PSA: Updating a Will

Here is your PSA reminder…
Have you looked at your will lately??  Or have you ever written one??

We put a will in place early on.  With five kids, we felt it was important to designate care for the kids when they were still at the age that they lived at home.  We also wanted to make sure our life insurance was correctly designated and that people who we trusted were in charge of executorship of the will.

For those of you who haven’t done a will, it’s really easy.  There’s a bunch of paperwork to it all…but other than that, it’s easy.

Of course, if you are one that wants to list every piece of stuff in your entire household and who it should go to, it’s a little harder…but still, it’s just paperwork even if you want to do all of that.

We have updated ours several times over the years.  Once Kelli was out of the house and only Kalissa was left at home, we designated that Kalissa would at the time, be cared for by Kelli.  It made sense to make the few changes we did.

Three years ago when Kramer, my husband, was dying of lung cancer, we decided again to go and make some changes.  The hard part…Kramer ended up too ill to go.  He was no longer able to make the 15-minute drive.  Instead, Kayla and I went.  We talked to the lawyer so we would know how things would go once Kramer passed.  It turns out things were okay because I was still living.

We were told that even if I passed, the will was still up to date and okay…so, I delayed updating it.  It was one of those things I knew I needed to do, but put off.

Last fall when my cancer flared again, I…
thought I wanted to revise it.  The kids were all adults now.  I felt comfortable that one of them could act as the executor.  Most of them had kids now so I wanted to make sure that each child’s share would go to their kids should one of their kids pass before I did.

With my cancer making death more of a reality than something far off in the future, I felt the urge to get things in place.

I wasn’t in love with the lawyer we had originally used so decided I would look into someone else.  Kalissa helped with that and I got the paperwork.  UGH.  I just hate paperwork.  Absolutely HATE paperwork.

I was sure I would get all the things collected that I needed for the revision while I was in isolation after my treatment in January…but that didn’t happen as I felt so sick.

I started with it all and as soon as I had to look up anything, I set it aside.  BLAH.  Did I tell you I hate paperwork?  Passionately hate it.  Not feeling well plus paperwork was too much for me.  So there it sat and I forgot about it all.

The other day I was cleaning the laundry room.  Somehow a pile of stuff had landed there and there in the middle of the pile were the forms that I needed to fill out for the will revision.

I picked them up and did it.  I mailed the info to the lawyer and the other day I got a call from the person working on typing it up.  She was clarifying Buck’s real name as “Kasjen”.  She wanted to make sure the spelling was correct.  She also asked if Karl’s name was “Kael”.  I said no Karl.  Both boys are named after grandfathers.

Then curiously she said, “In the area where you were to write an optional statement, do you want what you wrote included?”.  I asked her to remind me of what I wrote.  She said, “Don’t fight, things are just things.”  I said yes.  Keep that there.  She said that’s all you want to write.  I said yes.

She had a very curious sound to her voice.  I’m guessing that’s not the typical thing people write.

I told her what I wrote is completely “my voice”.  My kids will hear it, just as they know I would have said it.  I know it will be meaningful to them…and they will still listen to me even though I won’t be here.

They can figure it all out.  I don’t need a long laundry list of who gets this and who gets that.  Thankfully we aren’t a very materialistic family.  Many of the things of Kramer’s we’ve already divided out so that makes things even easier.

I know in some families there are family members that “come out of the woodwork” when there is a death in the family but I’m pretty confident that our kids will all be good.  Thankfully they have seen great examples of this on both my side and Kramer’s side of the family.

So, readers, that is your PSA:
Do you have your will done?  Does it need an update?

I know I feel TONS better that mine is done.

16 thoughts on “PSA: Updating a Will”

  1. Christine Jensen

    I teach Estate Planning as part of my job as an Extension Professor. You have done a great job, I wish more people would take this action, especially those with under 18 children. I love your statement about no fighting, it’s just things. If would all remember this, it would save a lot of heartache and ill feelings.

    Chris Jensen

  2. Susan MacLeod

    Good idea here Jo! I’ve never done a will yet, and I should as I’m 67, have a house and am multicraftual. I have 2 older brothers, no kids. I have no idea what I will do with all this stuff. My plan so far is to go thru stuff and get rid of what I can let go of.

  3. Kathy Shelton

    Getting ready to get one done as my husband died suddenly in March. Don’t want my children to have to go through all the stuff I have been through with the “paperwork”.
    I want to be fair but like you said, no fighting things are just things.

