Life Changes Fast
Do you have a plan?
A good estate plan will make life easier for your family, and you will have peace of mind. BUT before you meet with your attorney, start with the Side by Side Planner, an estate planning workbook and important documents organizer.
With the Side by Side Planner estate planning workbook, you'll go from overwhelmed to empowered.
Everyone needs a plan. Everyone. Old or young, married or single, wealthy or not wealthy yet—estate planning shouldn't be a tool reserved for only a select few.
Whether you’re a parent who wants to ensure your children are cared for when you’re gone, an individual who cares about aging in your home as long as possible, or someone who wishes to create an emergency plan for a beloved pet, the Side by Side Planner is for you.
Part reference book (in plain English!), part decision-making guide, part workbook, part checklist—the Side By Side Planner was created to help you make smart choices to protect the things you value and the people you love.
Sadly, more than half of Americans will never make a plan.
The Side by Side Planner is an important tool for adults of all ages, in all stages of life, in all levels of economic wealth.
If you are injured or face a catastrophic illness, who will care for your children or pets? Who will ensure your bills are paid? Who will communicate with medical staff to ensure your health care wishes are carried out?
I get it. Estate planning feels overwhelming and complicated. But, you’ve put off preparing a will and an estate plan long enough. Not having a plan is costly to your loved ones: financially, mentally, and emotionally.
In the Side By Side Planner you will learn what makes an estate plan, what decisions you need to make, and why you need to make them.
Take as much time as you need to answer the questions and complete the worksheets. Move at your own pace, and use the time to address questions with your family, health care professional, or personal attorney.
How it Works
Side by Side Planner is a 50-page fillable PDF that you can download instantly.
You will be emailed a download link after completing your purchase.
You can read it on any device—mobile, tablet, computer—or print it.
You can fill it in on your computer in Adobe Acrobat or print and fill it out by hand.
Take your completed planner—or email it—to an estate planning attorney and they’ll take it from there.
Bonus! Are you a parent of children under the age of 18? Add on our supplement for parents of young children!
What do you get?
Hi. I'm Lauren Pitman. This planner will walk you through the estate planning process as if you were a client in my office.
After fifteen years as an estate-planning attorney, I’ve helped families protect their assets, their personal legacies, and their loved ones. But the need for information is too great for me to work with only one family at a time. There are still too many people who don’t have the documents that can make their loved ones’ lives easier.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to meet everyone who desperately needs more information about estate planning at my office. Plus, I believe it’s time for attorneys to make estate planning more transparent, so people can get the advice they need. That’s why I created Side by Side Planner.
Everyone who cares about something: whether that’s another person, an heirloom, or a worthy cause.
More than half of Americans will never make a Will, and their families spend hours in probate court, paying attorney’s fees and court fees, and trying to guess what their loved one really wanted. It’s just too risky and costly. No matter what, your loved ones won’t get the exact results you wanted for them, and your family harmony is at stake.
I want you to know that your estate plan is about so much more than distributing your assets. A really good estate plan will make life easier for your family. It will bring you peace of mind. And it will be a layer of protection between the people you love and emergency situations.
Your only job is to think carefully about the questions asked in the planner and supplement, and to take the answers to an attorney you trust.
I did not create the Side by Side Planner to drum up business for my law firm. I saw a desperate need for more knowledge about estate planning across all levels of education and incomes. So, even if you choose not to take your Side by Side Planner to an attorney, this workbook will be a valuable resource to you.
The Planner and supplements are not legal documents, so you need to see an attorney you trust to make your plans legally enforceable.
But any attorney will be grateful that you have spent time and effort thinking about these important questions, so they can focus on what they do best: creating the plan, on paper, that works for you.
You only need an hour or more to complete the worksheets. Just take your time and be thoughtful about your answers.
Then take the completed planner and relevant supplement(s) to an attorney in your area who focuses on estate planning. Your attorney will take it from there.
A will is a great start when it comes to estate planning, but there’s a lot more to creating a comprehensive plan.
Depending on your age, you’re more likely to be injured or to become incapacitated in your lifetime than to die. A will doesn’t help in these situations, it only helps when there is a death certificate. In the meantime, the people in your family will have medical and financial decisions to make, and sometimes those decisions go hand-in-hand.
Emergency medical documents should be top priority, specifically a medical power of attorney, which gives authority to someone to make your medical decisions when you are unable to make them for yourself.
Your will might cover when and how you want your assets distributed, but it doesn’t always provide the details that are necessary to make good decisions for your estate. Side by Side Planner includes an in-depth discussion of your values and your reasons for making such deeply personal decisions. It provides context for your Personal Representative, the person who will see that your wishes are carried out.
