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Do You Have a Will?

When I was enormously months pregnant with Toby, Alex and I decided to make a will. But the craziest thing happened on the way to do it…

We walked across Manhattan, from our apartment to our lawyer’s office. During my pregnancy, walking had always felt fine — but that day, I kept complaining that I was uncomfortable. When we arrived at the lawyer’s office, I sat down, stood up, walked around, leaned from side to side, but still — uncomfortable. After signing our will, I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to go to Trader Joe’s and stock our fridge. While walking around the aisles, people kept saying, “Wow! You’re ready to pop!” but I smiled and told them I had nine days until my due date.

Reader, I was in labor.

We always laugh about it now — I mean, how did I not know? I was having contractions and nesting like a boss.

Luckily, these days making a will can be much easier all around. Fabric is a new kind of life insurance company created by two young dads who believe that every family deserves a secure future. They’ve also made the process of creating a will simple and user-friendly. It takes minutes on your computer, and it’s completely free.

Do You Have a Will?

So, does everyone need a will? What if you don’t own a home? Or have kids? Believe it or not, it’s still important. Here’s why it matters:

1. It lets you (and your family) breathe easier
Right away, having our wishes in order took so much weight off our shoulders. It feels so good knowing that no matter what happens, everything (and everyone) you care about will be taken care of. A will helps those you love experience as little stress as possible during an emotional time.

2. It prevents future conflict
A will lets you decide how you’d like your “estate” — basically, your home, personal possessions and any financial assets — to be divided. Without a will, you die ‘intestate,’ which means your estate will be divided according to state law, not necessarily how you would have chosen. Things may be passed on to people you didn’t intend, or arguments and confusion can erupt over who gets what. (Once your will is made, you can edit it at any time as your life circumstances change.)

3. It names executors you trust
With a will, you can name your executors — the people who will carry out your final wishes and organize everything on your behalf. This can be a big job — they’ll be in charge of closing accounts, canceling credit cards, selling property… and it’s important to know it will be left in the hands of someone you trust.

4. It protects your kids
Perhaps most important, a will spells out who will take care of your children. Otherwise, the decision is placed in the hands of the courts. (And if you don’t have children, you can choose who you’d like to take care of your pets.)

Do You Have a Will

Some of my friends have put off creating a will because they don’t want to think about it. Why plan for something nobody wants to acknowledge? But a will is honestly one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family. If you haven’t yet and you’d like to, take a few minutes to make a plan for your family’s future. I promise it will feel great once you do! Get started here, if you’d like.

The easiest way to make a will online

Update: Fabric provides a great basic will that covers all the bases. (But if you have complicated circumstances, it’s always good to consult with a lawyer.)

(Photos by Tory Williams for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by Fabric, a company whose mission we love. Thank you for supporting the companies that help keep Cup of Jo running.)

  1. Whoa. This is such a great topic. My husband and I used a company called Trust & Will last week and loved it too (www.trustandwill.com). Everybody should have a will! Especially if you have kids. I tell all my friends about it.

    • Jessica Lewis says...

      I used them too! It was super great!

  2. Mel says...

    Thank you so much for bringing up this topic and sharing a resource on how to set up our will, Jo!! I am a healthy woman in my 20s with full intention and hope to live a long life, but I really want to make sure I’m laying the right financial foundations not only for myself, but also for my family (I’m an only child, and I have parents who I’d like to take care of in their retirement). However, I’ve tried bringing this topic up with friends, even those who seem quite open to talking about finances, but it seems to be an instant conversation stopper. That has made it hard to ask how exactly to set up a will. So, thank you for this helpful post!

  3. Cynthia Miller says...

    Thank you! I have been needing to, and meaning to, make a will for years, but no time and I don’t know how to start! I’m going to do this next week.

  4. A says...

    We just finished doing our wills about 4 months ago along with a living will and power of attorney. It has certainly given us peace of mind should something happen. It took us 5 years to decide on guardians for our girls because my side and his side don’t get along very well which in turn put strain on us in making a decision so we just avoided the situation. We finally were able to agree and are both happy with the decision we made. I do shudder though at the thought that if something had happened during that time and we didn’t have them done. So my advice is no matter how hard the discussions are have them and make decisions because at least if something happens your kids will be with people who love them and will help them through their grief.

  5. Kelly Williams says...

    Wow! Only on Cup of Jo would I find something so perfect and timely. I’m pregnant with my second right now and have long thought that we need something in place to protect our family. Yay, Fabric! Thank you.

  6. Amanda says...

    Whoa, thank you so much for this. I’m pregnant with our second currently, and my husband and I have batted around the idea of a will and agree it’s important, but I think I always assumed it would cost a fortune to have one drawn up. THANKS for these resources at the perfect time for me.

  7. Oh my gosh, I’ve been thinking about this every day! As in – I NEED TO DO THIS. I just made my will! What a relief to get something of this magnitude off my to-do list. Thanks, Joanna!!

  8. Catherine Wilkie says...

    This is great but sadly can only be used by Americans…

  9. VP says...

    Another consideration for folks worried about the cost of seeking legal help. Alot of times, your employer might offer free or reduced-fee legal consultations. Check with them ad your partner/spouse’s employer. I work for a hospital system which offers help with legal consultations. My husband’s employer charges a nominal fee which allows employees to take advantage of consulting with a lawyer.

  10. AM says...

    On another important note, update your beneficiaries to all your financial accounts yearly. My dad always said the relatives got their loved one’s resources so much faster when they were a named beneficiary vs. waiting for probate court to sort it out. You can can update your life insurance, banking, savings, 401(k) beneficiaries in just a few minutes on almost every company’s website or do it over the phone quickly.

    Agreed with all the posters above–even a simple estate can be complicated and a DIY will is never going to be as good as one developed by an attorney specializing in trust and estate planning. There are real, licensed legal resources out there for people who cannot afford to pay attorney’s fees–but seriously, have a pro do something this critical. Call your state bar’s office, visit a clinic, or check out one of the sites listed here: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-t-miller/free-and-low-cost-legal-services-that-help-seniors-in-need_b_6185328.html

  11. Sarah says...

    We used an attorney our family knows to create a revocable trust: that takes care of all our assets should one or both of us pass, including guardianship for our kid and trustee rights. We actually have the guardian and trustee set up as different people from either side of our family 1) because that was what our gut told us to do and 2) to ensure both sides will be involved as much as possible with raising our kid.

    It was certainly hard to think about, but honestly, we just treated it like filling out taxes or pricing out insurance–it’s one of those adult things you have to suck up and do. In a perfect world, like life insurance, it’s a little bit of money for something you never have to use (but that ensures peace-of-mind).

  12. ximena says...

    I’ve been wanting to create my will since my baby was born (he is 8 months now) but its just so hard to think about it… just reading this left a knot in my throat! But I have to so thanks for recommending Fabric!

  13. I had it on my to do list when I got pregnant, as we got married on a prenup a will only made sense for when me and hubs had kids bc the way the dutch system works without will was fine by us without them. But then I got diagnosed with cancer during my pregnancy, which would seem like all the more reason to make a will, but I just couldn’t bring myself to make the will because it would be like admitting that I might actually die and I just couldn’t let my mind go there. Now I am thankfully in complete remission and have a healthy baby boy. So this is a very timely post, I need to get over myself and get it sorted.

  14. AC says...

    I have been creating a version of a will since high school.

