Don’t skip the attorney when it comes to writing your will. Free fill-in-the-blank wills online are fine if you don’t have any significant assets, but if you do, an attorney is necessary to get your affairs in order. Online wills are easily contested, which can leave your estate in probate longer than it needs to be. This can drain the estate and leave little behind for your heirs. Also, having a legally binding will can help eliminate unnecessary family squabbles.

The Ethical Will

Even if you don’t have two pennies to rub together, you can still write a will. You can write an ethical will, which is basically a will that outlines your personal values, spiritual convictions, hopes for future generations and important life lessons. This type of will has nothing to do with money or assets and a lawyer isn’t necessary.

What Should You Include in Your Will?

What you include in your will really depends on what you have and who you want to have it after you’re gone. It’s important to think it through and be very clear on what exactly you want to do with your assets prior to walking into an attorney’s office.

Things You Can Include in Your Will

  • Residential buildings, income properties, commercial and residential properties and land.
  • Cash: money in a savings account, checking account, individual retirement account, Certificate of Deposit, money market accounts and possibly pension accounts.
  • Intangible property: stocks, bonds, business ownership, copyrights, patents, royalties, intellectual property.
  • Valuable items: cars, motorcycles, boats, furniture, jewelry, antiques and so on.

Things You Can’t Include in a Will

Not everything can be included in a will. Here’s a list of some things that can’t be included:

  • Property that is equally owned by two parties (both names are on the deed). These type of assets will automatically be transferred over to the surviving partner.
  • Trusts
  • Retirement plans
  • Insurance policies that state a beneficiary
  • Stocks and bonds that have been set up to automatically transfer to another person upon passing


How to Close Your Parent’s Mobile Phone Account After They Die


Dealing with your parent’s cell phone carrier after they die may seem like it’s just one more thing to add to an overwhelming list of things to do. The reality is that some carriers are more than happy to charge your parents estate for ETF fees, while other carriers are very sensitive to this issue.  Choose your carriers wisely.

The Big Four Cell Phone Carriers

Each mobile phone carrier has their own policy and procedures in place when it comes to closing accounts due to the death of an account holder. Most mobile phone carriers require you to sign a two-year contract that charges Early Termination Fees (ETFs) if you break your contract.

Some phone carriers are more gracious than others when it comes to charging ETFs due to the death of an account holder. I’ve listed the big top four mobile phone companies, but there are plenty of others, each one with their own procedures and policies in place.


In order for early termination fees and/or transfer of billing responsibility fees to be waived, your digital trustee must contact customer service and provide your Social Security number and the account password. In most states, (except for Oklahoma) the account must be deactivated unless a Transfer of Billing Responsibility is activated in order to retain the mobile phone number. The balance of the account will fall to the estate.

Detailed information may be found on AT&T’s help page.


Canceling or closing an account with Sprint is as easy as sending an email to DeceasedNotification@sprint.com with the following information:

  • Account holder’s complete name
  • Cell phone number
  • Date of death
  • Social Security number

Additionally, Sprint requires the digital trustee to include their phone number in the communication.

Details can be found on Sprint’s help page.


In order for T-Mobile to cancel your phone service and early termination fee (ETF), your digital trustee must contact Customer Care and provide the following information:

  • Cell phone number
  • Account number
  • Responsible billing party
  • Death certificate or attorney/legal estate documents if the death certificate is not immediately available

The supporting documentation listed above must be received within 30 days. Customer Relations will verify the information within 7 business days. If the documentation is not received within 30 days, T-Mobile will refuse to process the cancellation.

Additional details may be found on T-Mobile’s help page.


If your cell phone is in your name, your digital trustee should go to a Verizon/Frontier store with your death certificate. At that time, the sales associate should cancel your line and all other lines in your name, as well as stopping the early termination fee.

Contact Verizon/Frontier’s customer service department for additional details.

Why Do You Want to Buy Life Inurance?



It’s important to understand your motivations for wanting to purchase life insurance. It’s important that your premium dollars are helping you protect what matters most.

Having life insurance there for you when you need it can be a huge blessing, especially when you are at your most vulnerable. It’s important to ask yourself why you want to get life insurance coverage. What do you want it to do?

  • Supplement our retirement income
  • Give to a worthy charity
  • Keep your business going, should you pass
  • Replace the breadwinner’s income
  • Provide a financial legacy to your heirs
  • Provide debt protection
  • Protect your assets should you need long-term care
  • Pay for your funeral and it’s associated costs

Next, you need to zero in on the main financial reason why you want to get life insurance. Financially speaking, what do you want your insurance policy to do?

  • Access cash values and a death benefit
  • Low premiums for a short period of time
  • Access to cash values, should you become terminally or chronically ill
  • Access to cash values to pay for a downpayment on a home or college tuition for your children or grandchildren
  • Provide a hedge against inflation in order to maintain your standard of living
  • Have the flexibility to increase or decrease the premium or death benefit
  • Flexible premium payments
  • Potentially double your death benefit should die accidentally 
  • Return of premiums

The 3 Different Types of Living Benefit Categories


Living benefits are categorized into 3 different categories of illness that allow you to be eligible for a payout.

There are three basic types of living benefit categories. Each category requires that you meet the qualifying criteria in order to be eligible to receive the living benefit payout.

  1. Critical Illness – to receive the living benefit payout for a critical illness, you must be diagnosed with a major medical health condition like cancer, stroke, or heart attack. Certain other qualifying health conditions may include blindness caused by diabetes, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) or kidney failure.
  2. Chronic Illness – to receive the living benefit payout for chronic illness, you must be unable to independently perform two daily living activities. This may include dressing, bathing, toileting, eating and transferring. It may also be required that the policy to be in force for a certain number of years before the carrier will pay out. It’s best to check the policy’s waiting period so there aren’t any surprises.
  3. Terminal Illness – to receive the living benefit payout for terminal illness, you must be diagnosed with a terminal illness and have a life expectancy of 24 months or less. Check your policy as some states may require 12 months or less.

Once you receive the funds, you may spend them any way you wish.

All in all, living benefits should never be considered as a viable alternative to long-term care insurance, but it can offer a source of cash, should you be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition. Ideally, it could stop your life savings from being depleted or protect other important financial resources.

Life Insurance Living Benefits



Living benefits can help you at a time when you are at your most vulnerable.


Just within the last 5 years or so, some insurance carriers have been offering insurance policies with living benefits or accelerated benefit riders. The beautiful thing about living benefit riders is that it allows you to get part of your policy’s face amount – in some cases, up to 90% or more, if you are diagnosed with a serious life-threatening disease, such as cancer or some other qualifying condition.

Living benefits funds may be dispersed as either a one-time lump sum or through installments. The good thing about the living benefits funds is that the cash isn’t limited to paying the medical bills. The cash is yours so you can spend it on whatever you like.

Which means you can pay off your mortgage, pay for your daily living expenses, install a wheelchair ramp, buy a new car, or whatever you like. There are no strings attached. However, the cash that you receive will be applied against your policy’s death benefit. So, if the reason you took out the policy was to leave something behind for your heirs, then you need to take that into consideration, as you could be significantly reducing the death benefit.

Generally speaking, the money you get once you access your living benefits may not be subject to federal income tax, assuming that certain criteria is met, which basically means that you must be classified as being terminally ill.

Another good thing is that the living benefits you receive from your insurance policy usually aren’t subject to state income tax either, although this isn’t across the board in all states, so check to see if it applies in your state.

One important thing to note is that you will still be responsible for paying the monthly premium, even though the death benefit has been reduced. So it’s important to keep the policy in force.