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How to Start a Will for Free in Minutes & Protect Your Future

How Your Cell Phone can Help You Align Your Behavior about Estate Planning with Your Values

A Simple Cell Phone App to Create a Will 

When Aretha Franklin died in 2018, succumbing to pancreatic cancer, she died “intestate,” meaning she’d never made a last will and testament, a legally binding document , that directs the state to carry out your wishes as you have indicated. Worth $17 million, Franklin’s family were are still disputing over the distribution of her assets as of 2020, facing years to come of probate and litigation.

Overcoming Fear, Procrastination and Privacy

The very idea of planning for what happens when you die is something people don’t like to think about, especially younger generations. Others say they just don’t have the time. And many say they don’t want anyone, including an attorney, to know their business. But overcoming these fears, procrastination and privacy concerns is necessary if you want to control what happens upon your death and take care of your family and business.

We don’t know why Franklin didn’t make a will. We do know she has a lot of company. The number of people with a will and other estate planning documents is on the decline. According to a recent survey by Caring.com, just 68% of adults in the U.S. don’t have a will, compared to 58% in 2017. The most significant drop off, down 25% from 2019 to 2020, was adults ages 35-54. Among those age 55 or older, it was a 20% decline, while young adults ages 18-34, on the other hand, only saw a drop of 1.6 percentage points.

This trend among middle-aged and older adults is alarming, considering that as one ages, they are more likely to need a will or other estate planning document.

Why Protecting Your Family with a Will is Paramount

“We did an internal survey of employees at my previous company and found that 80% of families with parents aged 45 and under did not have a will,” says entrepreneur Dave Hanley. “That means if the worst happens to them, there is nothing in place to care of their children. No guardian has been appointed, funds for their future haven’t been stated legally, life insurance probably hasn’t been purchased. “

Nationally, Caring.com found that in 2017, only 36% of parents with children under the age of 18 have an end-of-life plan in place. As a father of four kids, this statistic hit Hanley hard.

“There’s no reason the passing of a parent needs to put a kid into chaos and poverty,” says Hanley. “I wanted to create something that would make a difference.” In 2016, Hanley, along with a fellow entrepreneurs Joshua Heckathorn and software developer Erik Kjell co-founded Tomorrow, an app for your smart phone that promises to walk you through creating a legally binding will in just 10 minutes. No fear. No procrastinating. No excuses! To inspire you, here are the top 5 reasons to create a will.

You Decide, That’s What Matters Most

  1. A will allows you to decide what happens with your estate. You choose the executor, the person responsible for carrying out your wishes. You decide the beneficiaries, what each receives – and conversely, who doesn’t inherit anything. A charity can benefit. Even the family pet. When luxury hotelier Leona Helmsley died, her will cut out two grandchildren, but dictated that a trust fund of $12 million be established to ensure her beloved Maltese, Trouble, would be well-cared for.
  2. A will allows you to decide who will care for your minor children upon your death. Appointing a legal guardian is likely the most responsible action you can take to safeguard them. It’s important to ensure this guardian has agreed to take on this responsibility so having this conversation early is ideal, as difficult as it may be.

“When I told my two younger children that they would go to live with their Aunt if Mom and Dad died, my kids felt better, knowing what would happen to them,” says Hanley.

  1. A will helps to avoid family fights, legal challenges and an extended probate process. Without a will, the state (probate court) will look to your nearest relatives to determine who gets what. This may not be the people you would have chosen or wanted involved.
  2. A will can keep your business from folding. By planning for the future, you can help smooth the transition after your death and protect all the hard work you’ve put in building a successful business.
  3. A will can help ease the grieving process. At such an emotional time, when your thoughts are elsewhere, having a valid will takes the burden off the family to make choices. These decisions are sensitive enough without the pressure of grief.

In A Single Taxi Ride, You Have a Will – for Free

Though making a will sounds daunting and expensive, Hanley and his team have developed Tomorrow, with the help of 52 attorneys nationwide, that’s easy to use. The cost – free!  To add a trust, $39. Life insurance (where Tomorrow makes money) takes another 3 minutes.

In January 2019, 10,000 wills were crafted. “In the first 18 months, we had just under 200,000 users,” says Hanley. Tomorrow recently partnered with digital life insurance provider Bestow to bring affordable, high-quality insurance to its 500,000 users. “1,000 people are joining per day,” Hanley says. “It’s not about death or wills, it’s about positivity, and peace of mind.”

Stacey Tisdale
Stacey Tisdale
Founder, CEO, Executive Producer

Stacey Tisdale, a more than 20-year veteran TV broadcast financial journalist, and financial behavior expert, is one of the first women, and the first African-American to report from the New York Stock Exchange, in her role as a reporter/anchor for Dow Jones' Emmy Award-winning, Wall Street Journal Television.

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