  15. May says...

    Great post!
    Elderly that might live in a type of housing especially need a will.
    Horror story true event… a man with no will died unexpectedly during a hospital stay. He had told a sibling where things are and what to do. She arrives to a locked door, and is not allowed in to retrieve anything. Months, 6+/-, his things are packed up by the landlord. Rumor is they auctioned off to pay the rent on his apartment that sat empty as his meager estate went through probate. A family needs to grieve, hold things, go through things, Not be locked out of their grief. It is horrible that elderly people have to give up things to make sure they aren’t taken over by strangers. And it gets worse because there are laws in many states that if a person gives away property within 5 years of their death, then that property can be put back into the estate to settle any debts (or something like that).
    Not many know what hear they are going to die. Imagine sitting at home not surrounded by fond memories/your things because you are frail, and had to give them away to try and keep them safe with your family.

  16. Lexie says...

    I would love a related post about pre- or post-nuptial agreements! My husband and I are negotiating one now and it’s not a popular topic!

  17. em says...

    Anyone else thrown into an existential anxiety attack because of this post? EEk! Whenever someone else gets freaked out about their own mortality, I’m able to process the finality of death fine like “eh, I have more experience not being alive than being alive” but reading this post alone right now put me into a deep “I don’t wanna die” panic. Hahah

  18. Sara Tall says...

    Also do a Advance Directive! No one wants to make those kind of decisions during a crisis. It’s a hard conversation, but totally worth it.

    • AM says...

      YES! This is critical–but also discuss your advanced directive with your family. If they don’t know what your wishes are, a doctor will do what is communicated to him/her by the family, not by the document they might not know exists. My husband’s grandmother endured a painful unnecessary surgery days before entering hospice because her children hadn’t read her advanced care directive or honored her DNR. It still bothers me she had to experience that in her last days.

    • VP says...

      AGREE 100%. As a physician, I’ve encountered countless family members who did not know the wishes of their dying family member. As humans, guilt and religion and so many other things play into decisions about potentially withdrawing life support or letting someone die peacefully, rather than continuing to “do everything.” Please at the very least let someone you love know what your own wishes would be if you were terminally ill or on life support. Especially with current medical advancements and life-prolonging technology that prolongs quantity, not quality, the focus on comfort and peace has gone to the wayside as people think they can and should live forever. Naming a healthcare power of attorney is crucial.

  19. nicole makowka says...

    This is such an important post! There are so many things to be worried about, especially as parents, and this is one of those big life decision things that we can control. We recently did this and had the best experience with this firm in LA – https://www.spiegelestateplanning.com/

  20. Ali says...

    I hate to be nit-picky and critical, but I’ve always *hated* being addressed as “reader” by a writer, ever since I was a little kid. I noticed it in another post on the site recently, and just wanted to share that it really grates on me. It feels so impersonal, while CoJ generally feels like I’m reading something written by a close friend.

    Just my 2 cents! Thanks for all the amazing content, recommendations, and stories you share. :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thanks for your note! i was actually doing a nod to the climax of jane eyre, when she says “reader, i married him.” but haha maybe it didn’t come through. thank you so much for your feedback, ali! xoxoxoxo

    • Amanda says...

      Oh, ha, I found it totally funny and appropriate in the context!

  21. Alexandra says...

    Oof. Joanna. This is such an important topic and I have to say, as a long time reader and an estate planning/trust/probate/tax attorney and adjunct professor of estate planning, I’m really disappointed that you elected to bring it up in a post sponsored by…. a life insurance company.

    Perhaps you’d consider a future blog post addressing the importance of estate planning more broadly, including things like the need for financial & medical powers of attorney and advanced/health care directives. I know I’d be happy to contribute with some perspective from Washington state, and I’m sure other estate planning attorney-readers on this thread would be happy to contribute perspectives from their states as well….

    One final note: I’ve seen some suggestions in the comments that you DIY your Will then hire an attorney to review it for you before signing. That’s admirable advice, but I do not know a single attorney who does this. Most of us do not want our names associated at all with DIY wills.

    • Brianna M. says...

      I’m so glad you brought this up! I’m a NY attorney and this post gave me chills. Wills are one of the few areas of law that still have to be done JUST SO in order for them to be valid. DIY is not a safe way to do it if you want to rely on your wishes being honored. I’m just cringing over this post! (Usually love CoJ otherwise though!)

    • Camille says...

      Hi Alex – i’m a lawyer too, but from an overseas jurisdiction. I was wondering why you found it objectionable that a post about wills be sponsored by a life insurance company? What does a life insurance company have to gain from people drawing up a will (for free)? I am genuinely interested in your concern – where I am from it’s very common to use a government will kit to draw up simple wills without legal assistance. While obviously you shoudl seek legal advice if your estate is complicated, surely it’s better that more people have a simple will than no will at all? Life insurance is an important part of planning for the future, as is having a will. I can’t see any conflict of interest between the two?

  22. Jewel says...

    Hi Jo! Your blog is one of the only ones I read. I love that you’re venturing into financial topics. I poked around on the Fabric site last time you mentioned them. The free will service is great. Re life insurance: your readers should know that the instant policy Fabric offers is accidental death which is not the same as life insurance. If they need life insurance, they should make sure to convert it to Fabric’s actual term life insurance policy — but sticking with accidental death can leave people uncovered if they die from illnesses.

  23. Did I will this post?!
    Last night, I was trying to get ahold of my husband who had bad cell reception. And when he didn’t answer my calls, I went into the obvious black hole of “what ifs”, heard sirens in the distance and that’s all I need to bring the panic. We have 3 young kids and he’s headed to a triathlon this weekend and we have NO life insurance on him. I just signed up on Fabric and in less than 10 minutes, we got coverage. Jo and Team – thank you as always for hitting it on the mark. You guys are true life-lines!

  24. This is so timely. My husband and I are traveling overseas this fall, and, as someone who is afraid of flying, my mind automatically goes to the worse-case scenario.

    We have no children (other than our three cats), but definitely want to make sure our assets (I have to laugh, because we don’t have much!) go to our designated beneficiaries. We live in Kentucky where writing it down on paper is technically legally binding, but you just never know.

    I will definitely use Fabric to create a will, especially since it’s free. Thanks for the post!

  25. liz says...

    My dilemma – single, no children, don’t want to leave my assets to my family and so I’ve been putting off updating my will because I can’t decide what to do?!

    • Annette says...

      Find a place you are passionate about and donate your estate to them. A foundation, college, religious institution, etc.

    • Natalie says...

      Hi Liz – don’t forget that you can always leave your assets to a favorite cause or organization. I work in fundraising in the non-profit/higher education world, and these kinds of “planned gifts” are so meaningful – but I never knew they existed until I got into this field! A lot of times, you can dictate how you want the funds to be used, and by letting the organization know now that they’re in your will, they can celebrate your generosity while you are living (usually through special giving societies or appreciation events). There are great tax benefits too, depending on how the gift is set up.

    • liz says...

      thank you Annette and Natalie

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this is such great advice. thank you xo

  26. Brooke says...

    Just made a will! Yay! Thanks for letting me know about this company! I also will be creating a new will for my elderly dad since his circumstances have changed since he made his last one. This has been on my mind, so great timing! Thank you!

  27. Jennifer says...

    This may be a silly question, but would my husband and I *each* need a will (that mirror each other), or can everything be handled in one document?

    • joy says...

      Jennifer, you each need a will, but they can mirror each other in most respects if that is what you wish. However, your will designates your executor, and presumably your husband would be your executor if you predeceased and you would be his, hence the need for separate documents.

