What is a Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament is a written expression of your wishes, intentions, and plans for everything you’ve earned and acquired during your life. This means what happens to your body, your kids, your money -- pretty much all of your “stuff”.
Over the years, we’ve learned how to make a Last Will and Testament the best that it could possibly be and how to make it as easy as possible for your family after you’re no longer around to deal.
Top 5 Resources to Have the Best Last Will and Testament Ever …
Look, life is complicated! It has a lot of moving parts and it’s easy to feel like a circus act, like a juggler trying to keep a smile on your face as you try to keep a seemingly unending chain of balls in the air. All these different balls represent everyday life- your job, your kids, your spouse, your car payments, your mortgage payments, your student loans, on and on and on. You’re a unique and beautifully complicated individual.
Now, take a step back and imagine someone stepping in to juggle all those balls for you. Yeah? Terrifying, right? Imagine for the grand finale your trusty assistant has to step in an take over for you, while juggling their own set of balls- only instead of smiling they are besides themselves with grief. It can quickly seem overwhelming, and if they can’t get rid of some of these balls quickly some if not all will inevitably drop. This is what it is like for the Executor of an estate.
Through their tears, they may misread your movements, intentions and focus. The truth is that their view and abilities are their own, and try as they might, they are not you. They will inevitably have different strengths, weaknesses, skills, connections, knowledge and wisdom--- and so will all of the people looking to them to execute your last wishes. It is a lot of pressure in an already emotionally charged situation.
But don’t worry, there are some easy steps you can take now to avoid leaving a big headache for your Executor and mitigate the likelihood your death will trigger an all-out war between certain members of your inner circle.
Here are the Top 5 resources we’ve found to help you make your executor look like a rock star.
#1. An Executor Who Gets You
This is probably one of the more important parts of your will. You need to have an executor who understands you, your methods, your life, and your business. This is why people typically name their partner, their kids, a parent, or a best friend. It needs to be someone who is all up in your business, your family’s business, and who doesn’t just know all of dirty your laundry but how you like it to be cleaned, folded and put away.
#2. Guardians Who Get You.
We’ve got to through at least one plug in for our services, right?
If you have kids, you need to have a Children’s Action Plan that protects your kids if there is ever any uncertainty. Your kids are your most precious assets. They are also your most expensive! Just think of how much it costs to turn a few cells into a functional human being! We gotta protect them!
Your Children’s Action Plan will ensure that your kids will always have a place to call home, no matter what happens to you. Your Last Will and Testament SHOULD have a place where you name guardians for your kids, but we want to take it further. Your Last Will and Testament only matters if you’re dead and it has no effect until it’s been admitted to probate. That means that if your will isn’t self-proving (all signatures are notarized, including the witnesses), then your kids don’t have anyone who can legally take care of them. Enter, the Children’s Action Plan. The Children’s Action Plan stands outside of your Last Will and Testament and makes sure that your kids will always be cared for by the people you know, love, and trust to raise your kids the way you’d raise them (even if that means it’s not by a family member).
#3. JUST WRITE IT DOWN! Make Inventory of Your Assets and Financial Information.
Remember all those balls? You’ve got a lot of them. Over half of Americans have bank accounts at more than one bank, and over twenty percent have accounts are more than three banks (Source.) Multiple banks and multiple bank accounts are just one example of something with multiple “balls in the air.” Sure, you know that the mortgage payment comes out of ABC Bank to pay DEF Mortgage Company, but your executor doesn’t know that.
There are a few options, the first of which is to simplify things, (if you’re running a business, we recommend that you have accounts at at-least two separate banks to keep your business accounting separate from your personal accounting, and the second is to create an inventory that lists all of your accounts, the bank, and the balances.
Your inventory should include all of your stuff, your accounts, your insurance policies, and your property. This sounds like a lot, but just keep thinking of all those plates! Your inventory should include things like your house, the fair market value, your mortgage balance, what account you use to pay the mortgage, your car and associated loan, any collectibles or valuables and the appraisal, any investment or brokerage accounts. The inventory should also list all insurance policies, especially life insurance policies! List the beneficiaries, the financial institution holding the insurance policy, the policy number, and your insurance agent’s contact information.
#4. An Inventory of Your Passwords.
Some online communities, such as Facebook, enable you to name a digital executor of your account after you die, and some – such as Facebook – require those forms to be submitted prior to your death. They don’t necessarily accept a Will or an Appointment as executor to manage your account. (It’s also technically violating their terms of service to share your passwords with someone else.)
So, while this is not legal advice, it is practical advice. It is important to keep an inventory of your logons and passwords. This can be done using software tools such as Kaspersky, LastPass, or Zoho Vault to name a few, or it can be done in a physical address book that you keep updating. It’s even better if instead of sharing passwords, you can add a user and add an executor’s user access to your book.
As a reminder to any executors, you cannot actually do or change anything unless or UNTIL you have been appointed – that is called theft. But you will need to have current figures when you apply for the appointment to get an estimate value of the person’s estate. (Yes, estate … that is what everything you own is called, it’s not just a fancy word for a plot of land with farms and a manor. You have an estate.)
#5. Your Efolio.
What if there were a way to ensure that all this information was accessible online in a secure environment? What if you could give your Executor and other important people access to it while you’re alive? Let me tell you what happens when you don’t do this- and what if your Executor didn’t get access to anything until after you died? Yeah. We thought we could get your attention.
We found a really awesome online tool that we use with our planning clients that combines all of these best tools, includes calculators, charts, and graphs to help you make the best of your last will and testament. This tool lets you create infographs of your life. Who doesn’t love infographs? It makes it quick, easy, and accessible to your executor so that they’re able to access all of your information after you’ve died so that they can get down to business and take over the plate juggling.
What You Should Do Next
If you’re ready to rock you last will and testament, get started with creating the inventory. Your financial life needs to be in order so that you can create a plan for what happens to it.
Click here to access this FREE Google sheet. Go ahead, make a copy of it, and use it to create your inventory. You can print it off, update it, print it off again. It’s a fluid document, so make sure that you keep updating it as life keeps changing.
Next, take a look at our “Create Your Will” tool. It’s pretty freaking cool. It’s a guided DIY resource where you can create your own will. (Pretty self-explanatory, huh?) You get two guidance phone calls with our attorneys to help answer any questions you have, and a signing ceremony in our office to make sure that your Will is self-proving and awesome.
Ready to talk about your plan?
Let's talk about how you can make sure your executor look like a rock star and
make sure your kids are always taken care of.