• General estate-planning questions
    • What is an "estate plan"?

      At base, it’s a plan for what happens to your stuff after you’re gone.

      Modern estate-planning has become more comprehensive and includes two documents that authorize someone you trust to act on your behalf if/when you can’t make your own decisions (i.e., the Health Care Directive and Durable Power of Attorney).

    • I hate thinking about death...

      We get it – and you’re not alone!

      Hopefully this doesn’t sound super cheesy, but our gift to you is the time and effort we’ve invested to create a process that’s quick and easy. We’ve worked hard to make this process as easy and quick as possible.

      One of our clients told her husband, “That actually didn’t suck!” – and honestly that feels like the highest compliment! 🎉

    • Should I have a Will?

      Each person has different circumstances, but generally, yes, you should have a Will.

      Each state has default plans that kick in if you die without a will. Your stuff will be distributed to your relatives and the court system will decide who should raise your young children – and for some people, the default plan is fine.

      A valid Will replaces the default plans with your wishes. You decide who raises your kids – you decide how your stuff will be distributed.

      (If you’re concerned about probate costs, it’s good to add the Living Trust.)

    • Should I have a Living Trust?

      The Living Trust (it’s formal name is a “revocable inter vivos trust”) isn’t necessary, but it offers some big advantages.

      Once you create it and configure your assets, the Living Trust allows you to entirely bypass probate. (Probate expenses can eat up 5% of your estate’s total value.)

      Additionally, because probate is a public judicial process, opting out via a Living Trust offers greater privacy for you and your family.

    • Should I have a Health Care Directive?

      YES. Without question, yes.

      Accidents happen without warning and a Health Care Directive authorizes someone you trust to make medical decisions for you (it also creates instructions that will give that person guidance).

      So, if you’re 18 years or older and engage in activities like skydiving, mountain climbing, swimming, driving cars, crossing streets, and/or eating food, you absolutely should have a Health Care Directive.

      Here too, we work hard to make the process easier. Instead of a bunch of open-ended questions about end-of-life care, we boiled it down to a handful of questions and let you choose one of our phrasings (or you can write your own)(or you can skip the question entirely).

      Creating health care instructions is a huge kindness for the person tasked with these tough decisions, letting them rest easy knowing they made the choice you wanted.

      It’s such an important document – you definitely need it.

    • Should I have a Durable Power of Attorney?

      We definitely recommend it.

      The Durable Power of Attorney authorizes someone you trust to handle your financial matters.

      This documents guards against the possibility of a financial issue arising while you’re incapacitated (e.g., unexpected tax bill, tuition payment, etc.).

      Because we can’t know the future, it’s gives your agent the ability to make almost any financial transaction you could make yourself – so it’s key that you choose someone you can trust entirely.

      (Just to be clear, your agent is subject to fiduciary duties – they must act in your best interest – but choosing the right person is key.)

  • Working with us
    • How do I start the process?

      Option 1 – Choose the documents/services and complete your payment – that starts the ball rolling.

      Option 2 – Let’s meet first and discuss!

    • How long until I get my document(s)?

      We’ll have the documents to you 30 days after your answers to the online interview are finalized.

      (If you need a quicker timeframe, please contact us to discuss options and pricing.)

    • What if I'm not satisfied?

      Let us know and we’ll provide a full refund.

    • When do I meet with you?

      Contact us whenever you want.

      We don’t require any meetings – but we’re available to chat whenever you’d like (before you hire us, before you start the Interview, after you’ve received your documents…).

    • How is Thoughtful Wills different than a law firm?

      Thoughtful Wills is a law firm! Our firm name is Notesong & Nathan LLP.

      The most visible differences between us and a main street law firm are:
      (1) We’re always been 100%-remote, so we meet with you via phone or video instead of having you come to our offices.
      (2) We’ve automated parts of our process to save time and reduce our prices (e.g., after your purchase, the intro email with your worksheet and interview link is automatically generated – we don’t need to pay a paralegal to send that email).
      (3) We’re really enthusiastic about support – we truly love answering questions.
      (4) We emphasize understandability in our communications and documents (and our clients gleefully confirm that they’re able to read and understand their documents!).

    • How is Thoughtful Wills different than LegalZoom, RocketLawyer, NoLo, Willing, TrustandWill, etc.?

      • We’re an actual law firm – they aren’t.
      • We’re authorized to practice law and give legal advice – they aren’t.
      • We review each document we create to ensure it matches your wishes and conforms to the laws of your state – they don’t.

