I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What "Will" You Do?

I didn’t make any formal resolutions, but next year I'm copying my six-year-old son’s list. As his first New Year’s resolution, he wrote: “My news years resolution is to do nothing. First, I will eat a Snack. Next, I will watch tv. Last, I will take a nap. I Hope I can keep my new years resolutions.” Sounds easy, right? But he needs little sleep, so I’m not so sure he’ll take any naps. If only I could take them for him. 

Whether you make any resolutions or not, a new year often ignites a spirit of goal setting or good intentions. But good intentions are useless if you don’t follow through. One thing people intend to do, but put off, is writing their Last Will and Testament.   

Listen, I really wanted to write a fun post. Wills? Arrangements? They're not exciting, but you never know when they'll be needed. So here’s your friendly reminder that it’s time to write your will, plan your estate and get your act together.

My husband, Jack, was one of the most thorough men to walk the planet. He drafted a will within a month of discovering I was pregnant with our first child. At his insistence, we chose guardians before we'd become parents. He bought life insurance to provide for his growing family, just in case. I was so thankful for his wise provisions when he passed away suddenly from a heart attack at 45, leaving me with seven children, ages 20-1. Now, all those plans and papers became very important to me.

On top of devastating grief, I was terrified there'd be a glitch somehow, maybe we'd missed a payment, and the life insurance wouldn't pay out. (Thankfully, it did.)

It's your turn. Are your affairs in order? Or are you so overwhelmed you don't know where to begin? If so, don't stop reading. This blog's for you.

1. Start a notebook with the following information:

--Your general information: name, address, social security number, occupation, education, and contact person.

--Military Service: branch of service, serial number, date entered, type of separation or discharge and date, location of discharge papers (DD214), highest grade or rank, wars/conflicts served, medals/honors/citations, and any additional information.

--Date and Location of your Will. Executor/Executrix, and contact information for attorney who prepared the will.

--Banking Information: Name of bank, account number. Safe deposit box location, box number and key location.

--Credit Cards: Name, account number, expiration date, and contact number.

--Life Insurance: Name of company, policy number, and beneficiary.

--Real Estate Holdings: Description, address, and deed location.

--Financial Assets: mutual funds, stocks, bonds, vehicles. Type/description, location.

--Personal Requests: List all family heirlooms and items of sentimental value. Name beneficiary of each.

--Passwords (Optional): Yes, I suggest writing them down.  (Some—including my late husband—might call that a "no-no." But just try settling affairs without them.)

Having this kind of information available to your next of kin is invaluable. Just be sure to store your notebook in a safe location.

2. Make a will and make sure the prominent people in your life know pertinent details; such as which individual or law firm holds the original document.

--Appoint guardians for any minor children. It’s hard to imagine anyone else raising your children. Do it anyway. Never leave this most important decision about your children to chance.

3. Buy life insurance. Get as much as you can possibly afford. Divide your proposed amount of life insurance by your annual salary. Is it enough to provide your loved ones with financial security?

4. Consider pre-planning funeral arrangements. No one wants to think about dying. Making those kinds of plans never make it to the top of your to-do list. But planning a funeral after a sudden death condenses all the stress associated with wedding arrangements into a single day. But, instead of a looking forward to a happy occasion, you're making expensive and permanent decisions while living out your worst nightmare.

Finally, if you’ve made all the above arrangements, congratulations! You’ve done the most “grown up” and responsible planning of your life. But sometimes information and decisions become outdated. The choice of your child(ren)'s guardian changes as everyone grows older. Also, if you've relocated across state lines, your designated executor may be ineligible to fulfill that duty.

Whether you're sorting through your papers to de-clutter your home office or for tax purposes, it's a great time to review your arrangements and make sure everything is up to date. Isn't your peace of mind and your family's security worth it?

~Roxanne Sherwood Gray


  1. By downloading Firefox I'm able to access. Thanks, Roxanne. Years ago living in a wood-fire heated log cabin near Alaska Hwy., I schooled my sons in what to do and essential paperwork to gather in case of fire. When a nearby family did have a fire, my younger then 12-year-old son helped the mom carry out young children and schooled her in all essential steps. Their roof fire was put out and home saved, by the mom was impressed and I was thankful that my son was calm informed help. Thanks Roxanne for a vital helpful post.

    1. I applaud you for teaching your sons at a young age to gather essential papers in the event of a fire. Thanks so much for believing this is a vital post.

      I'd love to know more about your own story. One that begins: "Years ago living in a wood-fire heated log cabin near Alaska Hwy..." has me hooked.

  2. Roxanne, great thoughts. We've done some of this, but I love the notebook idea. I'm passing this on to my honey. And, since he's got a lot on his plate right now, I'm asking him how I can help. :) I'm sorry you had to go through what you did, but I'm so thankful your husband made it easier for you by having things all ready for "Just in case." I so appreciate you sharing your knowledge here. Thank you!

    1. I don't wish anyone to experience the loss of a spouse, but if I help one person, this post will be worth it. I'm glad you like the notebook idea. I hope it brings you peace of mind.

  3. Roxanne, what a great post about a difficult task--putting your house in order, I call it. I've made a will, but the notebook is a wonderful idea. Will put that in place now as well.

    I'm so sorry you had to learn the ins and outs of this post so early, but thankful your husband was such a wise man.

    1. Though he was wise, my husband's job was providing computer security for the government. So, his passwords for our family information were uncrackable and weren't written down. If he'd known how much trouble it would have been for me without them, I think he would have given me a notebook full of them.

      Maybe I should've called this post: "Putting Your House in Order."

  4. Roxanne, this is such a great reminder to prepare for the future. When Hubby and I got married, he created a will while in the service. That's extremely outdated now, especially since our youngest isn't listed by name. And we've had life insurance since the day we said "I do." I love the notebook idea too. One more thing I'd add is to make sure house titles and car titles are in both spouses' names. When my step-dad died, my mom had a hard time with their car because her name wasn't on the title.

  5. Lisa, Great advice to include house and car titles. Thanks so much!

  6. Also, I recommend listing both spouses' names on the utilities. If they're currently listed in one name, just add the other person as authorized on the account. (They won't talk to you if you're not "authorized" even if the authorized person is deceased. I had to send in a death certificate to each one.)

  7. Very wise, Roxanne! Thanks for these tips.

  8. You're welcome. I'm glad you found them helpful.

  9. Thanks for such a good reminder PLUS the practical tips, Roxanne!

  10. Good advice! My husband and I opted for a Trust instead of a will since wills can be detested. A Trust cannot.

    It felt strange at age 45 arranging things for when we are passed, but we know it is the right thing to do for our son. Our planner asked us a lot of thought provoking questions. But your list is very helpful! Things we hadn't thought of before.


    1. Ruth, Thanks for mentioning Trusts. I need to look into them.