If the shitteth hitteth the fan... I would like x, y and z?
June 6, 2015 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Inspired by reading this post today, I would like to get my affairs in order so that folks know what to do in the event of my death or severe disability. See below the fold for my question in two parts....

1. What legal paperwork do I need? A will would be very simple - I have mostly liquid accounts and I want everything to go to one particular person. I would also like an advance healthcare directive that gives the same person end of life decisions. But I would like both of those to have the best chance of being respected. Also, is there anything that I am missing?

2. Does anyone have any recommendations for where to go to complete this documentation in the Bay Area, CA?
posted by susiswimmer to Law & Government (11 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have a lot of confidence in Nolo Press's products. If you really just need a simple will, you get one done on-line for $35. I'm assuming they will tell you print it out and have it notarized. (Another $15 or so). You can also find on-line health care directives for your state (for free). Depending on the state, you may or may need a notary for your signature but I think it worth a few dollars to avoid complications later. Here is the one from the California State government site.
posted by metahawk at 12:19 PM on June 6, 2015

Best answer: Liquid accounts are easy to handle in that you can designate beneficiaries within the account itself. It may be as simple as entering their name online, depending on your bank.
posted by Karaage at 12:26 PM on June 6, 2015

Best answer: Go to a lawyer and have the documents done right. The "do it yourself" approach may or may not work. Read the Nolo books to be an informed client, but do consult a lawyer.

Many accounts allow for a "transfer on death" designation that many people prefer to use. The lawyer can discuss that with you.
posted by megatherium at 12:35 PM on June 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I found after getting a trust and healthcare directive done, there was still not a lot that would tell a person how to dismantle my life. So I spent a ton of time putting together a master document that I stored on a USB drive and gave to a friend to put in their safe. It has all my account numbers for house stuff (water, gas, cable, electric, etc) as well as financials, lawyer who drew up the trust, tax guy, services that will need to be paid and stopped for my house, doctor's phone numbers, locations of important documents, my dog's vet and who I'd like to take him, user names and passwords for things like AppleID, email, what I want done with me after death... It's 5 pages long. And since my life is mostly on ebills, there is no other paper trail to help someone. Even the trust doesn't list much in the way of specifics. So how would they know what was part of it? Anyway, as a single person I felt so much better knowing that the person who will have to be my executor will have a somewhat easier job. It's a morbidly satisfying task!
posted by cecic at 1:05 PM on June 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The one thing you did not mention is power of attorney, someone who could handle bank accounts and whatnot for you if you were alive but could not do this yourself. Should also think about: retirement accounts and IRA designees if you have those things, what happens with pets, how to notify people on social media, lists of debts, that sort of thing.

I'd be interested to hear how other people have approached this.

The state of Vermont does this thing. I carry a card in my wallet, it links up to a document held by another company that has all my personal details. Your state may do a thing as well, worth looking into.

My sister and I share a safe deposit box that has both of our wills in it and we each have keys. I have an envelope in there with passwords and other stuff. Pretty sure she does as well.

The biggest thing to keep in mind that is that if your life is super-average according to US expectations, this is all easier. It's more important (in a "really go handle this now" way) if you're doing something out of the ordinary and/or you have family members who you do not see eye to eye with. When I was dealing with my father's death (article linked in that MeFi post) a lot of things were easy because he was divorced, I was his executor and next of kin and no one was weird about it. If someone had decided to be weird, it would have been a mess. So if you're in a domestic partnership situation or you have a special friend who is not family, or you're married to a same sex partner and living in a state that may not recognize that, it's especially important to get that sorted as legally as possible.

And otherwise, make sure you tell the people close to you what your wishes are (in addition to writing it all down) because a lot of this stuff will come down to, say, the funeral home saying "Did they want to be cremated?" and the closest family member saying "Uh....." and then whatever they say next may be what happens if people aren't clear on your wishes. It's good to get this taken care of.
posted by jessamyn at 2:07 PM on June 6, 2015

Best answer: My Mom just passed away. The Hospital thanked us for having her Advanced Health Care Direction in hand, which was possible because I had a folder with her info within easy reach. The 'within easy reach' bit is key. Once you get your paperwork together, give folders or manila envelopes to some people you trust. Whoever your ICE contact is should have a copy.
posted by dws at 2:17 PM on June 6, 2015

Response by poster: Wow! A lot of good answers in here. Thank you.

Fortunately, my life is pretty straight forward (I'm single and I've been streamlining accounts and possessions for a few years now) but there are some family members that the state would consider the immediate next of kin that I don't want within a country mile of making any decisions. Hence the desire for 'be respected'!

I found dws' link to the information on ICE really helpful, because a concern I couldn't untangle was how to make sure the right folks are contacted. Very much along the lines of deludingmyself's concern. So now both my iphone and my blackberry have ICE information on the lock screen. (I used the over app to add text to my lock screen picture for the iphone, and blackberry has an option under the display settings to add text to that lock screen.)

Now that I know what types of papers I want drawn up based on the above resources, my ICE contacts will have those as soon as they are done. So hopefully that information will be in the hands of whoever needs it as quickly as possible without taking extreme measures....

And a list of accounts and necessary info (including a list of people to contact and what the keys on my key ring go to) is already prepared and in a secure location. And any accounts were I can list a direct beneficiary I have done so.

Thanks guys for helping me adult.
posted by susiswimmer at 3:48 PM on June 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

I used to have a list of accounts and relevant info in a secure location, but the problem was that A) it was frequently out of date, and B) I didn't want that kind of information laying around in paper form. So now I have a Google document that I am constantly updating with a list of information someone will need in the event of my untimely death: the name and phone number for my car insurance provider; the locations of my bank accounts; where I keep my PO box key.

I listed my sister's email address as my Gmail recovery address. In the event of my death, she will access my account. She did the same thing with me. I don't have to worry about whether my next-of-kin has an updated copy of my records; she just has to sign in and it's there. And if she signs in while I am still alive, I will be notified that someone has accessed my account.

Every January 1, we send each other an updated email called "In Case I Die," re-iterating where to find this stuff. It's not for the legal end of things; it's for the practical nitty-gritty of, "Shit, I don't live around here - where is her bank actually located?" or "What was the name of her doctor?"
posted by sarling at 4:15 PM on June 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My comment on today's FPP promoting the Get Your Shit Together website agrees with this answer:

Go to a lawyer and have the documents done right.

At the very least, please don't expect forms you buy online to actually accomplish the legal results that you want. The tiny print in the footers of generic legal form websites often try to say things like: not legal advice LOL don't sue us when your will is rejected by the court.

Does anyone have any recommendations for where to go to complete this documentation in the Bay Area, CA?

Information about how to find a lawyer, including links to state-specific resources, is available at the MeFi Wiki Get a lawyer page.
posted by Little Dawn at 6:46 PM on June 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: No worries, I'm definitely going to a lawyer. Heck, I am a lawyer and I wouldn't draw these up myself. But the DIY resources help me to be an informed consumer of legal services.
And the mefi wiki page is amazing for that and also for when people ask for help with legal issues and I am utterly clueless and can't help them.
posted by susiswimmer at 10:12 PM on June 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

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