Let’s be honest. None of us like to think about estate planning. Our own mortality is a scary thing. So, we convince ourselves that there is plenty of time to wait.
“I’m young and healthy, I don’t need a will.”
“I don’t have any money, wills are for rich people.”
“I just don’t have time for it right now, I’ll do it when the time is better.”
You get the picture.
It’s all these stories we’re telling ourselves that result in six out of ten Americans not having a will. But, deep down, we know having a will is a good idea. We just need to silence the fear-driven, “it can wait” voices in our head.
For me, the importance has always been best expressed in this quote:
You don’t write a will because you’re going to die, you write a will because those you love are going to live. – Unknown
Creating a will, purchasing a life insurance policy, and getting your affairs in order isn’t a scary or depressing thing. It’s an act of love. It’s making sure your family has what they need.
And, luckily, those scary stories we’ve been telling ourselves about wills? Most of them are myths. Here’s what you really need to know.
Reality: You can create a will on any budget.
The cost of a writing a will depends on what service or attorney you use, how complex your estate is, and how specific you want to be about how your money is used after your passing.
Depending on your situation, the cost of writing up a quality, legally binding will can range from free – with a service like Tomorrow.me – or $1,000 or more for something more much complex.
Most families only need a fairly simple will. Tomorrow is a mobile-first platform that walks you through the process of creating a will, giving you guidance around what each step means, so that you can get a legally binding will quickly. Tomorrow worked with 52 attorneys to create a legal will specific to each state.
While there are other free options that don’t require a trip to the lawyers office, be wary of free online templates that you print off and complete yourself. Without the guidance provided by a lawyer or service like Tomorrow , you may overlook the rules in your state and end up with a non-binding (or needlessly confusing) will.
Tomorrow’s mission is to help families make decisions about the future together. You can connect with your family members through the app as it walks you through the process of creating a will that works for your type of family and is tailored to the laws of the state you live in.
Myth #2 - Only Rich People Need a Will
Reality: If you have assets or dependents and want a say in where they go after you pass, you need a will.
Listen, without a will your assets and children aren’t going to be handed over to the government never to be seen again. That’s a myth as well. But, without a will, you’re subject to the estate laws of the state you live in.
If your next of kin is a minor child, that could mean that any monetary assets – retirement funds, life insurance policies – are placed with a state conservator to manage and distribute those funds in their name until they turn 18.
And when they’re 18? All that money goes to them. Immediately.
You’ll need to create a trust to direct the timing of distribution and appropriate uses of your money, but don’t worry, it isn’t a complicated process. You just have to be thoughtful about when you want your kids – or their guardians – to have access to your money.
Writing a will is your opportunity to override the standard choices of the state.
Maybe you want a certain amount to be distributed to your child’s guardians every year, without them having to show every receipt to a state conservator. Maybe you want some money to go to a local charity that matters to you. Or maybe, you really want that special family heirloom to go to your sister.
Your net worth doesn’t determine whether or not your need a will. The most important question is, do you want a say in the use and care of your assets, possessions, and children?
I’m guessing you do.
Myth #3 - Creating a Will is Time Consuming
Reality: Creating a will can take less than 10 minutes or several hours with an attorney. But, either way, it won’t take weeks or months.
Finding a lawyer, setting up an appointment, and going into a law office could take a significant amount of time. And if that’s what you need – if you have multiple business, children from prior marriages, or an otherwise complex estate – you should make the time for it. The several hours you’ll spend creating your will may dictate your family’s or children’s future.
But for the average family, it doesn’t have to take long at all. Online and mobile options like Tomorrow allow you to create a will in less than 10 minutes in the comfort of your own home.
It doesn’t get much easier than that!
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Myth #4 - I Already Told My [Mother/Sister/Best Friend] That I'd Like Them to Take My Kids if Something Happens to Me, I Don't Need a Will
Reality: If your preferences about your kids’ guardians aren’t written down in a will, the final decision is made by your local Family Court.
If you die without a will, it’s up to the state to determine what happens to your children. Each state has different laws, rules, and formulas that govern what this looks like. In most states, however, the final decision is made in a Family Court custody hearing.
You might assume your kids would go to the person you see as the most obvious fit. Maybe the adult in their life that sees them most often or your sibling who you know has similar parenting values.
Unfortunately, the state might not agree. In many cases, the children are placed with whomever the judge feels is the closest blood family member (or the loudest family member in the room.)
This is a big decision I doubt you really want a court – and a judge who doesn’t know your children and family – to make. It’s a decision that will impact how your children are raised and what kind of life and future they have.
Bottom line: If you want to have a say in who gets legal guardianship of your children, a will is a must.
Myth #5 - It's Not The Right Time In My Life to Create a Will
Reality: You can always update your will. (And the most recent will is always the binding one.)
The right time is now.
Seriously, I can see you sitting there thinking, “But we’re going to have another kid next year, we’ll just have to change it.” Or, “It will make more sense after we buy a house.”
Maybe even, “Our estate is pretty complicated, I better wait until we can afford an attorney.”
I get it. That was me, too.
The prospect of having to revisit a lawyer and pay hundreds of dollars to update your will each time you experience a new life event (marriage, birth of a child, etc.), doesn’t sound appealing.
But apps like Tomorrow allow you to update your will completely free of charge. And the cost of updating a will with an attorney is much, much lower than writing the will the first time.
We put off creating a will for months after our oldest was born. I wanted to find the right attorney. Finally, we just created a will quickly online. It was sufficient and binding until we found the right person. And as soon as the new will was signed? The old one just fell away.
Remember, whenever you create a new version of your will, it’s the most recent version that is binding. As soon as you’ve made an update to your will, the previous version becomes invalid.
You’ll always be able to find a reason to postpone the creation of your will. There’s never a perfect time, and it’s likely that your situation will continue to evolve and change, keeping you busier than you’d like.
The hard truth is that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. You’re likely not going to know when you’ll need a will, so there isn’t really a right time to get it done.
It’s best to protect your family today.
So, What's Stopping You From Writing Your Will?
If creating a will has been on your to-do list for months, or even years, and you’ve been stalling, I hope debunking some of these common myths may have helped put things in perspective.
The truth is, most people need a will, and creating one can be easy and affordable. With apps like Tomorrow, you can create a legal will in under 10 minutes – for free. So, there’s really no reason to keep procrastinating.
Most of us are uncomfortable confronting our own mortality, especially when we’re young and healthy. But I promise, you will sleep better knowing that you have a plan in place to ensure that your estate, and more importantly, your children are taken care of when you’re no longer here.
We want to hear from you. Have you created a will? If not, what is holding you back?