How (not) getting a will showed me why we don’t think about finances

CrosswordPhoto courtey of zz9

I’m really enjoying my life right now. More to the point, I certainly don’t have any plans for it to end anytime soon.

But, well, you know, let’s face it, I’ve read the statistics, and one out of every one person dies eventually. Even the Rolling Stones will have to stop touring at some point.

Rolling Stones live

Keep it going guys. Photo courtesy of Zhu

So I’ve been thinking about wills, and putting one in place for myself.

Unfortunately, this is as far as I’ve gotten. For about five years now.

Willing

A “will”, or a “Last Will and Testament” (no, not that Testament) is a legal document that states what a person wishes to be done with themselves and their assets following their death.

That there needs to be documents like this makes a lot of sense; after all, by definition you won’t be around to see it done. And while technically this also means you won’t be around to care one way or another (given your interpretation of what happens after death), you may still wish to do what good you can to those left here.

(A Last Will is often paired with a Living Will, which ensures that your wishes for yourself are carried out while you’re still alive, and a Power of Attorney, which allows you to designate someone to make decisions on your behalf. I’m going to call them all by the name “will” for our purposes here, but know that they are technically different things.)

Now, let’s acknowledge that this is an uncomfortable thing to think about, much less talk about. I mean, no one wants to think about their own death. But also, you probably haven’t got the slightest idea how to go about putting a will in place.

Willing a will

So I want a will. Where and how do I get one?

My first thought, immediately discarded, was to get a lawyer. Now, a suitable lawyer will know how to fill out the forms properly and ask the right questions, so this would pass the competency test, but would fail on the cost-benefit test. It might be a good idea later on in my life when I’m much more wealthy than I am today, but for now, my situation is fairly simple. And if there’s one thing I know about lawyers, ti’s that they’re not cheap.

My second thought was: ask Google. So I search online and came up with a few online services and one piece of software:

LegalZoom: These folks cover pretty much all the major important legal document filing processes. And while they don’t offer legal advice, they do a fair amount of hand-holding.

US Legal Forms: More of a legal form repository than a legal helper, they seem to have every form under the sun. But their hands-off approach means that for the most part, you’re on your own in filing.

Quicken Willmaker Plus: Desktop software updated by NOLO, another DIY legal help site. The software claims to use a similar interview-style format to TurboTax to make filling out the forms easier.

Unwilling to decide

Deciding between these options is effectively impossible.

US Legal Forms is by far the cheapest, running $34.99 for Will, Living Will, and Power of Attorney combo. LegalZoom starts at $69 and goes all the way up to $149. Willmaker Plus is a solid $54.99.

But it’s not just the cost, it’s the services. Do I want hand-holding or or not? How much hand-holding is important to me? And is it worth the money?

And there’s a third option: completely DIY. I could get the forms myself and do it all on my own.

Or could I? I found one site that says that Oregon (the state I live in) doesn’t have free, downloadable forms while another one actually offered a PDF download of those forms.

It gets worse. I looked for advice on how to go about it, and found no convincing evidence either way. One site says that LegalZoom isn’t worth the risk, but it’s written by a law firm, so its bias make it a little questionable. Another high search result about the topic is actually hosted by LegalZoom. No one seems to have anything to say about US Legal Forms one way or the other.

So I’ll admit it: I’m stuck. When faced with a hard decision that’s not urgent, and that requires a wide range of possible monetary costs, progress becomes intractable.

In some ways, it’s not unlike choosing between two restaurants, neither of which you really want to go to. You know you’re not going to get much satisfaction out of making the decision, so there’s nothing pushing you forward.

Ahh, so that’s what everyone is on about

I hate being stuck. Whenever I think about it, I get frustrated, I go, “screw it, I’ll just pick any of them, and just do it. I’ll pick…” And then the whole decision process swirls up around me, and I don’t know how to finish the sentence.

But, for all the frustration, the situation has given me some well-needed perspective on overwhelm.

See, I’ve always been fascinated by personal finance. This is largely due to a combination of factors, from a love of numbers to a persistent fear of destitution. And maybe there’s a little bit of native optimism in there too.

So when I encounter people who have an aversion to the topic that borders on allergy, it’s hard for me to relate. Why wouldn’t you want to take control of your finances? That’s like saying that you don’t want to take control of you life!

And yet, with the will in perspective, I think I understand a bit more. When faced with an area for which you have no expertise and no special interest, and when there’s a powerful sense of obligation as well, the desire to avoid it becomes all-powerful.

If I had no love of numbers, and if I had always believed that everything was going to work out, you can bet that I would think of personal finance as something boring and to be avoided at all costs.

Because that’s how I feel about getting will.

But how about this: if I promise to push through my avoidance and get this will done this year, will you make a special focus on getting your finances in order? Maybe just by taking one small step (such as this)? Deal? Deal.

But enough about me. How did you figure out putting together a will? Or have you not gotten one yet?

Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

I'm the founder and author of Unlikely Radical, a site to help people succeed with money, achieve their goals, and live intentionally.

I offer a free phone consultation to anyone who is interested in changing their financial narrative. Are you ready? Click here for details.
Mike Pumphrey
Posted on February 20, 2017