Ever since the birth of our son, my husband and I have been talking about creating a will. (Of course, it’s wise to put together a will whether you have children or not.)
Either way, prioritizing this task has not been easy. I can think of one million things I’d rather do.
But I’m a musician tackling boring money issues (and I started this blog to hold myself accountable).
So Here We Go!
First, I did a general search online for free wills (while also keeping an open ear out for ads on my favorite financial podcasts). I looked for platforms claiming to help young people and young families put together a will for free.
Here are some of the companies I looked into if you’re interested:
Company 1: Tomorrow
Company 2: Willing
Company 3: FreeWill
We ended up going with Tomorrow because it sounded the most straightforward and I really enjoyed a podcast with the founder on Millennial Money. (This episode also talked about choosing guardians for your children.)
The will was notarized for free at our local hometown bank (make sure to check the legal requirements specific to your state).
Now a copy of our free will is in our safe along with a free downloadable PDF from Cameron Huddleston. Click here and look for her “In Case of Emergency Organizer.”
(I gave Cameron's document to my husband’s parents and my parents as well because it is such a useful tool. Also, feel free to check out the Popcorn Finance episode where Chris answered my question about becoming a power of attorney.)
Beyond Boring Paperwork
Trying to make your finances straightforward before your inevitable death is a great gift to give. Even though putting a will together lands firmly in our BORING TASKS category, I paired it with another personal assignment that felt far more meaningful. (We all know life isn’t only about numbers… it’s also about words!) Attached to our will is a copy of the letter below.
To Our First Son:
If you desire a condensed version of my thoughts on life, you can read the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling. It was written in 1895. It is one of the best poems ever written.
I hope to write a song about how this poem came to be. (Your mom is an eternal child who likes to do such things).
Around the time I met your father, I was listening to a lot of Bob Dylan, Gillian Welch, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young, and Iron and Wine. I was also obsessed with an album called Graceland by Paul Simon (it first came out the year I was born).
As you grow up, the power of your imagination will be your best friend or your greatest enemy. I have found a way to make friends with my imagination. This is my greatest accomplishment.
You might read this when you are ten. Maybe thirty. Maybe seventy. Either way, you are in the process of growing up and you are on a mission to make friends with your imagination.
None of us know when we are going to die or when our parents are going to die. (Thank the universe.) As long as I die before you, I will think the natural order of things has gone down the way it is “supposed” to.
Here’s a little bit about me as I come alive in these words right now:
I am 33. I have been your mother for well over a year. (Right now, you have a quirky habit of picking up objects and giving them to strangers. If nothing is around to pick up, you fake it, hand them nothing, and giggle.)
If I died this instant, I would die happy. In fact, I would strongly disapprove of anyone feeling sorry for me.
Because I have done what I wanted to do. I have seen more than many get to see. (People a thousand years ago were extremely lucky if they lived to be 40. Try to remember things like this in order to keep the sting of life in check.)
I have fought some of the biggest battles humans ever fight. And I have survived. (These are internal battles by the way.)
I experienced the shock of young death. I also saw an old woman die in her sleep. I tried to live a better life while balancing both of these realities.
I have felt hate. I have felt love. I have imploded, exploded, decayed, and shined - all while being detached and simultaneously in the middle of it.
I once heard we should all strive to be like the sun. Shine indiscriminately each day. Watch what you give your energy to grow. It is your job to shine even if there are clouds. Try to understand the power of compounding energy showing up every day without complaint.
I have been extremely lucky or unlucky - depending on how you look at.
Zoom in. Zoom out. Try again.
Life is hard. Life is short. It’s also an amazing adventure. Nobody likes a whiner. If and when you do complain, I hope it is while you are standing up for the rights of others.
Don’t tell the story of my death or your father’s death over and over again for attention or sympathy. You know better. Go and live.
Let our role in your life be a story you tell people who are close to you. Or let it be part of a story you sculpt into a universal equation anyone could resonate with.
You are a present to unwrap. You are the best present I’ve known. I hope you find someone who shares this sentiment. If not, that’s OK too. As long as you make a friend with your own mind, you will navigate others tactfully and live with dignity while discovering your gifts.
I am a verbal beast to be reckoned with and your father is a spatial one. We are both androgynous. Together we make a man and a woman. Your dad may not make time to write a letter like this and leave it in this safe. Why? Because I love words and he loves tinkering. He’ll leave you something he has built, carved, designed, or baked. Hopefully, not something he’s baked….
Right now, he is the life-blood behind our scenes - making our lives comfortable on a daily basis. He is my favorite person to talk to. I will tell you this - there are many amazing men and women worth studying as you form your own identity. Your father is one of them.
Your father and I are extremely different. But we are best friends. Eerily, we have been friends since the instant we met. (Your dad watched my merch while we were both playing music for a benefit at a sketchy bar. I didn’t even know his name yet but I immediately trusted him.)
We make each other laugh each day. Laughing is how we measure success.
Kipling’s poem was on a Dr. Bronner’s soap bottle in the bathroom while I was in labor with you. I was in no condition to read it. However, a flash in my mind reminded me it was there. And I was happy about this...
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them, "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
(Weird stuff, eh?)
Humans can’t figure it all out. I think I understand this on an unfathomable level now. It took me years. Giving up while striving is what makes me at peace with dying. (This doesn’t mean I don’t fear to die though… I REALLY hope I get to watch you grow and change for as long as possible.)
One final thing - I read the book "A Short History of Neary Everything" by Bill Bryson while I was pregnant with you. I hope you read it for yourself someday. If animals could read, they would read this. You are an amazing animal. Find a tribe of people who understand this.
The Primate Who First Held You
P.S. Don’t let the ways of the world mess with your head too much. If you ever feel stuck, learn about space.