Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Do your family a favor. Write a will.

Michael died without a will.

He and I talked about things a little bit, and in our last night together, his first night back in the ICU, he wrote some notes about his wishes for some of his instruments and other possessions.

But he did not have a will, which means we are going through probate. This is annoying, but not critical, at least so far. I happen to have a friend from college who is a lawyer, so I have someone to take me through the process and keep me from making any mistakes.

Michael and I did do some things to prepare, like making sure that I had knowledge of and access to all of his various online accounts - this blog, his email, bank accounts and the like. Please note that I am doing nothing with the bank accounts, as that would be illegal, but knowing where they are is going to be a huge help in sorting out his estate.

I understand why he didn't want to make out a will. It involves thinking of yourself as being dead, which is a hard thing to do, and many many times harder when you know that you are indeed going to die soon. It was hard for me to bring up, and I wasn't the one who was dying.

Today, I'm asking you to do something for your family.

Actually, several somethings.

1. Make out a will. Get a lawyer if you can afford it; if not, at least write our your desires and get it notarized. There are a lot of sources for doing this online; depending on your state, the rules vary.

2. Make sure all of your bank accounts are "POD" or "Payable on Death" so your heirs won't have to get affidavits to get your money. If you have a safe deposit box, get your executor or heir added to that as well.

3. Make sure your online accounts are accessible to your heirs - some sites, like Facebook, do a nice job of allowing relatives to easily request that a user's profile be "memorialized" but not all do. I use a password manager (LastPass) to keep track of all the sites I use, my usernames and my passwords. This has a side benefit of making it easy for me to use unique complex passwords for every site, increasing my security while I am alive. And after I am dead, my heirs can use one password to unlock everything.

As soon as we get through dealing with Michael's estate, Christina and I are going to meet with my friend the lawyer and get our wills in order.


Kari said...

Excellent advice, Kevin. Another thing to consider if you have anything of value to leave to your heirs is a living trust. That way they don't have to go through probate and pay those court costs. I know when my dad died, even though he had a will and his house and truck were fully paid for, it still cost almost $4000.00 in probate fees for a judge to look at the will, say, "Yes, that's his signature" and wait the 3 months to see if anyone contested the will before my brother and I were able to use the truck or make any changes to the house.

Wendy said...

Thanks for a detailed list of what to do, Kevin. I will sit down with John & do this once we get all of Jack's affairs in order.

Much love,

Anne-Marie said...

Learning lessons in Norma and Michael's passing. Good list to have. We have the living-will part, but need to make out this one also. Thank you for reminding us that death, while unpleasant to think about, it part of living and we are in charge of what happens.

RachaelHD said...

I tried to convince Michael to deal with a will, really I did. When my biological father Michael died, it was an enormous pain in the butt that he didn't have a will or a durable power or attorney, or any of that stuff. so let me add my plea to Kevin's, a will! Even if you only do it once and it's outdated, just have a will made.

CreepyKate said...

Kevin... I want to say that this blog was so important for me while Michael was here- so I could stay in touch with his physical health while leaving our conversations and time together focused on things we liked to talk about and the things that made us friends. Now that he is gone, I'm so thankful for the stories and time you are putting into it as well.

Chad said...

Kevin-You have made lemonade out of lemons for everyone who has been privileged enough to follow this blog. Your posts are very informative and well-written. As an attorney, I have no excuse not to have a will, but because of your post, I now intend to get one drafted by a colleague who specializes in this area of law. Please keep the posts coming.

Post a Comment