    • Good question! You each need your own. The documents can mirror each other.

  28. joy says...

    Another lawyer piping up to second what others have said–please do have an attorney do this if at all financially possible for you. Trust and estate law is very, very state-specific, and DIY online versions aren’t necessarily going to hold up. I am very glad that we wrote a check and hired someone experienced in these matters.

    • jones says...

      I second this. I practice in this area and some online wills turn out to create messes. It amazes me that people will spend thousands of dollars on trips/travel and then balk athe spending money to put something in place to protect their family when they go on those trips.

    • Trish O says...

      Agree! And I am not a lawyer.

    • Caroline Donofrio says...

      Hi, Joy. Thank you for your comment. We agree with you!
      We would never advise anyone to NOT talk to an attorney. Many people put off making a will (or never make one) because the mental complexity intimidates them. Fabric offers a simple solution that is a great starting point to help arm someone with knowledge and preparation before consulting with an attorney. (And if someone has a complex or special circumstance, they should of course be working with a lawyer.) We’ve also updated the text to reflect this.

  29. Emily says...

    Joanna,
    First let me start by saying I love this blog. I read it almost every day when I need a break… from drafting Wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents. I am an estate planning attorney in Oregon. I applaud you for bringing this issue to your readers’ attention, because estate planning can be an extremely valuable tool. However, it can also be extremely complex. There is more to estate planning than deciding who looks after your kids and gets your assets when you pass away, especially when clients have complex family relationships, diverse assets, or enough assets to require tax planning (which isn’t very much in some states!). These are issues you should discuss with a lawyer licensed to practice law in your state. I caution anyone using a free or for-a-fee online tool to create a Will, and absolutely everyone should use a lawyer to create and fund a trust. Please take this into consideration. I don’t aim to criticize you – I LOVE THIS BLOG – but I feel a duty to you and your readers to point out my concerns.
    Fondly,
    Emily, the boring, wet blanket from Oregon

    • Nichole says...

      Hi Emily, I live in Oregon, and my husband and I have been talking about setting up a living trust for our kids. Do you have a website where we could get in touch?

  30. KJG says...

    One of my very close family members was tragically lost last fall in a robbery. His wife had just given birth to their second child just a handful of weeks prior. I’m so thankful this was never a worry for her, but I just came here to say: you never truly never know. Life changes in an instant. Life can be perfect, and then tragedy strikes.
    After the first fogs of grief rolled by, all of his siblings got to work on updating their wills, end of life plans and life insurance policies.

  31. Sasha F says...

    Joanna, love the points you made about safeguarding who is trusted to take care of your wishes in the way you’d like.

    On an intersectional note – this made me think of a post which points out that, for example, trans folks’ deaths may be handled by unsympathetic family who prepare their bodies while erasing the identity of most of their adult lives, to their partners and friends, etc.

    I didn’t know that Power of Attorney also expires at death, a “funeral agent” can be named to carry out just that portion of decisions, and also – you can specify “individuals with no authority” in an advanced directive.

    “Dying Trans: Preserving Identity in Death”
    http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/dying-trans-preserving-identity-death

  32. Carmen says...

    Thanks for this post! My husband and I are expecting our first baby in 12 days and were just talking about writing our wills. This tool makes the process seem much less daunting.

  33. Helen says...

    Another wills & estates lawyer here. As others have said, I frequently work with families to unravel the mess that can be left when a person prepares a Will online.

    The “no lawyer needed!” sentiment is unfortunate on a blog that usually shows a lot of respect for professional women. Please, go and see a lawyer, who will ask the right questions and ensure your Will truly reflects your wishes, is valid, and is appropriate given the nature of your assets, your relationships and your location. Most lawyers care deeply about doing good work for their clients at a reasonable cost. It may be a bit more expensive, but you definitely get what you pay for, and it could avoid much greater expense later on.

    • Vivian says...

      Bravo, Helen!

  34. VS says...

    You know the saying you get what you pay for?…
    Pay for the cost of an attorney up front to do a will the right way. Otherwise you will force your family to pay for it on the back of end to try to fight for your wishes.

  35. Sally says...

    Please make a will, even if you don’t any major assets!! My husband’s mom died with very little but she did have a few small accounts and an old car (her excuse for not having a will was she didn’t have anything). You cannot do much of anything (even closing some accounts) until you are legally the executor of the estate. So with lots of legal hassle , it took 9 months to get the car title transferred. It all was a huge pain. So make a will! Encourage your friends and parents to do it, even if they don’t have much money!

  36. Shannon says...

    Just as important- an ICE password list. A simultaneously heartbreaking and heartbursting story was told to me by my IT guy. He was asked to help a widowed mother of 3 young boys unlock her husband’s PW locked iphone and computer. He had died suddenly, much too young, and he was the family’s accountant/finance person/keeper of records. After several hours of trying everything, unlocking his phone and computer proved nearly impossible except for a stoke of luck in that the youngest child happened to know his dad’s ipad PW (from playing games), so they were able to set her phone as a trusted device to the ipad and gain access to his icloud account. Without this, on top of her grief, she would have had no access to their various accounts, insurance policies, etc. The heartbursting part is this: she then discovered that her husband had set up an email account for each one of his children upon their birth and had been emailing them ever since with little love letters like “We went to the zoo today, you loved the bears.” He left them this amazing gift. I cry every time I recount the story. Keep a hard copy of your PW’s and tell someone. And write letters to your children.

  37. Christina says...

    I’m a graphic designer and I did some design work for a probate lawyer (lawyers who handle wills/estates/arrangements/etc). It was so enlightening when I interviewed her to ask what messages she wanted to convey in her designs! The main thing I remember is she said every day she worked with families who were grieving, and also arguing over what to do with their family member’s estate. Really horrible family drama to watch, day in and day out. The average case takes years to resolve! Why had this person not looked at their family and thought- “this person is responsible and the one who I will leave in charge of my estate” or, “here are the big things – and this is explicitly how I want them handled.” You should look at a will as a GIFT to your loved ones, so they don’t have the stress of figuring this out without you!

  38. kaye says...

    to me, the funniest thing is that none of the COJ team is commenting on the salient, wise, and RIGHT information provided in the comments by lawyers who happen to moonlight as readers of this blog–anything sponsorship to “keep this blog running,” I guess.

    TDLR: See an attorney for this sort of thing.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i really, really appreciate all the feedback and i’ve been reading it closely. we’ve been waiting for the fabric team to answer some of the additional questions we sent them before responding, in case we have any specific answers for people’s questions/concerns. but please trust me that we are listening closely and very grateful for feedback, always! especially from readers who are lawyers. thank you so much, kaye.

  39. Laura says...

    These kinds of programs are basically the difference between WebMD and seeing a doctor who knows and examines you. WebMD will often be correct and maybe reassuring (or maybe terrifying), and maybe better than ignoring your problem, but there is no substitute for a human professional who knows the laws of your state and the circumstances of your family.

  40. Having anything in writing is good, but going through a lawyer who specializes in wills and trusts/estate planning is better. My husband is a lawyer and insisted we do our will properly and I’m so glad he did. A good lawyer will really let you know what you need to do. He helped with the basics of our will, but also walked us through everything we needed to do to set up trusts for our kids, and he brought up many considerations I wouldn’t have thought of. You really want to have everything in place in the event of your death, or even an advanced directive in the event of your being incapacitated.

