Author: GYST Team
Happy August! This month is National Make-a-Will month so we’ve outlined how you can get your will done in 5 easy steps. Also, check out our review of online living wills and get them done together.
GYST’s guide explains where to start, assigns you one task each week, and breaks it all down into easy, doable steps.
Whether you have a very simple ‘estate’ and the most basic online template covers all you’d need, or, a more complicated situation because of divorce, out of state property, or international citizenship that requires a few more details – you are in luck. Getting your Estate Plan done is easier than ever – and we’ll show you how.
First things first: Do you know the difference between a Will, Living Will (also called an ACD), and Power of Attorney (POA) document? They are three different things, and most people benefit from having one of each.
Our team at GYST reviewed three different online legal services in the Spring of 2016: Rocket Lawyer, LegalZoom and Willing. Each offer self-serve options with basic forms and functionality and generated a PDF for you to download when done and all three options took less than an hour to complete. The main differences are pricing models (flat fee or subscription), ability to save and update your forms, and additional costs for add-ons and upgrades. This month we’ve partnered with Rocket Lawyer for Make-a-Will Month
Read our Review of Online Legal Services
If you have any questions at all, if you are unsure about any of the legal template options or you have questions about any part of the process – please ask!
Ask a peer: There is a Q&A forum with more than 8 million searchable questions and answers allows people to ask their own legal question and receive answer from attorneys.
Talk to an expert: If a quick conversation with an expert would help, Avvo Advisor provides concrete legal advice though a 15-minute phone call with a highly-reviewed lawyer for just $39. Read more about legal help from our partner, Avvo.
Look online: You may find more answers in our Estate Planning FAQ.
Use an online service or find a reputable estate planning attorney, in any case carefully draft, review, and double-check your documents are accurate and you don’t have any questions or concerns.
Your last step is to finalize your documents.
To execute a will in any state in the United States, you must:
Finally, make sure they they are shared with a few trusted people (the one’s named in your documents, especially the Executor) and can be located if (or when) they are needed. How?
In many cases, old-school record keeping on paper can work just fine. An ‘In Case of Emergency’ folder in the metal file cabinet, spiral-bound notebook on top of the fridge, even a 3-ring binder with copies of important documents (like your will) and a phone list you can give to one or two people you trust.
Or, for many people, storing information online is easier, more convenient and feels more secure. There are many options that range from free, password protected locations in the cloud – to more secure or super-encrypted security for a monthly fee.
Once you’re done, send us a picture and we’ll make you (like Stephanie) our next Success Story!
Dying without a will (or having one that no one can find) is a super bad idea. In legal terms, it’s known as “dying intestate.” If this happens, your assets go into probate, where your state has laws that dictate who gets what. Typically, if you’re legally married, it all goes to your spouse. But not always and, frankly, sometimes things can get pretty weird. After all, if you don’t really see eye-to-eye on everything with your state in life, don’t expect the situation to be any different in death. Besides, probate can take years, and your estate may have to pay attorney fees and other things, which are best avoided.
Typically people start with the will, because if you think about it, that’s the only document that’s guaranteed to get some use.
We think so. You need a process, like GYST’s, that can ensure you avoid these common mistakes:
Whether or not you need or should have one really depends on which state you live in and your individual situation. Trusts are often set up and included in a will because they help you avoid probate and get your assets more quickly into the hands of those you want to have them. Read more about trusts and revokable living trusts.
While you are not required to have an attorney to draft a will, there are circumstances where doing it yourself may lead to problems. If any of the following circumstances are true about you, the America Bar Association advises consulting one:
In a recent segment aired on NPR, relevant in the midst of wedding season, science correspondent Shankar Vedantam reports on a study involving the psychology of giving wedding gifts.He comments on the “conflicting forces” guests are presented with, stating “ we want the gifts we give to please the people getting married, but we also want the gift to reflect well on us.”
Morgan Ward, a marketing professor at the Southern Methodist University created the study after reflecting on her own experience putting together her wedding registry. After commenting on her effort to put together a list of gifts, she says “… but the people who didn’t want to purchase from the registry were the people closest to me.”
The idea of giving experiences rather than things isn’t a new concept. “One of the enemies of happiness is adaption” explains psychologist Dr. Thomas Gilovich. That new crockpot or bar tool set may seem exciting at first, but just like any other object in your home, they soon begin to fade into the background.
Experiences, like a trip to the stunning Machu Picchu in Peru, tickets to a weekend-long music festival or contributing to college tuition are things that stick with you. These are the things that make the memories you spontaneously remember while doing the laundry that make you smile, cringe, or laugh while providing that little reminder of what really matters.
Gifts that help us to manage stress might also be those that bring the greatest joy. According to Livestrong, three out of the top ten causes of stress are finances, health, and the death of a loved one. A survey in 2011 conducted by psychologist and self-help author Robert Epstein, reports that around 25% of our happiness depends on how well we manage stress.
