I have a confession to make: I do not have an estate plan.
That sounds shocking coming from an estate planning attorney, but it is true. Until a couple of years ago, I had no one to plan for and no assets that I cared about. If I died, I was leaving behind a mountain of debt, a dog, and a few autographed baseballs — my brothers would probably steal the baseballs, and the dog would go to my stepmother, in all likelihood.
Today, I have a wife, a two-year-old, three dogs, and two cats. I’m a homeowner, plus I have a number of other assets that need to be accounted for, just in case. But I’m only 34 years old, I have no pre-existing conditions or diseases, and I live a mostly risk-free lifestyle – I ditched the motorcycle and most of my other bad habits right around the time I found out about my baby girl. I don’t need an estate plan, right? Plus, my wife and I have discussed a lot of these things, but could not come to an agreement on things like where the baby will go if we both die. Instead of fighting over an unlikely hypothetical, I let it drop.
Last week, I contracted coronavirus. And for the first time in my life, there was a statistically significant chance I wouldn’t see the other side of the illness. I scrambled to put together a will, only to realize that there are a lot of obstacles to putting together estate plan at the last minute during a lockdown – locating witnesses and a notary, for one, is extremely difficult.
A week later, most of my symptoms are behind me, though my lungs still feel like a fat high-schooler who just ran the mile with a stitch in his side the whole way (so, in a way, I feel like myself, but twenty years younger). I’m beginning to see how much of an idiot I was for not getting an estate plan in place sooner and for not having the courage to have the difficult discussions with my wife about all of the many important decisions we have to make: for our children, our pets, our own medical wishes, and our property. We need a plan. And we need one now. (Did I mention that she is a medical resident, working on the front lines with COVID/coronavirus patients every day?)
Here is what I am going to do tonight: I’m going to sit down with my wife and do our entire estate plan. We will probably do a revocable living trust, as she is terrible with paperwork and if I kick the bucket, I don’t want her to have to deal with probate and transferring titles. Tomorrow – or Saturday at latest – we will work with an online notary and two disinterested witnesses to electronically sign and notarize the documents.
And if we can’t get all of that done, we are at least going to put together a pair of wills until the crises passes, then get the trust done.