Make a will make a will make a will

Please make a will and get your affairs in order

One of our cats is ill and we don’t think she’ll be around much longer. But if she dies in the winter, the ground will be frozen and we won’t be able to dig. So yesterday, we dug a hole in the back yard, then filled it back up and put markers so we can find it in the snow. I hope we don’t need to use it but we might.

Two days ago, my beloved sister in law – Stephanie, for those of you from my old blog, died suddenly and unexpectedly.

She was not old. She was only 61.

This could happen to anyone. TO ANYONE.

Stephanie is the only one of my in-laws I liked. I ADORED her. A warm, loud, welcoming Italian woman from South Philly, Stephanie (and her children) was the only one of Mr T’s relatives who embraced me (both figuratively and literally) when I met his family.

She is the only one who ever willingly and happily gave me food. I couldn’t cross her threshold without an offer of something to eat – pizzellas (from scratch), gravy (I felt very in the know when I learned that gravy is what South Philly Italians call spaghetti sauce), pretzels that her dad, whom I also adored, had brought with him from Philly.

But it wasn’t about the food. It was about her very being. She was the kind of person you want to be friends with. She was frank and open and funny and opinionated and fun.

Of all the people in this world to die, it had to be her?

It couldn’t be [any of a list of odious politicians and criminals, some of which overlap]?

She did not have a will.

Clearly, she thought she had time.

We all thought she had time.

I hadn’t even visited her for the past few years. Covid, for one thing.

But – we thought we had time!

It’s not like there will be some huge fight or drama because of the lack of a will. The law in her state is that her children will inherit (Stephanie and the kids’ dad divorced years ago), but there will be extra hassle.

Fortunately, Stephanie’s brother and his wife, who happen to be in professions that deal with wills and trusts, are ON IT and have already talked to a lawyer. They are also arranging the funeral and doing all the heavy lifting. I am so grateful for the kids’ sake. I have seen what happens when there isn’t a will and there’s a fight and it’s not pretty.

But make a will. Make it easy for the people you love.

And if you hate them all – make a will and disinherit them. Give them each a dollar and leave the rest to the Humane Society.

Make. A. Will.

Figure out what you want done with your body when you die. Make those arrangements: pay for your headstone, decide what it should say, pay for the plot, choose a coffin, choose the music for your service, call the medical school or the body farm about donating your body (that’s what Mr T and I will do).


Put your kids on your bank accounts and on your safe deposit box, arrange a meeting between you, your kids, and your financial advisor, make a spreadsheet of all your accounts and investments and passwords, organize your files (like – buy a file cabinet and make actual physical files by topic).

I read this article about the bureaucracy of death last week and there are some good recommendations in it as well.

I’m not trying to be a ghoul. But unless you are the Second Coming (and I bet you are not), you are going to die.

Stephanie’s kids will be OK because they have expert help from Stephanie’s brother and his wife and because other than the will, Stephanie was super organized. (She was a bookkeeper.)

But not everyone has that luxury. So please please please. If you are wondering what you should do today – should you go shopping? Should you clean the bathroom?

Do this instead:

  • Make an appointment with a lawyer to write a will before the end of the year. Also do your POAs and your medical wishes – do you want a DNR?
  • Start a list of all your accounts. Name of account, number, name of institution, website, phone number, how much money you have there (yes, this will change but for rough ideas)
    • Bank accounts
    • Investment accounts
    • Pensions (hahahaha)
    • Social security?
    • Bills (phone, internet, utilities)
    • Credit cards
    • Mortgage
    • Life insurance
    • Health insurance
  • If you don’t already have a file box or cabinet, ask for one on Buy Nothing or buy one and make a file for everything.
    • The things listed above
    • Mortgage/deed to the house
    • Car title
    • Social security cards and statements
    • Current year tax information/receipts
    • Credit card receipts and statements
    • Utility bills
    • Phone bills
    • I keep my investment statements and bank statements and taxes in binders because I don’t have enough file space, but you might have room. I want everything on paper because I don’t trust institutions and I want proof of my money. 🙂
    • Etc etc etc – remember that your executor is going to have to keep things going until your house is sold

It’s one of the best gifts you could give your family.

Also – what did I miss? Please share your own advice.

I will miss Stephanie so much. I loved her. I loved her so much.

Before you make a will today, go call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Because you never know. You just never know.


4 thoughts on “Make a will make a will make a will

  1. First, Goldie. I am so sorry for your loss. You have spoken lovingly of Stephanie for years and I know this will leave a hole in your tapestry – one that will take a long time to repair.
    She was a very special friend. Take care of yourself and then her children. A big hug to you, tho.

    Yes, yes, YES. You are spot on – MAKE A WILL. If you don’t want to spend the money on an attorney (and you don’t have a lot of complicated stuff) you can download one for your state from lots of websites. (You may want to pay a small fee to be sure it’s “good” in your state.) You can also write a holographic (written in your own hand) Will. It must literally be hand-written AND (this is really important) SIGNED on every single page. Some states will take less, but just in case do it the most extreme way.

    1) If you have investment accounts, put your beneficiary(ies) on the account with your broker and they will pass automatically to whomever you specify; same with bank accounts and retirement accounts and pensions (ha, ha, ha!). The more you can set up to pass automatically, the less your executrix has to do. I would date every page, too. These are more easily set aside if someone sues, but better than nothing.

    Another reason to name beneficiaries for everything is that the value of that money is NOT a part of the value of your estate, so estate taxes (if applicable, are less) and the cost of a bond is less. Most states require a bond unless you say explicitly in the Will that one is not required.

    2) Write your own obit. that gives you the ability to choose what YOU want highlited. Just put it in that file Goldie told you make.

    3) See if your college has a memorial garden – if you still like them! My husband and I have paid for our markers – just need the final date – and our ashes will go there … with friends. There may be some other place that is special to you. See if they have a memorial garden.

    4) What if you need to change it? (one of your beneficiaries dies first, or defrauds his clients and absconds to a Pacific island, for example) You can write a Codicil easily. You simply state that this Codicil #x replaces Section x and then state your new wishes. No need for a lawyer to do that, either.

    5) If you have a complicated financial situation, tho, by all means spring for the lawyer!

    Good luck, and WRITE A WILL.


    1. Thanks, webb. Yeah, we’re pretty devastated. She was a warm, lovely, welcoming person and the world is definitely smaller without her in it. Pus she was the only one of my in-laws I liked – I mean – couldn’t this have happened to say Ted?


  2. I have a trust, and I also have a will, and my lawyer was extremely clear when he said that I could write additional things into the will but I should not mess with the trust at all – so, for what it’s worth, I pass this along. Thanks for these reminders, and please accept my condolences.


  3. I’m incredibly sorry to hear about Stephanie. 61 is much too young to die. She seemed like an incredibly lovely person, and I know from what how you wrote about her the impact and meaning she had in your life.
    My condolences to you and your family.


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