When I turned 18 and joined the Army, I knew that if anything happened to me, my parents would be the legal heirs of my body and my estate. I felt pretty confident that they knew my final wishes and never bothered to write a will beyond what the Army required.
Eventually, I got married and I knew that my spouse would be the legal heir and guardian of all that was mine. We had discussed our final wishes. Again, I felt pretty confident that he would honor them and never wrote a will.
Since then, my parents have divorces. I’ve had a child. I’ve gotten a divorce. (Because everyone gets divorced, here’s proof). I’ve also witness family friends battle through probate court and deal with the heart wrenching guilt of taking a loved one off of life support.
I realized that if I died, my mom will get custody of my body and be my de facto medical power of attorney. My minor son will inherit all of my assets, which really means my ex-husband would inherit it on his behalf. My parents would have no legal standing to ever see my son again. And if anyone, including my best friend or next-door-neighbor, doesn’t like this, they can challenge it in court.
And that sucks. So I did something about it. I hired a lawyer. An amazing lawyer (shameless plug to go see Maija if you’re local: moxie-lab.com).
Maija and I created an revocable estate and I transferred everything I own into it. While I’m living, I am the only one who can manage this estate. But if I die, my brother takes over as manager on behalf of my son. I also created an advanced medical directive – outlining my medical wishes and final wishes – protecting my family from having to make these decisions for me and allowing them to just grieve.
We outlined what should happen to my son and implicitly stated that my parents are entitled to visitation. We also created an electronic power of attorney – which allows my brother to legally access all of my digital information and notify all of my contacts of my passing.
This process took about a month and cost me a couple thousand dollars. Well worth the time and effort.