    Following along the same lines, a plan for your funeral and remains is a good idea too. I had a scary pregnancy complication last year that made me think about the true realities of what would happen to my family if I died, so I set up everything…how to handle my body, what kind of service I want, everything! That way my husband won’t have to make those decisions if I were to leave him alone with three grieving kids, and it keeps my parents from having a say in any of it, which was a concern of mine as well.

  41. Kate says...

    Don’t forget Guardianship. In most states, your Will only becomes legally effective when you die. But if you have children and you become unexpectedly incapacitated (from a brain injury, for example), your will may not be legally binding (since you are not dead). Guardianship gives you the freedom to choose who you wish to take care of your children if you suddenly become unable to, instead of them being given to the next of kin automatically, or placed in foster care.

  42. KL says...

    Unrelated, but related. I’ve made it a point to ask each person in my family very difficult questions about “end of life” care and burial/cremation wishes. It’s an awkward subject to bring up, but I’ve taken notes and every couple of years check back in to see if those are still the wishes. I realize there is a “legal way” of doing this, and my parents and one sister have made formal arrangements for that, but it’s helpful for me to have in a notebook someplace should I (God forbid) ever need it.

    • Meghan says...

      YES!

  43. Wow. Thank you. This has been on my to-do list for ages, and now it’s done and was so easy!

  44. Cynthia says...

    I am so glad for this post! Another thing-make sure the beneficiaries on your life insurance policies are kept up-to-date. Make sure you have some kind of mortgage insurance, which could be a declining balance policy so if something happens, your mortgage is paid off. Skip the do-it-yourself will. My brother’s will was not valid because he had not signed signed it, so he died intestate. It was a mess. We had issues with insurance policy beneficiaries because my brother was divorced and his ex was still listed as his wife on one policy. My mom was next of kin, so she got the money from the estate and the sale of the house. Making a will is hard because we are recognizing our mortality, but it’s important to get your affairs in order.

    • Elle says...

      This is so spot on. Anyone who owns property should have a will (including a car), and any little thing that is missing can be a trigger for invalidating your will (most states are crazy picky about who signs, where were they). You don’t want everyone running around after you’re gone trying to figure out paperwork, when they should be holding your spouse, parent or kid and talking about the good times.

    • Tara says...

      Yes to making sure your beneficiaries are kept up to date. Someone close to me lost their husband much too young, and the 401K he had at one of his first jobs had listed his sister as his beneficiary. He made this designation long before he met and married my friend, of course. As it turns out, my friend’s sister-in-law decided to keep the money and not transfer it over to my friend or her young children. Legally she had every right to do this, but it was pretty disappointing from a moral standpoint at an already fraught time.

  45. This is one of my weirdest examples yet of that phenomenon where you learn a word and then it starts popping up everywhere. Last night I stayed up til 2am (just a casual 4hrs past my bedtime) finishing The Cuckoo’s Calling by “Robert Galbraith” (aka J.K. Rowling). I came across the word “intestate” and looked it up… and now, 8 hours later, I find it in a Cup of Jo post! So bizarre.

    (Also, thank you for this post; my husband and I are 30 with no kids yet, so it’s easy to keep putting off writing our wills. But anytime I think about either of us having to deal with that grief AND the complication of no formal documentation of our wishes… ugh, it’s just such a terrible prospect. I really appreciate the fact that you explicitly listed reasons for people in our time of life to take care of this important task! I’ll be checking out Fabric for sure.)

  46. VP says...

    We had planned on making a will ever since we were pregnant with our first child. We also advised our parents to do so (medical, legal, and financial), but then ended up never doing it for ourselves! Dumb. We finally completed this task last week as we are in the process of selling our home, and in our state it only takes one to buy a home but two to sell a home (i.e. if one spouse dies and there is no will saying that the property goes to the other spouse, it is difficult to then sell that home).

  47. Carolyn M says...

    We have a revocable trust set up, that way we can save our families the trouble of going through probate (which is what you do with a will). We want to ensure that if something happens to us, our kids are taken care of immediately. We hate to think that family members might have to spend valuable time and money dealing with probate. Something worth considering if you didn’t know there were other options!

    • Jesse says...

      We did the same. Estate planning isn’t something to skimp on in my opinion!

  48. Vi says...

    Estate planning isn’t just for the wealthy. Some legal aid offices offer estate planning services to low income individuals so definitely worth looking into.

  49. Gillian says...

    We made our will more than 10 years ago (when our oldest was born). This is a good reminder to update our guardianship for our kids. We always planned to have my parents listed until my sister became old enough to take this on. Now she is and we never did make the change.

    On a MUCH more superficial note–can you tell us about Anton’s outfit. It is so cute and comfy looking.

  50. Vivian says...

    Legal document “kits” are a perilous undertaking and there is no substitute for an attorney. Your commetary is also very misleading. The Court will decide matters of custody with a will as a guide but it is not bound to follow your directive. Many parents follow your blog and you often give meaningful suggestions. However, this post is irresponsible. One year of law school should have clarified to you the important distinction between providing information vs. legal advice.

    • Emily says...

      Thank you for this, Vivian. I love Cup of Jo but I agree, this post was irresponsible. However, the topic is important and should at the very least get fellow readers thinking about their end of life plan. No one gets out alive, my friends.

  51. Karlijn says...

    This is such a good post. A will is so so so important. It doesn’t mean you will be dead tomorrow, but if you will be dead tomorrow a will makes it much more easier for the people left behind. And I think it is always a good thing to think about what will happen to kids/stuff/etc. when you die. It isn’t morbid, it’s just being responsible. X

  52. Sandy says...

    My partner is a financial advisor, the first thing he says to his clients is make a will, he gets nothing from this, but he feels so passionately about it because his family suffered when a relative died without making a will, it caused huge problems. We made a will, we took the view that better it was there and not needed than something happening and decisions being made by people who may not have had our children’s best interests at heart, or even known what their best interests were.

  53. This is so timely — I was literally asking my parents about the cost of creating a will just last night. My husband and I have two young daughters and recently bought our first house, and the process of creating a will has been nagging at us since our oldest daughter was born almost three years ago. I’m a lawyer and know we should have had this together ages ago, but it’s so easy for life to get in the way and to put it off. Thank you for posting this — we are going to look into it today!

  54. m says...

    I really have 2 thoughts after reading this …

    One is my grandmother who did everything right (in my mind) when it came to dying. She actually graduated from hospice twice! She even wrote 90% of her own obituary. She picked out the music, pre-payed for the casket, everything. It really let us actually mourn her instead of worrying about the details.

    Two going along with a will, and just as important, is designating a healthcare proxy and filling out advance directive forms!! I can’t tell you how many families I’ve seen fighting over what to do at the end of their family members life . Do you stay on life support? Do you want chest compressions? Do you want everything But chest compressions? What about tube feeding? Which would lead to a G/J tube placement …. you see where I’m going with this. You need to write down these wishes.

    • june2 says...

      I was so grateful to learn why the question of chest compression is even asked: it’s because it became a such an effective dramatic trope on TV that now lay people think of it as a necessity for life resuscitation when in reality and fight for it as a last chance hope when in fact it is literally useless as well as damaging to the patient’s body. Not to mention the administrators psyche.

      According to the podcast I learned about it from (do not remember which one but it was about a small town in the midwest famous for it’s proactive approach to end of life preparations), doctors always eliminate that option from their own directives, knowing exactly how useless it is. Very good to know.

  55. Kate says...

    we did ours when pregnant with my son. The lawyer was very helpful but so full on with her descriptions of all the possible circumstances, we both left feeling like OMG i cant believe we are going to die from such tragedies… oh wait we probably wont.

