Everything listed here I personally use, love, or has come highly recommended by a few people I trust. A few links offer a commission (most don’t) which help fund scholarships. But please, do your own research, ask for references and don’t buy stuff you don’t want or need.
Estate Planning Documents: Wills, Trusts and Power of Attorney
Online Estate Planning Templates
There are quite a few online templates and software options that could help depending on your needs, finances, situation and the state you live in. Here are just a few GYST friends and family have used and liked:
- Cake: Offers an online will template for around $100 and many additional end-of-life planning resources. Take advantage of their 25% off deal through September 8th by using the code MAKEAWILL at checkout.
- Quicken WillMaker Pro: Top-rated for many years and affordable software template option to complete basic, uncomplicated estate plans.
- Nolo also offers an Estate Planning Bundle with e-books to help with the process.
- FreeWill offers a very simple (and free) online will template that can also be helpful to draft a will and learn which basic decisions and designations your will should include.
- Trust & Will offers a few documents, from a will template (from $150) to an online Trust package (starting at $600)
- MamaBear Legal has online forms focusing on parents offer and helpful forms for when your kiddos become young adults (important!).
Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney
As an attorney-friend of mine reminded me, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” And when it comes to legal documents and estate planning, why would you? So, hiring a professional is often a very good idea, especially if you have ANY questions or concerns in ANY way about your situation and future goals. If you don’t have an estate planning attorney already (look for one with solid experience in your state) here are a few options:
- Does your company (or spouse’s?) offer any legal services as part of your HR benefits? Many do. You should ask.
- Referrals from friends, colleagues, neighbors, book-clubs or your local (G)SBA can offer referrals. I suggest you call and ask two or three for an initial (free) consultation to chat for 15 minutes make sure they’re right for you. Ask what and how they charge for their services and if they can provide client references.
- Look online for reviews and search for specific expertise (international, special needs, blended families, etc.) in your area. You can try Avvo or national association like the NAEPC or AAEPA as a place to start.
End of Life Planning: Advance Care Directives
Knowing what someone wants, or sharing what ‘quality of life means’ to you is priceless and can save you, friends and family from a lot of worry and confusion. In fact, talking about it with family and all of you have led to many of the most meaningful conversations of my life. Don’t worry and wonder – write it down.
Prepare for Your Care (free) comes well recommended by many in the aging, end of life and hospice fields.
The Conversation Project has tons of free resources, guidebooks and helpful information to begin the conversation and complete your advance care directives.
Five Wishes has been used in many hospices and hospitals around the country. The standard online form is only $5 and they have recently added a digital signature option for $15.
Digital Accounts & Passwords
Don’t lose important things and save yourself (and eventually others) dozens of hours trying to get online access. Get help wrangling your hundreds of online accounts and better save, store, and share your details.
Many of these offer a free version and a low-cost monthly ‘family plan’ or membership with additional online document storage and account sharing options:
- 1Password and Bitwarden were recommended in The New York Times review in March of 2023
- Dashlane and Nordpass also top the list in WIRED’s August 2023 review
- UPDATE: I no longer use or recommend LastPass due to their recent security issues and other’s advice.
Money & Personal Finance
An Emergency Fund helps you feel more secure in a daily-way if something happens. I use Mint.com (free) to help me track my spending and budget. Other people love You Need a Budget (not free), you can get apps like Acorns (I’ve used), or, for for budgeting, these books helped me:
Update your beneficiaries! When you designate a beneficiary on your financial accounts those funds are considered a transfer on death (TOD) or payable on death (POD) account and will go directly to that person after you die instead of being included in your estate’s assets (and subject to probate). You can name or update them online (your bank, 401k, etc.) in just about 5 minutes. You have no idea the horror stories I’ve heard.
- Book: Bad With Money: The Imperfect Art of Getting Your Financial Sh*t Together by Gaby Dunn.
- Book: Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez.
- Book: The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated. by Helaine Olen and Harrold Pollack.
Yes, I know Insurance is hard to buy and you hope you won’t need. However, it is super helpful for many people, and if/when you ever do need it, you’re really going to appreciate having it.
If you can’t get life (or disability) insurance through your work (ask if you can ‘take it wth you’ if you do) you can shop and buy online.
Bestow offers term life insurance online, doesn’t require a medical exam, and the application process is easy (I just bought a second policy from them a few weeks ago and it only took about 5 minutes). You can also compare prices on sites like Policy Genius (life, disability and other types of policies).
Dying, Grief & Loss
The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life by Katy Butler is just gorgeous, full of grace, love, truth and wildly-helpful information. I am grateful to have this book for now and the years to come.
Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome by Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner made me smile-sob, ugly-cry and laugh, usually all at the same time. Incredible stories and stellar advice.
It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine is the book I wish I had to help me understand my grief and realize I wasn’t crazy. I’ve given this book to dozens of friends.
I won’t pretend that having a checklist or a productivity app is going to make it hurt any less or make your pile of to-dos any smaller. However, getting a little more organized before the shit hits the fan is amazing, but keeping it together after life goes sideways, just even being able to find things you need, can be critical.
I have a daily planner like this popular daily Planner or more heavy-duty ‘Pro’ Planner by Panda. I’ve gone through a dozen of these journals for note-taking. These books have helped me Get Things Done and write my first checklist. Many people LOVE using productivity apps and Evernote is often at the top of the list, I also like Wunderlist.
While the phrase ‘peace of mind’ is far from my favorite, after a particularly devastating moment when I dropped my laptop (on the way to the airport) and nearly everything was corrupted – I back up my files religiously with this external hard drive, but any kind is better than not at all. Hoping to have learned that lesson only once, I also keep my final documents and important files in a pocket folder and (finally got, no kidding) a fire-proof safe.
Got any good ideas or tips? Reach out!