How to Create Legal Documents without a Lawyer

How to Create Legal Documents
without a Lawyer

Aging prompts us to think about the future
—ours and those we love—
suggesting the need for helpful legal documents
we can create ourselves.

September 15, 2022 Brabec Bulletin

My two California sisters surprised me in July by saying they were coming for a week’s visit in mid-August. It’s rare for the three of us to be together, so this was a very joyful visit for the “Schaumburg Sisters,” as we like to think of ourselves. I’m “Big Sis,” Mary is “Middle Sis,” and Mollie is “Li’l Sis.”

The "Schaumburg Sisters" in their older ages

Pictured above, 240 years of life-related experience.
L-R: Mary, Mollie, & me at church on 8-28-22

This year my focus has been on organizing and simplifying my life to eliminate needless stressors and develop strategies to enable me to live independently at home for as long as possible. My sisters and I always have much to talk about, but this visit gave me an opportunity to discuss my concerns regarding aging, declining physical strength, and end-of-life financial and personal matters.

I’m grateful for my good health—no cancer, diabetes, or BP/heart issues now—so I am hopeful I will have several years left to live and work productively. But . . . when one is 85 and on the fast track to ninety, it’s prudent to prepare for a “life-related surprise” that might slow me down or stop me dead in my tracks.

My internist applauded me when I told her about the end-of-life plans I’m putting in place because she has several patients who won’t discuss this topic with her or a family member. I’m sure many reading this Bulletin have done this kind of planning, but I hope my experience will encourage others to follow my lead for themselves or a family member. The end of life is an uncomfortable topic for many to think about or discuss, but a wise person will plan for the unavoidable.

“God has reserved to Himself the right to determine the end of life, because He alone knows the goal to which it is His will to lead it. It is for Him alone to justify a life or to cast it away.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Big Help from Li’l Sis

Several years ago Mollie agreed to be the Executor of my Estate. With intellectual property as well as real estate and a house full of "the stuff of life,” it will be complicated. Mollie will also have to see to the management of my website for a while as she gradually gets me off the web everywhere else. (My late husband Harry used to joke that I was like manure because I was everywhere.)

I will never willingly retire as a writer and website owner so I’m currently writing a step-by-step plan for how Mollie can gradually dismantle my online life of business-related accounts and passwords. When God calls me home, I want to have left a plan that will make it as easy as possible for my heirs. (I find it amusing to think that I will live forever in Heaven and on Amazon.)

What I’ve Done and am Doing Now

The following list of legal documents will suggest things you might want to do for yourself or a loved one. Understand that I am not offering legal advice here; merely sharing my personal experience. (See my website’s Legal Disclaimer here.)

Durable Financial Power of Attorney. A major accomplishment in August was creating a Durable Financial POA and recording it with the County in which I reside. I realize an accident or serious medical problem could temporarily or permanently render me powerless to handle my financial affairs, and this Durable POA enables my Attorney in Fact (my sister) to legally act on my behalf in all matters financial. (I’ve always believed in having a backup plan, and this POA is it.)

There are many places online to get a free POA form, but I recommend PowerofAttorney.com  for specific POA forms for your state. Unlike other sites offering free legal forms, this site doesn’t require you to create a “free account” that demands a credit card before you can download the form. (If you fail to cancel this “subscription” within a week, your card will be billed a monthly charge until you do.) 

Financial Data Book. For many years, I kept this booklet updated for Harry because I managed our financial life and knew he would need this information if I died before him. It includes detailed info related to banking, investments, credit cards, medical records, insurance, mortgage, and more. As things change, I will periodically update this booklet for my Attorney in Fact and executor of my will. I also added Mollie to my checking account as a joint owner, which will enable her to easily pay my bills after I'm gone.

Last Will and Testament. Harry didn’t need a will because we owned everything jointly from the beginning. I waited many years before I finally wrote a will, but I’m now updating it again for the third time. To make it legal, I will have it notarized and witnessed by two people. (My bank will do this for me without charge.)

===> Check your state on this point: Illinois law requires that upon the death of a Testator his/her Will must be filed with the local Clerk of Circuit Court within 30 days of the date of the Testator's death.

Importance of Having a Will: I now realize that there is no age where a will isn’t important. Don’t wait as long as I did to write yours. Anyone who owns property—and everyone who has children—needs to have a will to ensure that what they own goes to those they want to have it, and that children will be cared for as their parent/parents wish.

You can download a sample Will to help you write your own. One site that guarantees the form is 100% free, no credit card needed, is FreeWill.com.

NOTE: If you die without a will, your estate will go to probate court. Read this article to learn what will happen then. This info could give you heart palpitations because probate may be costly to your heirs and you may be shocked to learn how your state will divvy up your real and personal property.

I was unhappy to learn that, as a property owner, my estate may go to probate even though I have a will. Many cities or counties have an attorney that will offer seniors a short free consult for estate plans and I’ve found one in my county. So I will soon set up a consult to discuss my probate options and confirm that my DIY documents are in order.

Advance Healthcare Directive, or Living Will. Several years ago, I created a Medical POA and Living Will, but after re-reading the “Five Wishes” booklet I got years ago, I decided I wanted to make some changes about the end-of-life medical treatments I want/don’t want, how comfortable I want to be if I’m dying, and other things my loved ones need to know.

If you need a Living Will, this booklet may be perfect for you because it covers spiritual, medical, and legal wishes all in one document. It allows your family or caregiver to know exactly what you want, and it’s legally valid in nearly every state. You can purchase a print copy of this booklet for $5 by calling1-888-594-7437 or do an online version for $15 that you can revise without time limits.

If you prefer to do a POA form for healthcare, I suggest you download the free form offered on the site I used for my Financial POA form.

Closing Thoughts

Talking about death and dying is a natural part of life. None of us will escape it. Wouldn’t it be easier for our loved ones for us to have a carefully thought-out plan? For me as a believer in Christ, this discussion is easier because I have the assurance of Jesus that I will be with Him in my heavenly home forever.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3 NIV).

“Never fear dying, beloved. Dying is the last, but the least matter that a Christian has to be anxious about.” –Charles Spurgeon

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