  56. Kit says...

    Portlandia inspired me to make a will last year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BayA10oLmM

    You can include some really interesting things in a will, like wanting a green burial, specific epitaph, or stormy gathering of your loved ones to announce their bequests at a haunted castle.

    • june2 says...

      I absolutely want a green burial – I’ve already picked out the most beautiful wicker casket, and no embalming – it is SO TOXIC. I will have a tree or possibly a wild rose bush or both planted on top. I used to want to be cremated but now that I know green burial exists, I want this final opportunity to give back to the earth, to offer a small gesture of gratitude for all the spectacular natural beauty I’ve experienced.

  57. Rachel says...

    As my wife and I were trying to decide who would be our children’s guardian if we died, it was helpful to remember that we weren’t deciding for their entire childhood; we could revisit our decision as our children grew. And we did. During our sons’ early years, it made sense that if the worse thing happened to their parents, they’d go live with my sister and her family a couple of states away. By the time our kids were 8 or 9, we decided to shift guardianship to a beloved and non-biologically related “auntie” who lived locally. Our sons are now 14 and the plan remains that if the worse things happens to us, Aunt J. will move into our family home and our kids will have some small semblance of stability and familiarity through what would be a life-altering time.

    This parenting gig is not for the faint of heart in so many ways, including needing to making some kind of plan if we predecease our children. But it’s part of the wide legacy we leave to them–even as we hope and pray that they never know of it.

  58. Sara says...

    In my line of work, we frequently deal with estates and heirs, and it is so much easier when people have a will. If not, we have to determine who inherited assets and that can be difficult to say the least. When we had kids it was so important to me to have a will so that we know our kids would be cared for and go to people we trust to raise them.

  59. Emily says...

    my best friend – older, with almost grown children – gave me great advice. She said it’s so unlikely that something will happen, so you have to think of it like a fantasy. In your happiest mind, who will care for your children & give them warmth through grief? Anyway, it helped us tremendously…and we actually organized a will signing party with a few couples. We set a deadline, threw a fun dinner party, popped champagne. The reward that I dangled as incentive—in addition to champagne? Hot fudge sundaes! It was a fun way to motivate. And also super delicious…

    • Kate says...

      Thank you for taking the time to write this! It moved me profoundly.

  60. Brooke says...

    I had to reschedule my appointment to have my will executed because my first baby arrived early! and, somewhat embarrassingly, I am a lawyer who should really have been more on top of the creation of a will!

    I would echo other comments saying it’s better to go to an estate planning lawyer to get this done though and, at least in Australia, wills are invalidated by marriage so it’s also important to regularly review them when your circumstances change.

  61. In my graduate program, we discussed advanced directives and wills during a death and dying course. I think young people should be more informed about the importance of creating a will. It’s not just for middle aged people or seniors.

    Happy Tuesday

  62. Harriet says...

    I would love to see a post about how you (and/or some other thoughtful parents) decided who to designate in their will to care for their children. Such a tough decision with many factors (which generation? How do you decide among multiple aunts/uncles of a child? How do you navigate potential family sensitivities with your choice?)

    • Lindsay says...

      I would like to see this too. The primary reason I don’t have a will is because my husband and I are having a tough time deciding (and seeing eye to eye) on this topic.

  63. Lily says...

    These family photos are very sweet.

  64. Vicky says...

    My husband’s biological parents died in an accident when he was 3 years old and his sister was 5. They did not have a will. It created a very difficult family situation because there were not legal guardians. Thankfully, they did have life insurance which was use to raise them when one of their aunts and her husband adopted them. A few days ago, this aunt, his mother, passed away without a will. Here is my husband grieving while taking care of every detail of her memorial and figuring out next steps on her estate.
    We did our estate planning (will, living will, health directives, etc) with a lawyer last year. I feel relieved knowing that our daughter will be taken care of if we passed away. Do your relatives a favor and make all these important decisions.

    • VP says...

      Yes, the will is really to secure your loved ones’ futures!

  65. Laura says...

    I just had my second child and “update will” was on my to-do list last weekend. And I totally blew it off. Thank you (and the universe!) for the reminder to put this back on my to-do list and just get.it.done.

  66. Kim says...

    It takes more time and money to draw up, but setting up a trust helps avoid a lot of headaches in the long run. These documents can help families avoid probate, which are the court proceedings that distribute assets based on a will. Probate can take years in some states (ahem, California). If one of my parents pass away, all their assets will roll over to the surviving spouse. When the second one dies it’ll come to us children, according to the trust. I’m currently working with a lawyer to make one for my parents and it’s giving me even more peace of mind because it makes their death plan even more safeguarded. I’m in my late 20s and never thought I’d become versed in this! Now I tell all my friends!

    • Roons says...

      Thanks for sharing v helpful

    • Alexia says...

      My grandmother didn’t have a will and it made things a nightmare for my family. My parents set up a trust as a result, because they offer an extra layer of protection.

    • Alexandra says...

      Thank you, yes, agreed. Especially if you own property and have children, it’s important to have a trust, in order to avoid probate (also in California here). The whole end of life thing is something most people are trying to avoid, but sometimes you are faced with it. I had cancer, and that made me think how fast this can happen. I feel a lot better with everything taken care of, will, trust, advance directive, etc.

  67. Angela says...

    Thanks!

    • Astrid says...

      Yes! thank you! I’ve really needed to get this done

  68. Carrie says...

    I planned to comment on how a lawyer can be an asset to estate planning and not just pesky person to avoid. I note, however, that several of my lawyer sisters already covered this. So, I’ll say this instead – most lawyers really want to help their clients and to offer guidance and counsel. It’s why we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on law school and several years studying our butts off. I can understand with the need to have sponsored posts, but the “no lawyer needed” sentiment is getting real old and people are suffering real harm because of it.

    • jones says...

      Yes to this post.

  69. Tara says...

    I have a two- and five-year old and I can’t decide who I would want to take over custody if something happened to my husband and me. I thought I had it all figured out until my son started school. Now it’s a decision that’s crippling to me as far as pulling the trigger, even though I am fully aware of why its so important (I don’t want someone else to make these decisions on my behalf). How do you make this decision when there’s not an obvious, or easy answer!

    • Irene says...

      Same here. I know I need a will but very sadly, there is no-one logical to take custody of my toddler (one very elderly parent close by, one set of parents and a sibling I’m not close with in a different country). I have no idea how to move forward.

    • We have the same exact problem. I’m glad you said something, because I always feel very alone on this. We have no family near us and I can’t imagine my school-age kids having to move and switch schools on top of mourning the most horrible loss. There are also no local friends who I’d feel comfortable making the guardians of three additional children. It really is a crippling feeling.

    • Becca says...

      Tara, when we were doing our will our attorney said “OK, just acknowledge that no one will raise your kids as well as you would and obviously this is the worst thing in the world to think about.” For some reason that helped, just getting it out there that *of course* this is a plan for the worst case scenario. But you still need a plan B.

    • JD says...

      Don’t let this stop you from getting a will done. As a previous poster mentioned, the named guardian is not set in stone – the Court will make the final decision (taking into consideration your wishes). Not having a guardian decided upon is one of the number one reasons ppl don’t actually get their wills done, but that is the one thing that the Court will definitely jump in on to help with. It is the other stuff that really truly needs a will.

      Even if you are silent on guardianship, but have everything else laid out, you are leaving your kids/family in a MUCH better position than if you died without a will.

