I really do try to listen to my own advice (I can be smart on occasion, after all), so we met with a lawyer to create our estate documents. By estate documents, I mean:
- Healthcare Powers of Attorney (POA)
- Durable Powers of Attorney
- Living Wills
I have a lot of knowledge about these documents, and I regularly advise clients to get them. However, I learned a few things that I just would not have truly understood without going through the process myself:
- Picking people you trust as your executor, POA, and your children’s guardian is hard. They are big jobs! Especially asking someone to care for your kids!
- You and your partner will have different ideas. You need to find a way to incorporate both of your visions.
- Lengthy conversations need to be had BEFORE you visit the attorney. The attorney’s office really didn’t seem like the place to hash a lot of this out (luckily, we did discuss beforehand!).
So, here is how the process went:
- We called the attorney’s office to schedule an appointment. An associate guided us to a LARGE list of documents and information we needed to gather before our meeting.
- I spent a few days filling out the forms and gathering the requested documentation. Honestly, tracking down all the statements and policy information was the hardest part.
- Will and I discussed who we wanted to be our executors, powers of attorney, and our daughter’s guardian. This took some time, but we landed at agreement. Note: you and your spouse are generally listed as the primary executor and POA for each other. Then, you each get to choose backups, and they don’t have to be the same people your spouse chose.
- We thought we were ready for the meeting. HAH!
- The night before our meeting, I briefly brought up the topic of testamentary trusts because I *assumed* that was what we would do for Allison should we both pass away while she is a child. This led to us realizing we had different opinions on that matter, which led to a lot more discussion.
I was glad we had time to talk about it thoroughly before the meeting! It’s important to have a clear understanding of your partner’s wishes. However, you can’t have that understanding if you haven’t talked about it. Don’t make the mistake of just assuming you know what they want to happen. Ask.
- We came to an agreement and felt confident we could explain what we wanted to the attorney.
- We got to the attorney’s office and found out they really did not need all that information we gathered… so maybe double check to see if you need to go through all that work before you show up.
- We met with our attorney who was kind, non-intimidating, and explained things well. Honestly, we didn’t have to be all that prepared to “explain what we wanted,” because she had a good understanding of what we were looking for. Remember, this isn’t their first rodeo. They’ve probably done hundreds of these wills and documents.
- We were in and out in half an hour. The attorney walked us through a few details, easy peasy.
- A week later, the attorney’s office emailed drafts of the documents to review. I’ve seen a lot of documents before, so I could tell they were pretty standard. We simply responded that they were fine, and we scheduled a meeting to execute the documents.
- We arrived at the office and got to signing. It was a lot of documents to sign and initial, but it still only took about half an hour. They sent us home with a few copies to give to family members, doctors, etc.
All in all, it was a straightforward and smooth experience. It did not feel overly intimidating or time consuming. It gives me peace of mind knowing that it’s done!
No one wants to get their estate documents done. It’s one of those things that, for the good of your family, you JUST HAVE TO DO! Here are other easy tips to get you started.