According to his survey, the best way we can manage stress is through planning. In Epstein’s words, “ fighting stress before it even starts, planning things rather than letting them happen.”
This proves making a plan for the days, years, and decade to come support your overall happiness itself, it’s a quick and easy strategy that helps you allow more happiness for yourself and your loved ones.
GYST has created a prepaid estate plan so you and your family are covered for years to come. All necessary documents are drafted and finalized by an attorney who works with you from start to finish.
So next time you’re faced with the question of what to get a friend or family for a wedding, baby shower, or just because, give them the best gift you’ve likely never thought of, The Gift of GYST.
Whether you’re gifting to an individual, a couple, or your family, the package comes with your own personalized note and helpful nudges and reminders to get it done.
Society B – An online store that sells beautiful, fair trade goods and give 10% of their profit to a different featured charity every month.
One Hope Wine – OHW provides a wide array of affordable gift boxes that each contribute to a variety of different causes from funding therapy for a child with autism, to helping a shelter animal find a forever home. It’s ethical. It’s wine. It’s the perfect match.
MAMA HOPE – Their Human Centered Development model brings together social entrepreneurs, NGOs and many other organizations to ensure communities have access to the holistic, 360° solutions they need to support sustainable growth.
We.org – WE empower people to change the world. WE make this change through our work at home, abroad and through our social enterprise.
This blog post is by writer, journalist and filmmaker, Lyric Weiss, for GYST.com.
The Greatest Of All Time has died. But what he leaves behind is a lifetime of inspiration and, not surprisingly, the Greatest descriptions of how he’d like to be remembered:
From a 1972 interview with David Frost what he’d like people to think about him when he’s gone – this “recipe for life” was his answer.
And another tweeted by J.K. Rowling. The last line would make anyone crack a smile.
And the timeless, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
It was four years ago that my dad, at age 76 set off on a group bicycle trip across Canada. He had planned, trained and packed for it months in advance. What none of us prepared for, was for him to be three quarters of the way through the trip, and get hit by a pickup truck. After many surgeries, months of rehabilitation and years of recovery my dad celebrated his 80th birthday with us this year. He is an amazing, tough, intelligent, generous, man, husband, father and grandpa. We are all incredibly grateful that he pulled through it all, a little worse for the wear, but he is now 80! Our family learned some valuable lessons along the way, which is what drew me into Co-founding GYST with Chanel and Phil.
I wanted to personally introduce our third installment of ‘The GYST of It’ and highly encourage all of you GYST’ers to take some time to follow these 4 GYST Tips for Summer. They will make your summer adventures more organized, and also to prepare and protect your families no matter what happens.
Come on, you’ve got this!
Jessica Ostrow, GYST Co-founder & CEO
A vacation is a top trigger that motivates parents to get their will and estate planning done.
Headed out of town without your children? First, congratulations. Second, don’t wait until the last minute to realize, “Oh sh*t, we never finished our will!”
Almost every attorney we know has received a call from anxious parents going on vacation (or from the airport!) realizing their will or living will isn’t done.
With your estate plans in place, you can head off on your vacation stress free. Well, maybe those TSA lines will be a little stressful…
Do you have life insurance? Our friends at PolicyGenius make it easy to get quotes from all the top providers. Yes, this is a plug for PolicyGenius, but we think they do a great job providing you with the information you need to choose wisely. If you have questions, read our guide covering all things insurance.
Not sure if you need travel insurance? Check out this review of the best travel insurance for 2016, what to look for, why you might want it and some of the best options to fit your travel needs from Simple Dollar.
“Whether you’re dealing with an unexpected illness, a death in the family, or a lost suitcase, all of these scenarios have the potential to cancel or ruin your travels.”
Saundra Latham, writer for The Simple Dollar
Getting all of your account information and passwords assembled in one place can seem overwhelming, but any task will feel easier if you can break it down into simple steps. We have created The GYST Digital Details downloadable checklist, with a sample of accounts and details to track.
GYST TIP: Pick 5 accounts each week to track down. By the end of summer, you’ll have listed over 60 accounts! Imagine if you get your family involved in organizing these for your parents.
We asked each GYST team member to share their favorite travel app with you:
“Wunderlist keeps all my must-reads and to-do lists with me wherever I go.” – Chanel, Co-founder
“When traveling, I like to use Glympse to share my location so family and friends can see exactly when I’ll arrive and know if I’m having car trouble or stuck in traffic.” – Chip, Lead Engineer
“Google Maps has an awesome offline mode that saved my family from being lost in the Alps.” – Jessica, CEO and Co-founder
“At home or away I need to know if the Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons is still as badass as ever, so I always keep HBO Now loaded on my phone before a family trip.” – Phil, Co-founder
GYST TIP: We all recommend Rick Steves’s, Best Smartphone Apps for Travelers, with a list of great apps for every kind of trip.