  70. Cara says...

    Omg – everyone please consult with an estate planner and/or tax specialist first!! Yes, you can create a *legal* will online, BUT your family might be far, far, far better served if you do some other types of estate planning first/instead/together. A will that doesn’t take your unique financial circumstances into account could actually make things more complicated. For example, leaving all your assets to your minor children (who can’t legally own assets yet) instead of creating a special trust to hold your assets for them. But it’s state-specific…so ask a pro who knows!

  71. Anita says...

    If kids are in the picture, it might be a good idea to also have a life insurance policy. That way, guardianship decisions can be made without considering the financial burden it may impose.

  72. As an estate, trust, and tax attorney and professor, I caution individuals against using online software to draft their legal documents. I have reviewed many Wills created online. Trying to probate them often leads to hassles, which end up costing families more money and time in the long run. Also, frequently, online Wills do not accomplish the comprehensive goals of the person who prepared it.

    If you do create a Will online, please have an attorney review the provisions with you, before or after you execute it, so you know what you are signing (or have signed).

    I agree with the sentiment that every adult should have a Will (and Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Living Will, and, on occasion, a Trust). There is value in working with an attorney, at least at some point in the estate planning process.

    • Mallory says...

      I second that!

    • Kelly Campagnola says...

      Agreed. Lawyer up, people.

    • Katie says...

      Agree! I am an estate planning and probate attorney and have seen the unfortunate aftermath of some online wills. It’s more money up front but consulting a lawyer can circumvent a lot of problems (and save money in the end)!

    • Thirded! I’m fortunate enough to know a few lawyers and was lucky to have a former high school friend who went into estate planning. She was professional and made the process an easy one. I’ve recommended her to other friends.

    • Julie says...

      Absolutely!

    • Liz says...

      Could not agree more!

    • VP says...

      Does it need to be updated if you move out of state? Or is it transferable?

    • Cynthia says...

      I agree! Get a lawyer to draft a will. It will save a lot of headaches in the long run.

    • Allison says...

      yep. my husband and I are lawyers, and we won’t even do our own will – we will go to someone who practices in that area!

    • Marie Monroe says...

      As an estate planning and probate attorney, I run in to so many problems trying to implement and probate do it yourself wills or wills created on the internet. They cause more problems than they solve and end up costing you more than if you had just gone to an estate planning attorney in the first place. I strongly advise against it.

    • Molly says...

      This! I’m an attorney, but don’t practice estate law, and hired a competent attorney to do our will and trust after my son was born. Particularly if you have kids, this is not something you want to do online.

    • JD says...

      100% agree. A will should not be a DIY project. Having a well planned estate is a gift to those you leave behind. Even with the guidance of a program like this one, you can’t discount the legal advice of a professional.

    • VP – I want to answer your question about whether it is necessary to update your Will if you move to a new state.

      The answer is that there is no requirement stating that you must update your Will if you move. If your Will was properly executed in the state in which it was originally created, it will be valid in all states.

      However, when you move to a new state and become “domiciled” there, you are then subject to the new state’s estate tax laws. If those laws differ greatly from the state where the Will was originally executed, you may want to update it (as it may be lacking some helpful tax clauses. and there are some differing requirements for executors, depending on your state).

      When someone moves, it is recommended that they have an attorney in their new state review their Will (and other estate planning documents) to make sure the documents still effectively fulfill their goals.

      Even if a new Will is not necessary, I do recommend clients update their Powers of Attorney if they move to a new state. Similar to a Will, there is no requirement that the POA be updated when you move or travel. As long as the POA was executed properly in the state in which it was originally obtained, it is valid in all states. However, it will make the agent’s life easier if they are using a POA that is specific to the state in which it is being used. This is because representatives in the local financial institutions will be more familiar with their state-specific documents.

      Clients who have multiple residences, or travel often, will sometimes have a POA for each state (NY and FL, for example).

    • JoAnna says...

      Agree! A website — even one with a good mission — is no substitute for an attorney. Don’t mess around with something that may end up being invalidated due to failure to comply with local rules.

    • VP says...

      Emilee– thanks so much!

  73. Christy says...

    I agree that everyone should have a will. I disagree that it should be done online. As a lawyer, every week I see wills purchased online that are insufficient or invalid and need to be completely redone. A lawyer doesn’t cost much more than one of those online services, and it gets done right the first time. I agree with everything else you said though, about why it’s important.

    • VP says...

      Thanks for this important input. We just did ours on LegalZoom, and once we get the paperwork will make sure a lawyer reviews it too.

  74. Audrey Johnson says...

    Wonderful advice. A good point to remember is that once your children get older you will want to reevaluate your will. Things change as your family does and your age does.

  75. Kirsten says...

    My husband and I have really been dragging our feet on this, but this post has inspired me to start looking for a lawyer this week (anyone else feel like they are no longer in their own life when they say a phrase like “my lawyer”? Seems like such an impossibly adult thing). I’m sure this free service is an ok stopgap, but I’d rather sit down and talk with someone about all of the possibilities and local specifics.

    As a side note, in addition to a will, everyone PLEASE MAKE SURE that your partner/person and yourself make a detailed list of all assets/debts/accounts/passwords/etc etc etc and keep it somewhere safe, and add your partner as a beneficiary on accounts. My uncle passed away suddenly and tragically a year ago and had done none of this. It made the grieving process so much harder for my aunt and their girls because she had to spend so much time chasing down paperwork and dealing with bureaucracy. So important.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! to your second point: everplans is an AMAZING way to do this online. you can choose deputies, who get to see your info (and what exact info they each get to see).

    • KL says...

      My mom just showed me where her notebook of assets/ accounts/ passwords were. It initially made me very sad, but I realized how important it was. She also included her wishes regarding end of life care. She has legal paperwork that addresses this, too, but she wanted it to be in a place where we could easily access it if (God forbid) it’s needed.

  76. Sandra says...

    We JUST did ours through Legalzoom. Ideally we will sit down with an attorney IRL and revise it at some point, but we really wanted to establish guardianship for our son and also put our assets into a trust for his care if anything should happen to us.

    We did not have ideal people to name as guardians, but we chose the best people we could given the choices we had. It can always be changed, but I just wanted to get something on paper. It was hard, but I knew if we didn’t decide the court would and that could be even worse for our son and the rest of our family. It is hard to face your own mortality, but having a will doesn’t mean you’ll die right away. It just means if you do you’ll leave with your affairs in order.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      love this: “having a will doesn’t mean you’ll die right away. It just means if you do you’ll leave with your affairs in order.”

  77. TJ says...

    Get a living trust drawn up by a licensed attorney for your state. The living trust ensures that your designees don’t have to go through a painful probate process. Also, if you have kids, this should be part of your must do…even if you have a ‘plan’, the state can get involved and who wants to risk that their kids go into tha system?! No no no

  78. Lindsay says...

    Thank you for sharing this. When I read the title of the post I felt it in my stomach. Something we need to address, for sure.

  79. Karen says...

    A few years ago myself and my husband and our then 2 year old lived in Qatar. My husband and I both worked in the same building (for different companies) and one day we had to be evacuated due to the building swaying, I was on the 14th floor (we didn’t know then but there had been an earth quake nearby) My heart was racing, I had no idea what was happening and I didn’t get to see my husband until everything was over. The whole time I couldn’t stop thinking “if we both die who is going to look after our baby? How is she going to get out of the country?” All ended well and as a result we got a will drawn up ASAP, I will never forget that feeling, even writing this gives me the shivers

  80. Making a will is hugely important to make sure that your intentions with respect to your partner, children, property, etc. are handled properly after your death.