      Their websites are artfully phrased to make it sound like you’re working with lawyers, but you aren’t. It’s like the difference between an actual doctor’s office and diagnosing your own illness with WebMD. One involves a licensed professional practicing their craft – the other is a computer program giving you its best guess.

      Just to be clear, a lawyer isn’t required to create a valid Will. The library has books on how to create a Will – and those website can help you create a Will.

      But with such an important document, we strongly urge you to hire a lawyer – that way you can be certain that these documents perfectly match your wishes and circumstances.

      But if you want the peace of mind that comes from having a lawyer draft and review your Will, you have to hire an actual lawyerto draft and review your Will.

    • Can I meet with the lawyer in my state?

      I’m sorry, but no.

      You interface with us and then we work with the local attorney. In order to keep our services affordable, our local counsel focuses their time on reviewing your documents.

    • Are these just templates?

      We use templates as building blocks. We use them to construct a document that precisely matches your circumstances and your wishes.

      Here again, is a key point to working with an actual law firm.

      For a law firm, templates are building blocks – they’re the starting point.

      For non-lawyer websites like TrustAndWill, templates are the whole thing.

      Because they aren’t licensed to practice law, non-lawyer websites can’t draft custom language to match your needs. (This begs a bigger question… how do you know if your circumstances are fully covered by their template? Answer: you don’t.)

      (Final thought – if you want a couture, 100%-drafted-from-scratch Will, please let us know and we’ll talk pricing (fair warning, it’ll probably cost as much as a car).)

    • What if I want/need to change my documents?

      You can change/update these documents at any time. Amendments need to follow the same signing formalities as the original documents – so it isn’t exactly a quick/easy process.

      Where we’re able, we future-proof your documents. For example, if you already have children or might have them in the future, we draft the documents so your future kids are already included – you won’t need to update later to add their names.

      Currently, we price amendments based on complexity – a simple amendment like changing the name of your Executor versus a complex change like completely revising the asset distribution plan. We also offer our upgraded support option which includes unlimited amendments for 5 years.

  • Choosing the "Works" or creating a custom package
    • What is the Works?

      The Works includes the Will, Living Trust, Health Care Directive, and Durable Power of Attorney. Together, these four documents comprise a comprehensive estate plan.

      The Works comes in several different service levels depending on whether you want us to print/tab documents, review signatures,

    • What if I don't need/want all four documents in the Works?

      If you don’t want all four documents, you can create a custom package.

    • Does the Works include a discount?

      Yep! The four different Works packages are about 20% cheaper than purchasing the components separately.

    • About "Documents printed/tabbed for your signature

      We provide clear signing instructions with all documents – but we can further remove guesswork by preparing the documents for signature the same we would for corporate clients – by printing the documents and putting “sign here” and “notarize” stickers exactly where you need to sign.

    • About "Signed documents reviewed for proper execution"

      These documents have very specific signing requirements – and most courts don’t give any leeway if your document was signed incorrectly.

      In addition to providing clear instructions, we can also review the documents to ensure that the various signatures were done correctly (and help with corrections, as needed).

    • About "Long-term storage in our vault"

      We can put the originals of your Will or Will + Living Trust in our vault for long-term safekeeping. We’ll send the originals back whenever you request and when it’s time, we’ll send them to your Executor.

      (You should keep the signed originals of the Health Care Directive and Durable Power of Attorney because those documents might be needed in a hurry.)

    • About "5 years of support (to help you avoid probate)"

      The Living Trust helps you skip probate, but simply signing the trust document isn’t enough – you must reconfigure your assets to avoid having any of them go through probate.

      You have to address each asset separately – and different asset types have different requirements. It’s not rocket science, but it’s also not intuitive.

      With five years of support, we can analyze your assets, give you transfer advice that’s tailored to the asset, and strategize with you as you contemplate new investments.

    • About "Support upgrade - we draft transfer docs and amendments"

      Configuring some types of assets with your Living Trust requires special documents (e.g., real estate requires recording a new deed) – with upgraded support, we draft these transfer documents.

      In addition, we create any amendments you need during those five years. If you get married/divorced, if you want to change your kids’ Legal Guardian, and/or if you want to change how your assets are redistributed – we’ve got you covered.

