Do You Have Your Act Together?

Do you and your partner have a will? Power of attorney? A living will? If not, you’re not alone–only 36% of Americans have a will, according to a poll by Rocket Lawyer.

iStock_000022627467SmallWomanSigningPaperNobody likes to think about this stuff. Who wants to sit with their partner and discuss which conditions you’d remove life support or not? How do you even begin to think about who would take guardianship of your children in the event of tragedy?

The fact remains that death is our only certainty. Even though it’s unpleasant, we need to have these conversations with our partner.

Chanel Reynolds, a young mom living in Seattle, WA, knows from experience the importance of squaring away the details. Her husband Jose was killed in a cycling accident, and while they’d begun a discussion about their wishes, they had nothing finalized or signed. She didn’t even know the password to his phone to contact his relatives.

On top of her unfathomable grief, Reynolds was navigating probate court, spending thousands on legal fees, and wrangling mountains of insurance paperwork.

She felt motivated to help other families avoid this pain and created a website with templates, checklists, and step-by-step information for families to create DIY legal documents. Many of her legal document templates are only valid in Washington state, but the website equips people to find similar forms valid in their own home state.

In short, these 3 documents are the important ones to think about:

Last Will–this document details what happens to your possessions in the event of your death. A will can also outline your wishes for guardianship of your children, should both parents die. Don’t assume everything will automatically go to your partner or your kids! Make these wishes official.

Power of Attorney–this document allows another person to act for you if you are incapacitated (or out of the country). For instance, Power of Attorney lets someone else begin the court process, sell your home on your behalf, withdraw funds to pay utilities, etc. if you’re unconscious.

Living Willthis document outlines your wishes for your medical treatment if you aren’t able to make these decisions yourself. It also outlines who can make these decisions for you.

Since I got overwhelmed thinking about this stuff, I dragged my bag working on it for a long time. Reynolds’ website allowed me to sign up for a monthly nagging email where she reminded me to get on my horse and get my act together. Reynolds points out this work is a huge pain, but so is getting a Pap smear or an oil change, and we manage to regularly take care of that!

My husband and I finally took care of business last year. We created a document that gathers our accounts and digital information so we’d be able to access each other’s information–that took a really, really long time and it was super tedious, but now we never have to do it again.

We used Rocket Lawyer for our will, power of attorney, and living will, because April is “make a will” month and they offer the forms we needed for free. But there are a number of similar websites out there that walk you through each step, much like Turbo Tax does with income taxes.

I felt an enormous weight was lifted in completing our paperwork. There is a great peace that comes with knowing a plan is in place, so we don’t have to think about it anymore. Instead, we can focus on enjoying our lives together with our children (except that we still need to get life insurance! Good thing I get the monthly email reminders!).

Does your family have your act together? Leave us a comment to share your motivation!

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