Mary and I were about 25 years old when we got our first will. It was in the early days of the computer and we downloaded a free last will and testament template. We filled in the blanks and had it notarized.
We were not really concerned about our assets. We had no money to speak of, but we had our first baby and we wanted to assign a guardian in case we both died in a car accident. I don’t think that most people in their 20’s or 30’s are thinking about dying. I don’t think that they have a living will, or a power of attorney, or a last will and testament.
Many people, young or old, don’t realize that if they die without a will (dying intestate), that the state that you live in will then decide what happens to your children and your property. That was a motivation for us.
Another milestone for a young family to reach when planning for the future is when they buy a house or purchase life insurance. This is when we took our computer will into the lawyer and got it updated.
These documents are dynamic. The family changes, your income status changes, and your beliefs and wishes change. In our late forties, we visited the lawyer again. This time, we talked about a living trust vs. will. Our children were grown and on their own. We had more money and a house now.
As we look back on it, although we were not ready to admit it yet, we were in the very early stages of preparing to die. We filled out a living will, and changed over to a revocable living trust. We do not have a large estate, but at the time, it was still a strategy to save money for the children. A living trust does not have to go through probate like a will does. If one of us were to die, we also would not lose control of our assets while the will for the spouse that died was going through the courts.
This was also when we started to outline our wishes. Our living trust incorporated a last will and testament within it for all of the assets not assigned to the trust. Our living will let people know how we wanted to be treated in case of a serious illness or we became incapacitated. We also filled out a general power of attorney form for the same reason. And just like in a will, we designated how the assets were to be inherited after we died.
We were not done. We moved to a different state a few years later. A living trust requires a little more maintenance than a regular will. We visited with the lawyer again. We had to sell and buy another home, which had to have the trust listed as the owner. Some of the family situations had changed and we updated our living will again.
I don’t think that preparing to die should be the first thing that you think about in the morning. You should be planning to live. Live each day as though it was your last. Someday you will be right. Start when you are young.