Have a great tip you want to share with other GYST’ers? Have something you’d like us to research and feature on GYST.com or the next The GYST of It newsletter? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The GYST Team
And then try again the next day…
GYST Co-Founder Chanel Reynolds shares her personal story about becoming a widowed single-parent and how she (finally) got her shit together. Learn how taking care of a few core items now can save you a mountain of suffering ‘After’. And if the shit has already hit the fan – a checklist for what to do, find, and organize.
“There are a few simple things I wish I had taken care of before my life went sideways – like a will, life insurance, and some details jotted down.”
On July 17, 2009, my husband José Hernando was hit by a van while riding his bike down a pretty road near the lake, a few miles from our house. One of the stunning and glorious summer days in Seattle that make living through all the winter rain and gray feel worth it. He was set on going for a quick training ride before his last bike race of the season. I wanted him to go to a dinner party with me and our 5-year old instead.
Our last moment together, he was being goofy and adorable, wanting me to kiss him before he left. I refused, twice. We had been bickering about the usual two-working-parents-young-child-no-time type issue. He tried one last time and I couldn’t help smile at him and kiss him back.
My last words to him were, “Ok, I’ll kiss you, but I’m still mad at you.”
Twenty minutes later it was all over. The accident was really, really bad. It decimated his upper spine and caused an immediate traumatic cardiac arrest. Technically, he died on the scene.
But somehow, José made it to the hospital with the barest of a pulse. Everyone was shocked. The paramedics were so well trained, the hospital so close, the ER docs so amazing, José was in such incredible physical shape. They were able to keep just enough of him alive. And yet, after a time-suspending week in the ER, surgery, the ICU; every possible test told us the same story. He was never coming back. So I made the decision I was most certain he would want. I approved removing medical support and, quickly, he was gone.
I stayed with him a few hours, took all the tape and tubes off and washed his body. Family came into the room to brush his forehead or touch his hand. I had to pick a funeral home. Then, there was nothing else to do but go home and tell our son his dad was dead. At some point I’d try figure out what, and how, I was going to live the rest of my life. Do you just wake up the next day and put on pants and go the store like a regular human? I had no idea. Could I afford the the house? What is probate? How much insurance did we have? What the password to his phone? Again, no idea.
But, there was another thought banging around in my head. It landed there the first day in the ICU when I turned to my friend and said, “Oh my god, I don’t have my shit together at all. And if this is happening to us, what about everyone else in the hospital? And everywhere? We’re all so much more vulnerable than we ever imagined.”
If I could make it out the other end of this alive – I didn’t want anyone else to have to.
So, out of scribbles in notebooks, hours and hours making phone calls and tracking stuff down I learned the hard way about all the things I could have done ‘before’ that would have helped the ‘after’ suck a little less. I had an unbelievable amount of positive support and help from friends. Then, there were also the numerous and wildly messy late nights, very dark thoughts, and more than a handful of moments too unbearable to speak aloud. It was very hard and seemed to take forever, but after a few years I (mostly) got my shit together.
And, that moment in the hospital stayed with me, I couldn’t shake it and knew I wanted to help anyone and everyone avoid the ‘optional’ suffering that comes along with the crappy, sad, and gut-wrenching suffering we cannot. Like death, or diagnosis, or disaster, etc.
A few years after José died, most days I felt almost like myself again so I finally launched a website called Get Your Shit Together (getyourshittogether.org). It wasn’t fancy, but it was true and honest and broke down all the overwhelming stuff into an easy list of all the things I wish I would have done. It worked.
In fact, it really worked. I launched the site on Monday night, and in 24 hours thousands of folks were hitting the site.
And by Friday, it was featured in Ron Lieber’s New York Times ‘Your Money’ Column. Apparently, a lot people read it.
I was beside-myself-excited the message was reaching so many people and was really helping.
The press was very kind to generously share the site.
And then, thousands of break-your-heart-open-all-over-the-floor notes from all over the world started pouring into my inbox.
Having read your story I know I’m not crazy, just stressed temporarily out of my mind. I’ll be sharing your website with anyone who will listen because I would not wish this experience on anyone. I’ll be collecting passwords and using your checklists so that I make things easier for my husband, daughter and myself.
Three years after José died, I found myself talking about the terrible details of his death over, and over, and over again. And pretty quickly, it made me feel like crawling under my bed with a bottle of whatever and a take a ten-day nap.
“This is going to be short as I am now sitting in a hospital room with my husband who suffered a stroke after hitting his head. This lead to Brain Surgery on Saturday. I am in the same boat. My husband was financially responsible for mortgages, rent, car payments, etc… I was laid off 3 months ago. I have no passwords, documents, etc… We don’t know what the future brings us.”
