I don’t always say STOP AND LISTEN TO ME RIGHT NOW … but right now, I am screaming with my arms raised up in hallelujah:
You Need a Will Right Now … or Better? A Living Trust!
Let me preface this by saying that this is NOT legal advice. I am not a lawyer, have no law degree, and can not personally help you with putting together a will or a living trust. I am just a heartbroken, stressed daughter of a recently deceased parent who is posthumously haunting me with his lack of care and attention to his estate.
Since December 16, 2023, my world has been absolutely rocked off its axis after my first dad’s death. I have been untangling webs of complete chaos and legal awfulness that honestly could have been entirely avoided if he had made a freaking will or put together a living trust. Today I read that Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss left his family without a will or trust in place, and now his widow has to go to court to receive part of his estate. Look, I’m sorry to be blunt, but this needs to be said: it is entirely irresponsible behavior for anyone who is (or was) married, has children (or step-children), has real estate, property, investments, a business, etc., to NOT have a will or a trust.
After someone passes, the last thing their loved ones need to deal with is courts and attorneys. We should be allowed to grieve in peace, and not have to deal with hire attorneys and fight bitter family members who aren’t in line to inheritance, the inevitable he said-she said arguments while also making sure things are getting taken care of. I can say without a doubt it is cruel that I am dealing with all these things, and I would never want to see someone else go through it.
I have been learning a ton about this process as I sift through it, and I wanted to share what I have learned with my readers because it’s all things I wish I had known before entering into this process.
Newlywed? New baby? Examine your legal documents! THIS IS THE TIME. Here is your sign!!!!
First, let’s discuss the difference between a will and a living trust.
What is the difference between a Will and a Living Trust?
I have learned a ton about finances from Dave Ramsey and his team at Ramsey Solutions has written a really easy to understand article about the difference between a will and a living trust. But, here’s the gist:
“A will is a legal document that explains what you want to happen when you die—and puts it all in writing. It outlines things like who you want to get your stuff, your money, and guardianship of your kids or pets” (source). Dave Ramsey goes on to say this is perfect for people with less than $1 million in assets. The fees for putting together a will are pretty nominal, and can be done without much fuss.
There are quite a few kinds of trusts that you can put together based on your wants and needs as well as your beneficiaries’ wants and needs, but a Living Trust is the most common. A Living Trust is slightly different than a will in a couple important ways:
- You cannot name a guardian for your children with a trust (but you can with a will).
- Having a trust allows your beneficiaries to skip going into probate
- Trusts generally are more complicated to put together and cost more
So, how do you know which is best for you: a will, a trust, or both?
Let’s say you have less than a million dollars in assets and no minor children? A will might be the best way to go.
If you have over a million dollars in assets and no minor children? A trust might be your best option.
But if you have over a million dollars in assets and minor children? You might want to consider both a will and a trust!
How do you put a will and/or a trust together?
First and foremost, you’ll need to research your state’s individual laws when it comes to what’s required to make your will and/or trust legally binding. Some states require attorneys to put wills and/or trusts together, some require notarization, some require witnesses – it’s all handled state to state.
Second, you’ll need to determine the size of your estate and assets, and your specific family dynamics.
Third, make the damn appointment!