    But I would be extremely cautious in using any online software program to prepare a will and would recommend finding a reputable lawyer in your area instead.

    There may be estate considerations that you are not thinking about, there may be ways to avoid probate costs, there may be benefits to setting up a trust, having multiple wills, having powers of attorney, etc. that an online program cannot recommend for you.

    I am all about saving money but you get what you pay for. A will is one of the most important legal documents you will prepare and it should be done right. It should be reviewed by a lawyer and properly witnessed. Do not skimp where it counts.

    x Elise
    http://www.thirtythoughtstoday.com

    • TJ says...

      This

    • Marcy D says...

      Agreed. I was supposed to be exector of my parents estate assuming they both died but they had an online service draw it up and it actually stated that I was executor regardless and I had to sign off for my mom to sell my dad’s car when my family had just moved across the country.

      We later found a great local lawyer and got will, living wills, POAs, etc. I even got a temporary POA document for when we are out of town and others are watching our kids just by asking when I came back in with my mom. No extra charge.

  81. Rebekah says...

    This is great advice. As a surgeon, and one who does a lot of trauma I cannot argue strongly enough that EVERYONE should have an advanced directive and health care power of attorney. Sadly, you never know what can happen. Secondly, TALK to your loved ones about your wishes. Laws vary from state-to-state about who can override advanced directives. Let those who might make decisions on your behalf know what you would want if you were to have a devastating accident. <3 and helmets.

    • Amy M. says...

      Second this! Critical care doc here. Take it from me and Rebekah, please take the time to figure out who you want making decisions for you if you are ever in a condition wherein you can’t make your own medical decisions. If that person is not your legal next of kin (varies by state, check for yours), you must have a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) for Healthcare, otherwise the legal next of kin is automatically your decisionmaker. Advance Directives are different, that’s a way to communicate ahead of time what kind of medical care you would want if you are critically ill. Keep in mind though, a piece of paper is no substitute for heartfelt discussions with family members about Things You Hope Will Never Happen. The one-page Advance Directive worksheets one finds online or even in most doctors offices are not all that helpful in making nuanced decisions about goals of care or end of life. Google “Five Wishes pdf” to find a more thoughtful approach. This one is aimed at seniors but I encourage everyone to talk to their loved ones about scenarios like this. It’s not morbid, it’s a gift. If the unthinkable happens, you can relieve some of your loved ones’ burden by giving them a sense of what is important to you if you can’t speak for yourself. And yes, helmets!

    • Lauren says...

      Im in my thirties and a doctor (anaesthetics) and have been thinking about this a lot lately. I see things/do things to patients which I would choose not to have myself.
      I am going to see about drawing up an advanced directive for myself.

    • Meli says...

      <3 and helmets.
      Yes!

    • Georgia says...

      Yes yes yes. I agree 100% on advanced directives. My husband and I made ours in our mid-20s. I’m not sure any of our friends have them still now in our mid-30s, even though we talk about it regularly. Each state has one available online – just print and fill out – and you can take it to your primary care physician and they can scan it in to your medical files.

  82. Betsy says...

    Call your state bar and ask for a referral for estate planning. Make sure your will meets minimum state standards. Often fees for estate planning are far more reasonable than people would guess.

    You could remove a tooth at home with a pair of pliers. But it’s better to go to a dentist.

    • Lisa says...

      OMG, this. Yes. Please, wills are so state specific. I would be very cautious of using any online will planning feature. If you don’t follow your state specific statutes, you can create an entire, expensive mess for your family.

  83. Virginia Fay says...

    I love that you’re covering this! I actually work for a startup called FreeWill (freewill.com) that also provides free online legal wills, with a special focus on making it easy to include charitable bequests. I’ve learned more than I ever expected to working here and am blown away by how incredibly impactful planned gifts (charitable gifts in your will) can be AND how simple such an important step can be!

  84. Melissa says...

    I’m a big fan of the death-positive movement and its founder, Caitlin Doughty, recommends the creation of a “death plan” in addition to a will. This plan can outline big things like whether you want to be cremated or buried (and the specifics of how) right down to the minutiae, like if you want a particular poem read at your service. When I wrote my plan out a few months ago, I was surprised at what a moving exercise it was. At 28-years-old, it was the first time I’d ever taken a deep look at my own mortality.

    There’s a great Youtube video on the subject if anyone is interested in more detail: http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com/making-death-plan

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      That’s so fascinating, Melissa. I love love love Everplans, which helps you put all your information in one place (what bank accounts you have, important numbers like dog walkers and preschools, location of home contract and passports, etc.) in case something happens and your executor needs to figure out next steps. It makes me feel so organized and in control, in case anything happens it will make it so much easier for my mom/whomever. xoxo

    • Georgia says...

      I believe this can all be added to an advanced directive – which, I’m not certain, but am guessing, will be more respected/likely to be upheld.

    • I second this. I haven’t done one yet, but my mom had terminal breast cancer and she created very specific plans for her funeral and burial, and it was a huge relief to have that part of things already taken care of when she died. For example, her brother is a fundamentalist “preacher” (read: someone who does not share or respect our much more moderate beliefs) who wanted to give her eulogy, but she had already specified in her “death plan” that she wanted someone else to do it. It made holding that boundary so much easier for us and there was less tension as a result. I think most of us want to believe that when someone dies that everyone we love will be on their best behavior and get over their conflicts to grieve together, and that is sadly rare. You have to take that into consideration and protect your family from themselves. It’s the kindest thing you can do.

    • Sasha F says...

      Seconding how wonderfully Caitlin Doughty approaches this subject, love her books for a beautiful, curious, and brave look at death (care).

  85. Kara says...

    I’ve had Fabric bookmarked after you mentioned it in the comments of another post with the intention to look into it and possibly use it to create a will, as it’s something I’ve been putting off but know I need to do yesterday! Here’s my question though: how is this service free? By signing up for an account, am I making the data I put in my will data that they can use or sell? I’m not opposed to apps and tech companies collecting data from me per se, but for something like this that seems so personal, I just like to have a better understanding of how exactly they’re giving it away for “free.”

    Thanks as always for such thoughtful sponsored posts and content!

    • I think they offer that tool for free as a way to stimulate more business for their other products, like life insurance. When I read through their site, it seems like a basic will uses standard legal phrasing that can be sort of copied and pasted into different wills without their lawyers having to oversee each individual will.

      That said, as someone who has lost both of her parents in a little over a year, having a will with detailed information is extremely helpful to those you leave behind. Let people know your plans for end of life care, what to do with your remains, what assets/accounts you have, what debts you have. And perhaps consider a living revocable trust to avoid probate in appropriate cases.

    • Hey Kara, I’m the CEO and Co-founder at Fabric. Our main business is offering life insurance, and you do not need to buy a policy to create a free will. Thanks for asking!

  86. Rachel says...

    While this is better than nothing (and a great place to start) please know that you often get what you pay for in wills/estates services. If your situation is at all complicated (a chance people may challenge your choices/wanting to set up a trust for kids so they don’t inherit your entire life insurance policy at 18, etc) see an attorney. Most will do a free consult and let you know a price range. There’s also something to be said for knowing my heirs would have someone physical to go and meet with if/when something tragic happens. (I am an attorney myself and still hired another attorney to do this for me – it’s THAT IMPORTANT!)

    • Nicole says...

