Someday you are going to die. What if that day comes sooner than you expect? What if it happens tomorrow?
Here are the slacker mom’s steps to “getting your affairs in order.”
1. Realize you need it
It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you have an “estate.” You need life insurance if you are responsible for anything or anybody. At the very least, someone is going to have to pay for your funeral and the disposal or preservation of your remains. Don’t hurt the people you love by leaving them with no money to pay for it. Or make sure the people you love are rich.
If you have a partner, spouse, and/or children, someone is going to have to take care of them if you die. Leave enough money for them to do that. At the very least, get a life insurance policy. They are not expensive, especially if you are a non-smoker.
Also? Quit smoking. What the hell is wrong with you?
1a. Get over yourself
Step 1a is to realize your own mortality and obsess about this realization for a few years, even ending up in therapy because you cannot stop imagining your own grisly death, and writing letters to your dead friends about how angry you are. After all that, you must read books about the various ways you can suddenly die and leave your babies without a mother and how if you are not prepared they will end up being raised by your crazy in-laws (if you have those, which I do not, of course) and grow up to be unhappy drug addicts.
And so then you must google “estate planning” and “will” and you will discover that in your own state there are lots of rules about what you have to do to make the process as painless as possible for your surviving spouse and your children. All of this googling will rekindle your extreme fear of death and of your babies growing up without a mother, and this fear will paralyze you for a while, until you flip through the channels one night and Suze Orman tells you about her free will and trust planning kit and you will think “that’s easy!” and you think tomorrow you will just get off your butt and get started.
Now you are ready to poke around among actual resources. This is the time when you will schedule an informational session with an estate planning lawyer, and you will amass a pile of paperwork to help you decide how much your estate (haha, “like we have an estate,” you will think as you clip coupons to save 55 cents on peanut butter) is worth, and you will make your husband take the morning off of work, and you will sit with him through the lawyer’s emotional presentation in which he tells you how his wife died suddenly, leaving him with two little girls to raise on his own, which is why he is so passionate about helping families prepare for the worst, and why he includes a custom kit for you to record precious memories and life’s little instruction package according to you for your children to watch or listen to after you die. And you will weep through the entire meeting until he gets to the part where he says the whole process will cost $5,000 and you realize what a big mistake this was because you just searched through the couch cushions to scrounge up enough crumpled dollar bills to cover the parking fee at the lawyer’s fancy office building. And your husband will scoff at the fee and be annoyed that he skipped an important work meeting for this?
Then you must go home and lick your wounds and put the giant pile of paperwork away for a very long time.
4. Figure out what you need
Instead of saving money to pay $5,000 to a lawyer, you now turn again to Suze Orman and google and Estate Planning For Dummies, because it’s all just paperwork, isn’t it? But it’s complicated and you’re not sure exactly what you need so you stay up late for many days surfing the internet and cross-referencing. And you finally figure out that you need to start with a trust. Baby steps.
[A trust – in my limited understanding – is a legal entity that owns things just like a person does, and it really only exists in the imaginations of lawyers. But it’s the law. If you own your house and you die, the house goes into “probate” which means the technical ownership of the house is in question until the court signs the necessary documents to grant the ownership to the next of kin or whomever you designate as the beneficiary in your will, IF YOU HAVE A WILL, which you do not. But if the trust owns your house and then you die, the trust still owns your house, but there are special instructions in the trust that say who gets the house after you die, and since you paid the lawyers to make the trust, they don’t come after you in probate to make your family pay more after you die.]
5. Make a list
So you will print out the trust form and think “look what I did all by myself!” and then you will see that you have to have the trust notarized, which means another morning that your husband will have to take off work, and so you will wait another few months with the list item “Get trust notarized” growing moldy on your to-do list.
Stay tuned for Adventures in Estate Planning: How To Offend Many Actual Lawyers!