It could have dawned on me more quickly, however, that in my hopes to help people take care of this stuff Before – I was finding a whole lot of people, like myself, who found themselves in a world of hurt After.
And when I had enough time between his death and the beginning of the rest of my life I could see it isn’t just about my story – it is about all of our stories. We all have one, or will. And that’s why Jessica, Phil and I (plus a bad-ass strategic advisor who brought us together) created GYST.com. So, now what? We want to help as many people as possible get their shit together.
A few months ago I went through and laid out as much of what I want to have happen as I could, after I watched a family friend go through a sudden death that no one was prepared for. The whole time my wife gave me the “I don’t want to think about this!” attitude, but I know that if she ever does need it, she will be grateful for it.
Recently, I was asked a (surprisingly) hard question. If I could go back in time and offer some advice that isn’t on the website, what would it be?
The first thing that came to mind is I would lean in close, give myself a hug, and say, “Oh sweetie, if anyone can do this, you can.” Here are a few other tips.
Everyone is different, and I won’t pretend to know how you can best take care of yourself, or family, kids, house, pets, bills, mortgage, grocery shopping, house-cleaning, carpools, finances or forgiveness – but I do know that these few mantras I said over and over in my head really helped, and others seem to have found them useful, too.
Adrenaline can keep you going for a little while, but then, not so much.
So it may sound a bit cliche, but it is 100% true. You must take care of you or you won’t be of help to yourself or anyone else. The two times in my whole life that I lost 10-15 pounds in one week is 1) when I got e-coli while traveling internationally, and 2) the week my husband died.
This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Sleep enough. Eat enough. Move your body.
Every day. Consider this your job. Period. That is all.
Letting people help you will make them feel better. Let them.
I grew up in Minnesota, which means asking for help isn’t really part of my vocabulary. For example, I’d almost prefer to light myself on fire rather than let someone carry a bag of groceries for me. The thing about going through a hard time, is that it pretty much totally and completely levels us all. And often we are too sad, proud, overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed, or stubborn to accept help. And generally too shattered to ask for it. So please, let someone carry a damn bag of groceries for you.
When it comes to helping, people also/often have no idea how to do it, or even know what to say. Which, unfortunately, can look really awkward or they may even ‘panic-talk’ and say something stupid – ending up not being helpful at all. Which wasn’t the point.
Friend: “Anything at all ok? I’m here to help. You’re not alone. So just call me. Annnnnytime.”
You (option 1): Thanks so much, I really appreciate it. (and you never call)
You (option 2): Thanks so much, I really appreciate it. Actually, I am finding it hard to keep up with everything. The yard needs to be mowed/dog-walked/kids driven to sports/etc. Could you do that once or twice a week for a while?
You might have to “help them help you.” Please go with option #2.
Organize the shit out of the important stuff. Everything else? Meh.
Perhaps military protocol or the mafia isn’t your default organizing style – but in desperate times you need to know the important shit is covered. Everything else can likely slide for a while. And yes, I watched way too much of The Sopranos a while back.
Whatever you want to call it, there are a few basic categories of ‘stuff’ that needs to get taken care of, if you only have to talk to one person (a.k.a. your “Captain”) then that is way easier to manage.
Here are the general ‘neighborhoods’ of stuff that need Captaining:
Get the elephant sitting on top of you off your chest.
One thing at a time. Baby steps. Or, “Whatever gets you through the night.”, as our friend Frank Sinatra said. Ask yourself what worries you the most or keeps you up at night. What one task will make you feel better or relieved once it is done?
One by one – get it done. Trying to eat the elephant off your chest all in one day is too overwhelming. But bite by bite? If anyone can do it, you can.
Talking about grown-up stuff can feel like a bit of a bummer, perhaps this is why we are so successful at procrastinating many of those big, important things. So, check out the 9 things you really, really should do to get your shit together, and still keep a smile on your face.
1. It’s never too early to start planning.
2. Think about the consequences. Chances are good they will suck way more than actually getting your shit together. Take it one thing at a time – lather, rinse, repeat.
3. Get insurance. Get enough. When stuff goes wrong, you don’t want everything else to fall apart, too. Insurance can help cover your vulnerable spots.
4. Write your will and say who gets what, and when. There will be less fighting, confusion and lower probate costs. You know, just in case you can’t actually take it with you…
5. And, of course, your living will. End-of-life wishes are specifics you want people to know, not guess.
6. Pay attention to the details. Make sure access to accounts and important documents can be located. And maybe you’d prefer other things *don’t* get found.
7. Talk about death ahead of time. Talking about it won’t actually kill you.
8. And when you do, tell the truth. Especially with kids. Be kind, but be honest.
9. But most importantly, it’s never too late to start planning.
Written by Chanel Reynolds, Co-Founder of GYST and Founder of getyourshittogether.org.