      Thank you for saying this! I was just going to make essentially the same comment. These online “wills” don’t often account for state specific requirements that ensure their validity in probate court (if that becomes necessary). Not trying to put down this company or what they may be trying to accomplish, but its always best to consult an attorney who is licensed to practice in the state where you live. Yes, it costs more, but it will cost your family less later on.

    • Lisa says...

      Yes!! As my wills & estate attorney friend always says: “online wills are often her best referral source.” You can unwittingly create far more issues.

    • Gen says...

      Same. I am an attorney 15 years out of law school and I hired an estate planning lawyer to draft my and my husband’s wills. This is really irresponsible advice.

  87. Katie says...

    Our local library had an “estate planning for beginners” session that my husband attended. We are also dragging after kid #2 appeared in Feb. A big takeaway for him was designating short term care – for example your brother is designated as caretaker but he’s cross country and couldn’t get there for 10 hours. Local short term prevents child services being called in. Not something I had thought of but a big deal for folks who don’t have strong local network.

  88. Laurie says...

    Make that will! Do it! Online, with an attorney, whatever works for you. It’s not difficult- you just have to do it. Do not leave the fate of your loved ones and assets to the state. Especially if you have any kind of (what the law would call) “unusual” situations- non-married status between partners, LGBT unions not-recognized-as-legal marriages, step-children, crazy in-laws… Specify your wishes in a will!! It sounds obvious now, but if you were to die, the grief for your loved ones will be tough enough. Give them the gift NOW of specifying your wishes in a will so they don’t have to face potentially heart-breaking legal entanglements in addition to grieving losing you. DO IT NOW!!!

  89. Hilary says...

    We’re expecting a baby so this is perfect timing! Do they have a section for a living well? I’m actually more concerned about that!

    • Hilary says...

      Ah living *WILL.

  90. Lizzie says...

    My mom recently gave me a copy of her will, “just in case,” and said she didn’t mind if I read it right away. I did, and I cried and cried. Seeing her concrete, well-thought-out plans for taking care of us kids was both incredibly touching and intimately terrifying. She didn’t put it off or shy away from any of the details, which took courage. That’s what it takes to be a good parent, I thought.

    • kaela says...

      Beautiful. I wish my parents had the courage to do this. It’s hard, but it’s a gift. xo

  91. Melanie Price says...

    We finalized our will when our youngest was months old. Even though it seemed odd and somewhat, ‘morbid’, we felt better making a plan-especially when it came to protecting our two littles. Once it was done and over with, we felt relieved and very…grown-up. We always encourage our friends to create a will but like you mentioned, it made them feel like they were planning their ultimate demise. Sad to think that the feeling of ‘utter doom’ prevents such an important task in life.

  92. Ellen says...

    Having a conversation with my parents about all the responsibilities my young adult brother and I had now they’ve updated their wills was disconcerting, but also really comforting. Everything is laid out precisely and we have no confusion about what will happen in the instance we need to execute them. And now we don’t have to think about it!

  93. Kathleen says...

    We finally wrote our will after our third son was born. It gives me great peace of mind to know that it is done, signed, and witnessed. It is very simple and my main motivation was having a guardian named for our kids and an executor named for our overall estate. Otherwise, it’s pretty simple, everything goes to our kids. This seems like a great resource – I wish I knew about something like this a few years ago! I’m even tempted to go through the Fabric Will process to see how it differs from the one we have on file…

  94. MB says...

    My parents didn’t have a will until my grandparents passed away. They had not made a will either and once it came down to it, my mom realized how much of a mess everything was. She was getting over her father’s death AND trying to figure out what needed to get done AND trying to take charge of a situation where there was no clear idea of who was in charge (she’s one of 5). Right then and there she decided she wouldn’t put her kids through that and made a will.

  95. Katie says...

    YES. For the love of all that is holy, write down your wishes, no matter how young and immortal you think you are. Who would you want to take care of your kids? Who should get your dog? What do you want to happen to your remains? Does your brother get your awesome stereo system, or your best friend? I have seen so many awful arguments go down and families torn apart and people left heartbroken because there were no plans in place. Set up a Power of Attorney and a Living Will for yourself, but also ask if your parents have one. Difficult conversations, at times, but so very important.

    • Kathleen says...

      Yes to the Powers of Attorneys! My parents went through a horrible situation a year ago. They are very pragmatic and organized and had paid a lawyer to make sure all of their paperwork was in place (wills, trusts, etc.). My mom ended up having a mental health crisis (severe anxiety attacks that made her delusional) and they discovered that while they had Health Care Powers of Attorney in place, they did NOT have Mental Health Care Powers of Attorney. In our state (Arizona), they are two separate documents. This was totally their lawyer’s fault for not informing them of this. Long story short, my mom ended up being committed and her care taken over by the state while my dad had to petition the court to become her guardian so he could make decisions for her. Thankfully, the court granted his request which allowed her to be transferred to a much better mental health care facility. (And a year later, she is totally recovered and doing great.) I was able to easily find templates for Health Care and Mental Health Care Powers of Attorney on our State Attorney General’s website (in some states, a Health Care Power of Attorney will cover mental health, but it varies state by state). You just fill them out, sign them, and have them witnessed by a non-relative. They cover things like whether you want to be an organ donor, how you want your remains to be dealt with, etc. too. It was very easy and I now have these filed with our wills for both my husband and myself.

    • Danna says...

      We did our original wills about 20 years ago, and just recently updated them, and also added living wills and power of attorney for each of us. So many things have changed in the intervening years, a new house, my husband now owns his own business, we have more assets, plus some family considerations we needed to address.

  96. Em says...

    We keep putting this off bc we have no clue where to start, and it gives me so much anxiety. I cringed when I saw the title of this post, but maybe this is a good place to start.

  97. katie says...

    We didn’t create our will/trust until our boys were in their 30s. The grandbaby was the impetus. All I can say is that we were ridiculously cavalier about something very important.
    Make a will. My parents had a will and a very detailed trust and it made my life so much easier as I was their executor.

  98. Allison Leedie says...

    Making a will has literally been on my to-do list since I found out I was pregnant…3 years ago. Thanks for sharing this great resource. I know sometimes people give you grief about sponsored posts, but I love hearing about new products and resources and I feel like you do a good job vetting them. Thanks for making a great online community!

    • Jessica says...

      Me too! I’ve been meaning to make one since my first son was born 4 years ago, but it’s always felt overwhelming. So this may actually be the impetus I need…looking into it now!

    • Laura says...

      This is me as well. Creating a will was on our to-do list while I was pregnant 2 years ago and my husband and I still haven’t even begun. Not only is the legal process of setting one up daunting, I also am at a loss of who to designate as our daughter’s guardian(s). There are aspects of each potential person/couple that make them a not ideal fit: primarily age (at both ends of the spectrum in the case of our parents and my brother-in-law who is still in college) and religious beliefs (my brother and sister-in-law). I also don’t feel like this is something of this magnitude is something that I could ask of any of my friends right now. I’m intrigued by Fabric and I will definitely look into it, but I still need to figure out the guardian thing – ack!

    • Ellie says...

      Laura, I was in your shoes many years ago. None of our choices felt right and it paralyzed me. One sibling and her husband were much older, another lived in the boondocks, another had a life style that made me anxious, and yet another was a very rigid parent. However, as others have said, isn’t it better for you to choose than to let the state get involved? Take a deep breath and make a choice for the time being. You can always change it. (And just remember, there is only the slimmest of chances that the guardians will ever be needed.)