Our estate planning experience with Trust & Will

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When we were trying to decide which topics to tackle for Season 2 of Money on the Table, we’d start by asking ourselves “who is this for”?  Our answer to that question was always the grown-ups in the room. Our mission has always been to inspire better conversations about money, so we knew we needed to move beyond the foundational topics of budgeting and investing and talk about the difficult stuff. The real life stuff. This meant we needed to dig deep and confront some topics that we had been avoiding ourselves, like estate planning.  

It feels odd to say we were “avoiding” the topic because we’ve always felt like we had a good grasp on estate planning. We both have life insurance policies and Julien even went as far as creating a will after a near-death experience a few years ago. We’ve spoken about death on episode four and seven of our podcast too!

But death isn’t just something you know simply by studying it. We’ve had up close experience with how it impacts your life and wallet in recent years. We’ve waded through the unique pain of unexpected loss, been crushed by the weight of watching a parent bury their child and dealt with the open wound of a child eulogizing a parent way too soon. In each of those experiences we’ve played different support roles. Sometimes, we were the people running to pick up the funeral programs from the printer.  Other times, we were the one’s managing the visitation schedule at the hospital or making room for all the food drop-offs in the family refrigerator.

The point is, we know firsthand what families go through during immense heartbreak, yet, we still dragged our feet on getting our own affairs in order. And sadly, we’re not alone. Studies have shown 42% of Americans don’t have a will. Even worse, nearly 70% of African Americans don’t have a will or estate plan in place. This has to change. The conversations we had in Houston lit a fire under our asses and we’re hoping it does for you too. 

In Episode 2, we met with friends and family to discuss the urgent need for families to have conversations about estate planning. Our guests were not only financial role models to us, they’re also solid examples of financial responsibility. As empty-nesters, they’re each at a stage of parenting that seems SO far away for us, so our goal was to get counsel from them regarding how they’ve planned for their children and then incorporate those lessons into our own plan with Trust & Will.  Here’s what we learned. 

You don’t need to wait to have an estate plan

One of the reasons people don’t create Wills or even think about estate planning is because they don’t feel they have enough financial assets for it to matter. The truth is, if you are over the age of 18 there’s a good chance you need something. While a Will wouldn’t go into effect until after your death, a Living Will is a tool that would be used in the event of a medical emergency. 

Think about it. Even if you’re young and perfectly healthy, if you had a serious illness or were injured in an accident, you might lose the ability to make decisions for yourself. Having an advanced health care directive and a HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability] authorization form allows you to decide who gets to make decisions in your place.

Why does this matter? Well, beyond the fact that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic right now, it matters because the most common cause of estate-related conflict is no longer communication between family members; it’s healthcare. 

According to a 2021 survey by TD Bank, estate planning professionals admitted the pandemic caused rising healthcare costs as well as extensive healthcare options to move to the top of the list of concerns among their clients. Put simply, the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic helped clients understand why it’s important to plan for the unpredictable and outline medical directives well before a crisis. 

That said, we decided to opt for a Trust instead of a Will. We own everything in our Trust while we’re alive but after we pass, a Trust-Based Estate Plan allows our assets to pass seamlessly to the people we’ve chosen as our beneficiaries. It felt like the most comprehensive way to protect our loved ones and avoid probate court. As apprehensive as we were going into the process, the interface on Trust & Will gave us prompts that explained each step, what it meant, and even highlighted the ‘most common’ choices along the way.

Honestly, if you can order a pizza online with multiple toppings, you can manage getting an Estate Plan through Trust & Will. It’s that easy.

Every time we hit the “got it” button, it gave us a boost of confidence. And if we ever got flustered, in the corner of the screen, there was always an option to chat with a support specialist. There’s also an option to work with an attorney in your state for more complicated estates.

Estate planning covers more than just your financial assets 

We’ve written about the importance of life insurance and we both have policies, but there’s so much more to estate planning. Directives about your children’s guardianship, pets, personal belongings and your medical wishes are just as important. 

During our conversation at Lucille’s, Earl revealed he’d inherited substantial generational wealth.  Not just enough to cover a few bills, but FU money. The kind of money that drastically changed his career trajectory and the choices he and Lynnette were able to make to support their families and entrepreneurial ambitions.

And while we have experienced a degree of that kind of freedom, we’re just now coming to terms with exactly how our estate plan could support our son and other family members. That’s the thing about building a lifelong relationship with your money. Every time we achieve a new milestone or encounter a new circumstance, it brings a new series of questions about how we want our values to be reflected. 

Hearing about the age and financial literacy requirements Rob and Reshawn are planning to use with their children opened our eyes to how specific we could be. We’d also never considered listing our parents as beneficiaries in case we pass before them. AND we’d never really considered who we would want to be responsible for the decisions regarding our life if our parents were gone and one of us were incapacitated. The default answer to all of these questions is the court system, but our Trust allows us to make our wishes explicit while we’re still healthy. 

Estate planning requires regular maintenance 

While we were uploading our life insurance policies into our Trust, we realized that Kiersten’s needed to be updated. It was still in her maiden name and still had her Dad listed as the primary beneficiary. Both were quick fixes and a great reminder that estate planning isn’t like making chili in a crock pot.  You don’t just set-it-and-forget-it. 

As our assets grow, relationships change and financial goals evolve, we need to revisit our plan. Luckily, Trust & Will offers a text message feature where you can opt into receiving text updates about your plan, as well as reminders about it’s maintenance. 

As a cherry on top, they also have a feature called Shared Access that makes this even easier. This allows us to share documents directly with people mentioned in our estate plan and get feedback about the plan details. Whenever we make changes, we can also grant our Executor, Trustee or whoever has access to the documents so they know how to handle any requests without needing to sift through a bunch of paperwork. 

Altogether, creating our Trust only took about 40 minutes, but the effects have lasted way longer. The process forced us to think about all the little things and it has led to a level of awareness that has stuck with us since then. Just last week, we were sitting in traffic on our way back from a business trip when Julien turned to me and said, “if we got in an accident right now and couldn’t pick up Beau, who would the daycare call”?  We both just sat there stumped because we couldn’t recall who was listed or if we’d listed anyone at all. Ten minutes later, we had an answer thanks to the receptionist at his daycare.

The point is, we weren’t afraid to ask the question anymore and we didn’t just default to assuming the best as if there was nothing we could do. As our lives become increasingly more complex and a global health crisis continues, it’s important to remember that we’re all in the position of asking better questions about the parts of life that are within our control. 

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