability to modify it easily if we have more kids or if we decide to change the chosen guardian of our kids.
If you have been divorced, have children from other marriages, have property in other states or own a business, consider seeking out a trusted lawyer who can help you draft your will.
Find a notary and two witnesses
The notary will be person who is licensed to witness you and your spouse signing the will. Our local UPS Store had notary services which was super convenient for Nicole and I. If you don’t have a UPS Store near you, check out the Notary Rotary. Not only does it have a super slick rhyming name, it will help you find a local notary near you just by entering your zip code.
For your witnesses, this can be anyone who is over 18, provides their contact information and is willing to spend five minutes with you watching you sign the documents. We were able to snag two kind witnesses that were already at the UPS Store buying some overpriced packing tape and boxes.
It is smart to choose witnesses that aren’t going to inherit anything in your will. This keeps the situation clean, tidy and drama-free.
Store your completed will in a safe place
Keep your will in a place that is away from light, heat and humidity. You could consider a filing cabinet that is lockable, a fireproof safe or even a safety deposit box at your local bank. If you have consulted with a lawyer, have them keep a copy safe for you.
Whatever you choose, the most important thing is to ensure your executor knows where the will is located. If your will isn’t found, it could be a difficult situation for your children or others named in your will as beneficiaries. If you move your will or if you move houses, make sure your executor knows where to find it.
Review annually and update as needed
Set a calendar reminder (Google Calendar, iCalendar, etc) to review your will annually to ensure it still reflects your current wishes. Have a quick discussion with your spouse about how your will reads and make sure you are both still in agreement with all of the details.
Every year comes with new excitement and change. Who knows? You may have had another bundle of joy to add to your will.