Writing your will

Morbid topic, isn’t it?

I actually hope you don’t see it that way. It’s really one of the most important and loving things you can do. In the world of Dave Ramsey, he calls this and other documents, the Love Drawer–a place in your home where you and your spouse have taken the time to place all the documents and information the surviving spouse would need to carry on. Those first months after a spouse dies are impossibly hard, and by building the Love Drawer you allow your spouse the right and need of truly grieving and recovering.

Courtney and I have one that holds our mortgage documents, titles, health information, identification, and other documents. This weekend, we wrote and added our wills to the pile.

Writing a will certainly seems daunting, but do it anyway. And actually, with modern technology, writing a will is very easy. I wrote both of ours using Quicken WillMaker in under 20 minutes. There are plenty of other sources for wills as well, such as uslegalforms.com. With them, a will costs $15 and it is guaranteed to meet your specific state requirements.

But a couple thoughts:

  • First, don’t try to write your will yourself. State requirements are different for each place, and despite your best intentions, a will that does not meet those requirements is NOT valid. In other words, writing your will yourself means that your kids won’t necessarily go live with their beloved aunt Shelly as you wanted. Do you really want to save the $15 charge to have it done professionally and risk that?
  • Second, a will that is not notarized is NOT valid. Many don’t know this, but every bank has a notary public as does the UPS Store. If you have a bank account, a notary public is one of those things that the bank provides free of charge. It takes 15 minutes.
  • Finally, many local governments have will repositories. In my local city, you can take your will down to city hall, and they will scan it in as an official copy. In the event of your death, no one has to spend time looking for a legal copy of your will (photocopies are NOT valid). More than that, though, it limits any debate and confusion on the part of any survivors.

Maybe one more thought… Make sure you talk to all the people in your will and tell them what you are doing. In our case, we’ve asked one of my sisters to assume guardianship of our children and our estate. If she cannot, our good friends Nosurfgirl and co will. We’ve also asked my father to serve as executor with Nosurfgirl’s husband, Jeffrey, as an alternate.

A few final thoughts:

  • If you haven’t yet, PLEASE get life insurance. I kid you not how cheap it is. Term Life (whole life and universal life and variable life are all CRAP) is dirt cheap and will provide adequate coverage. Aim for 10 times the primary wage earner’s salary with 50% of that amount for the non-working spouse. That is sufficient to provide for the survivor’s needs.
    In our case, we actually do closer to 20 times my wage simply because it is so very cheap, and I just don’t want Courtney to have enough. I want her to never worry about money again.
  • Really look at getting your Love Drawer together. It really is one of the most loving things you can do for each other. One document we added to ours that I would also recommend is a short list of what to do in those first six months. For Courtney, I’ve included some instructions on how to manage the life insurance, how to access and transfer all our financial accounts, and some thoughts in general. I know my wife, and I know that she would worry about things that our important to me like our home, and it’s important to me that she be free of those worries. There will be more than enough to worry about without adding that.

So there’s your homework. It’ll take you all of an hour to do all of it.

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4 Responses to Writing your will

  1. Sarah L. says:

    I started a document for Matt with lots of instructions. It made him nervous, but I worry about everything he will have to deal with on top of losing me.

    We do need to make a will and especially figure out who will get the kids if both of us died. Not a pleasant thought. We only have $200,000 through our Veterans life insurance and that’s $26 a month. There’s also a policy through his work, but I’m not sure what all it covers. I should look into that.

    If I lost Matt, I would have to use the money while I go back to school. I couldn’t make it last the rest of my life.

  2. daveloveless says:

    Most employer plans are set at either 1 or 1.5 times your salary, so if Matt makes $50,000, you could plan on an additional $50,000 to $75,000 in coverage.

    That’s not too bad, but more never hurts. At the very least, that’d easily get you threw schooling and the first few years of a career.

    Oh, and $26 for $200,000 isn’t too bad, but you might do better. I’d drop a line out there and see what you get. For us, we pay about $4.50 for every $100,000 in insurance on me and about $4.00 for every $100,000 for Courtney.

  3. Dad says:

    Get insured early!! The rates change radically as you get older, plus the chance you might need it before you get old. Case story. When we went to Alaska there was a plane crash. Three men died. Three wives were left. One was heavily insured, one was medium, one was almost nothing. I can’t express the difference to the three women. No, they didn’t get their husbands back, but not having financial worries on top of everything else was a tremendous blessing to the one.

    I totally agree on the Love Drawer. Call it what you want, get it done! I was going through papers today and found an account I had forgotten we had. Not a lot, but an additional $5000 sure won’t hurt.

  4. JeffreyD says:

    That’s a good idea, Dave. Are you keeping the documents in an actual drawer then? I have a few things collected in a file-carrying box, with a handle. I keep all essential documents there ready for a quick departure, if needed. A drawer of loose papers would be hard to retrieve in an emergency evacuation.

    I would add to your requirements: good security, and emergency preparedness documents. Eventually, when I own a home, I intend to have a fire-proof safe for all these documents, stored in a satchel for quick retrieval.

    I need to sit down and write up a list of documents to include. What would you suggest?

    Printed list of online identities (sites, usernames, passwords, etc.)
    Accounts with contact information
    Medical histories
    How-to instructions for important processes and procedures
    Directories of friends, family and ward members
    Love notes

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