  • Taking care of loved ones
    • Meet the Inheritance Trusts

      We call these Inheritance Trusts (they’re also called “testamentary trusts”) because their purpose is to protect the assets of loved ones who can’t or shouldn’t receive control of their inheritance.

      Four kinds of Inheritance Trust:
      1. Child/Maturity Trust – for young kids – they’ll receive control of their assets when they’re older.
      2. Special Needs Trust – for folks with special needs who receive government benefits.
      3. Protective Lifelong Trust – for loved ones who shouldn’t ever receive control of their assets (i.e., addiction or dementia).
      4. Pet Trusts – for pets.

    • Choosing a Legal Guardian to care for your children

      This is where your Will is so important – you decide who will raise your kids if there’s a tragedy and your children become parentless.

      To be honest, this decision is usually so situational: Are you close to your family? Or do you have close friends who would be a better match? Are they at an age where a relocation would be hugely disruptive?

      Ultimately this is a gut decision for you – but we’re happy to answer any questions and to discuss your specifics.

    • Trusts for children & young adults ("Child/Maturity Trusts")

      The Child/Maturity Trust is a great option if you have younger children. You pick a trustee who monitors the assets and authorizes spending for things like shelter, education, and medical care.

      Eventually, when they’re older and (hopefully) more mature, your child receives full control over the trust’s assets.

      You can use our standard provisions or customize how these trusts function (changing the distribution ages and setting spending guidance for the trustee that reflects your values).

    • Trusts for loved ones with special needs ("Special Needs Trusts")

      A Special Needs Trust is a great option for a loved one who has special needs and receives government assistance. You choose the trustee who manages the trust account and authorizes spending to help the recipient.

      Because so many government benefits are tied to assets/income, an inheritance could inadvertently end those benefits. By putting the inheritance in a trust, your loved one doesn’t receive ownership of the assets in a way that jeopardizes their eligibility.

      The Special Needs Trust lasts for the lifetime of the recipient (unless there’s a change in circumstances).

    • Trusts for loved ones who can't handle money ("Protective Lifelong Trusts")

      If you have a loved one who struggles with addiction, or has dementia, or just generally can’t handle large sums of money, you can have their inheritance placed into a Protective Lifelong Trust.

      You pick the trustee who oversees the trust account and governs spending. The trustee ensures the inheritance is spent wisely for necessities like food/shelter, medical care, and education. If the trust is large enough, the trustee can authorize spending for non-essentials like a car, wedding, etc. Depending on the situation, the Trustee can pay expenses directly to ensure the money isn’t squandered or used to feed an addiction.

      Each Protective Lifelong Trust lasts for the lifetime of its recipient.

    • Two options for caring for your pets

      We’ll always ask if you want to name a Pet Guardian who will care for your beloved animals.

      In addition to choosing a guardian, you can help care for your pets by either:
      1. Giving money to the Pet Guardian, or
      2. Creating a Pet Trust

      Giving money directly to the guardian avoids the expense of a trust, but nothing prevents the guardian from ditching your pets and pocketing the money.

      The most secure mechanism is creating a Pet Trust. You’ll pick a trustee who monitors the trust and gives money to the guardian to cover the costs and expenses of caring for your pets. If there’s money left in the trust after your pets are gone, you can donate it to a charity (or your choosing) or have that money go back to your estate.

  • Will questions
    • What is a Will?

      The “last will and testament” – it’s basically an expression of your last wishes – the ‘testimony’ of what you want to occur after you’re gone.

      Because the person who made the Will isn’t available to testify about its authenticity, Wills have very specific signing requirements – it’s very different than most documents where you can just sign online. (We send very clear signing instructions.)

    • Can my spouse/partner and I share a Will?

      Nope – each person must have their own Will.

      Couples usually don’t die at the same time (thankfully!) – and so it works better for each person to create an individual Will.

  • Living Trust questions
    • What is a Living Trust?

      Also known as an inter vivos trust, the Living Trust is a revocable trust that you create while you’re alive to hold your own assets.

      Unlike a traditional trust (like the inheritance trusts) where one person creates the trust, a second person is the recipient/beneficiary of the trust, and a third person serves as trustee to manage the assets – in the Living Trust, you serve all three roles.

      You are the creator of the trust, you are the there’s a trustee,  where you select a trustee to manage the assets, you

    • How does the Living Trust relate to other trusts (like the Child/Maturity Trust)?

      They’re all trusts – but their creation and function is completely different.