  4. Shirley from Calmar

    One small suggestion that meant a lot when my Mom passed away. Most trinkets or special things we gave her, she put our name or the grandkids name under. Any greeting cards or letters were either returned to us previously or were in drawer with our name on it. Even most of her furniture had a name on it, probably we either bought it for her or helped in some way with it. So when she passed us kids all gathered in the living and went room to room sorting it out who’s was who’s. The stories and comradery was very soothing especially since her apartment had to be emptied ASP. Once everything was divided, everyone pitched in and cleaned her apartment, then took our little treasures home for each of our families. We gave our kids the items she had put their name on. Many of the grandkids things included pictures or sayings or hand made cards they had given her. Their main comment was that it was neat because it was in her handwriting. The items meant nothing, but her thought of them did. Now I need to get better at doing the same. Since I have recently lost a daughter to covid, I need to reassign some items so her kids, my grandkids, can appreciate what would be hers.

  5. I worked for an estate planing attorney so I have a will, but it is too old. I have mentioned a few times that we need to get wills done, but like so many people, we put off. Since we have a “blended” household, I have done what is called a memorandum that lists certain items I want specific people to receive. For me that is important because I have family items that should stay in my family – like my grandmother’s oak, drop leaf table, also a little sewing rocker that was made by a distance relative of mine. I also want my good jewelry to go to my daughters, not stepdaughters.

  6. Good advice, one should have a will. Having lived in many states during our married life it’s amazing to me how each state differs when it comes to will. We usually get ours out and read through it every 5 years and discuss it. We have nothing of great value but there are some items that we wish to leave to someone, be it one of our children, godchildren etc. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Definitely helpful to have a will. Hubby and I did our first one shortly after our first child (40+ years ago!). After working with a financial planner we re-did them because our children were all adults. I now work with a financial planner and when wills are done, estates are much easier to deal with. This is a great reminder to all that this should be done. Our children all have theirs done, even those with no children.

  8. While doing your will, be sure to also do a healthcare directive so that your wishes for care are known if you are unable to communicate them. So much kinder than forcing someone else to try and make decisions for you. You need to have someone you trust and who is willing to serve as your durable power of attorney.

  9. We actually just did this a week ago but also did a power of attorney and medical power of attorney and living will. The hardest I found was picking which child to do the work. In the end we picked our daughter, then youngest son and a note in the will why we did t pick our eldest – he is military and we never know where he will be so we both thought this will take the pressure off him. We had that written in the will so he will not feel slighted

  10. We actually just did this last week but also did medical POA, general POA and living will covering all things once and for all. The hardest thing was picking which child to do what so in the end we picked our daughter, then youngest son and a note in our will why not our eldest son – he is military so we never know where he will be and felt this takes the pressure off him

  11. Great advice, Jo! My father-in-law didn’t have a will and it would have been so helpful if he had!
    Yep – we have a will, a living will, medical power of attorney, and a trust. Beneficiaries are all listed, stipulations in place. We still need to go through our possessions and either label or list them so everyone knows where they go.
    My mother had to go to assisted living many years ago; my sisters and I helped organize everything and listed where items should go when Mom was through with them. It was a big old farmhouse, so many things were taken to our homes at that point, but we knew how to divide up her remaining things when the time came. One of my sisters used a video camera and recorded our mother telling the history of many of her things – the old silverware that came from her mother’s side of the family, the Sunbonnet Sue quilt, a lot of the old family furniture, etc. Later my son digitized the recordings so we could give each descendant a flash drive with them – and they’ve already been used to check some of the family history.

  12. My sil asked us a few years ago if she still had to take our kids. No they are grown now so you are off the hook We have ours updated and even have trusts in our own names.

  13. We have had a trust since 1981 and have updated it periodically. In fact it is out on the computer now and I am typing up amendment #6. Many things have changed in the past 40 years so we try to keep up with it. As I sit here in my living room I realize there are many things they will not want… or need. I’m sure there will be an estate sale but I am going to designate that any quilt they do not want must go to the homeless/needy folks in the area.

  14. My husband and I recently did a trust along with our will. We live in Arizona and the lawyer told us that probate can take up to two years out here and the trust will keep us out of probate. We also have completed our funeral arrangements. We are blended family and all our kids are adults so we wanted to make sure that things were divided as we wished. It’s time consuming with the paperwork but well worth it for the Peace of mind.

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