      The Living Trust:
      • Created now, while you’re alive
      • Works in tandem with your Will
      • Purpose is distributing your assets when you die (and helping you avoid probate)

      The inheritance trust (e.g., Child/Maturity Trust):
      • Created upon your death
      • Created by your Will or Will + Living Trust
      • Purpose is protecting the assets of vulnerable loved ones

      The inheritance trusts are only created if needed – so we may create provisions for a Child/Maturity Trust – but hopefully you’ll be around until your kids are in their 50s, in which case they wouldn’t need a Child/Maturity Trust.

    • How does a Living Trust help me avoid probate?

      You’ve probably heard of “non-probate assets”? The law recognizes that some assets have their own distribution mechanism when the owner dies and doesn’t require that those assets go through probate.

      Assets held in a Living Trust are non-probate assets – if you arrange all of your assets to work with your Living Trust, you can avoid probate completely.

      (Probate is a formal judicial process that determines if you have a Will and then gathers your probateable assets to distribute them according to your Will.)

    • Is it complicated to arrange my assets with the Living Trust? Do I really need ongoing support?

      It’s not crazy complex, but it’s not intuitive. Each asset type has its own transfer mechanism – and each assets must be arranged correctly if you want to avoid probate completely.

      It’s totally up to you. We’re found that the post-signature asset-arranging aspect of the Living Trust and probate avoidance generates plenty of questions – so we created an option that lets us walk through that process with you.

      We can be on hand to offer advice and guidance – or we can be a more comprehensive solution by drafting transfer documents that match your assets.

      But if you’d prefer to handle these steps by yourself, there are plenty of resources out there to help you with the ins and outs of trusts, real estate transfers, LLC interests, etc.

  • Health Care Directive and Durable Power of Attorney questions
    • Incapacity and these documents

      “Incapacity” – if/when you’re unable to communicate or to make your own decisions.

      Basically, we’re talking about accidents and illnesses.

    • Choosing a health care agent

      We think it’s best to choose someone who has similar beliefs about end-of-life care.

      This person might be tasked with making incredibly hard decisions – and if they have different beliefs about when/how to die… Either they’ll have such agony making a decision they fundamentally disagree with – or they go with their own gut feelings and choose a different option that you would want.

    • Creating health care instructions

      Writing out end-of-life health care instructions sucks – it’s gruesome and depressing. So we’ve narrowed it down to a handful of questions – we wrote several options for you to choose from (if you’d like, you can write your own answer or skip the question).

      Our goal is to get through these health care instructions questions as quickly and easily as possible.

    • When does the Health Care Directive take effect?

      It takes effect when you become incapacitated – as confirmed by medical professionals.

    • Why is it a "durable" power of attorney?

      “Durable” means your financial agent can act for you while you are incapacitated.

      Powers of attorney are an old document – and traditionally you could only authorize someone to do actions that you could do yourself. So if you were incapacitated and couldn’t make financial transactions, your agent wouldn’t be able to make financial transactions either.

      We add language to the document to make it perfectly clear that your financial agent is authorized to act on your behalf while you are incapacitated.

    • Choosing a financial agent

      1st priority: Choose someone you can trust completely.
      2nd priority: Choose someone you can trust completely.
      3rd priority: Choose someone who is organized.

      The Durable Power of Attorney authorized someone to make almost any financial action that you could make for yourself. This is an incredibly broad authorization – and it basically needs to be that way since we can’t predict the future.

      So the key is choosing someone you can trust completely.

    • When does the Durable Power of Attorney take effect?

      Unlike the Health Care Directive (which takes effective when you become incapacitated), the Durable Power of Attorney is effective immediately.

      It seems unintuitive and scary to have such a powerful document effective immediately. Some attorneys use a “springing” power of attorney that doesn’t take effect until incapacity – here’s why we don’t use that version:
      (1) Incapacity is usually established by medical professional examining you – and those are easy to come by when you’re in a hospital. But if your financial agent brings a springing power of attorney into the bank, how will the bank determine if you’re incapacitated? What kind of documentation will they require? Will they require a judicial determination of incapacity? As you can image, it can become a huge hassle and frustrate the whole point of creating the document (i.e., authorizing someone to handle your affairs).
      (2) If your financial agent can’t be trusted while you have full capacity, how does it improve things to give them authority when you’re incapacitated?

      Long story short – the real key is choosing people you can completely trust – and keep the Durable Power of Attorney in your firesafe (don’t have your financial agent hold on to it).