While your will names the important people in your plan, like your Personal Representative, it doesn’t necessarily provide contact information for them. It doesn’t help with the real-life implementation of your plan. Side by Side Planner has space for all this important information, and more. It compiles the details your loved ones will need, everything from where you pick up your prescriptions to how to log in to your banking apps, and takes a great deal of stress off their shoulders.
Side by Side Planner makes life easier even when you have a will.
Absolutely not. Side by Side Planner is for everyone, and in fact, it especially makes sense to fill in the workbook if you don’t have a spouse or direct heirs. That’s because it’s trickier to determine who is your next-of-kin without an immediate family nearby, and while courts fret over how to locate important people in your life, they might overlook the people you really want to make your decisions.
For example, if you live far from your family members, but you have a close-knit group of friends in your current city, you might choose one of them to be your medical agent (decision-maker) in a crisis. Depending on the laws of your state, this may become very complicated. If you are incapacitated, hospital ethics committees will have to assemble a team and seek a court order. If that sounds time-consuming, it’s because it is. Meanwhile, you’re waiting for medical decisions, and the people you love are stressed about how to make them for you.
To be clear, Side by Side Planner is also vitally important for married people and those who have children. People who are married should consider together what happens if they are injured at the same time: who would make their medical choices, if not their spouse? And those with children need to consider who would be the child’s permanent guardian, and how they would like their child to be cared for. Preferences for disciplinary measures, parenting philosophy, and financial philosophy are all provided in the Side by Side Planner Supplement for Parents of Young Children.
Side by Side Planner also covers temporary difficulties, like if you were traveling and couldn’t make it home to your kids, and one of them required medical care. There are so many contingencies, and we don’t always get a preview of what life has in store for us. That’s why Side by Side Planner covers so many bases.
Side by Side Planner is designed to fit in with your other important documents, such as your birth certificates, marriage certificates, financial records, social security records, military discharge papers, and Medicare documents. These are the types of documents that your agent or Personal Representative would need in order to carry out your wishes, so it’s good to have everything in one place.
In addition, your Side by Side Planner advises you on other documents that could be useful in case of emergency.
A few of these important documents are:
- List of current medications
- List of internet accounts and login information
- List of contact information for all key people, including: close loved ones and friends, financial people, your primary doctors’ offices, religious affiliations, veterans affiliations and associations, civic or fraternal groups
- Current expenses and how they are paid
- Life insurance policies
Finally, keep your Side by Side Planner somewhere others can find it in an emergency. Make sure your agent knows where you keep this information and most importantly, has access to it. If you keep it in a safe deposit box, ensure that your agent has access to the code. If you keep it in your freezer, or in a filing cabinet in your basement, make sure others know where to look. Your Side by Side Planner won’t help you if no one can find it.
Although I designed Side by Side Planner specifically for emergencies and as an estate planning tool, it also functions as a general organizer for this important information. I find that I reference it often just because I know it has all the important information in one place.
When I’m filling out forms for my children’s school, I reach for Side by Side Planner because it has all the important contact information for our emergency contacts, and it contains the information about their doctors and medical history, all in one place.
I reach for Side by Side Planner for important login information and to see when bills are due because it contains a monthly snapshot of all my recurring expenses. It’s a financial organizer as well as an estate planning tool.
There’s so much to Side by Side Planner. It’s not just meant to sit there until there’s an emergency. It grows with you, and you can update the planner as things change in your life.
In addition, the Supplement for Parents of Young Children contains two important documents that you will reference more frequently: a temporary guardianship document and a HIPAA release for medical records. These documents are helpful any time you go on vacation or if you leave your children in another’s care for any reason or length of time.
When it’s filled in properly, Side by Side Planner is truly an organizational tool that does so much more than prepare for an estate plan.
Like you, I am concerned more than ever about the protection of my identity and sensitive documents. Still, I think that having this information accessible when it’s needed is much more important than never putting it together because you’re concerned it might be found.
One thing I recommend is to fill in your planner old-school style, manually with pen and paper. Then, keep it in a safe place at home. If you choose to use the fillable pdf, keep it on your computer’s hard drive rather than in the cloud.
You have other sensitive documents in your home. As long as you keep Side by Side Planner relatively safe, you should have more peace of mind knowing it exists.
First of all, I designed Side by Side Planner to save people money when working with an attorney. That’s because by filling out the workbook, you’ve done a lot of the legwork ahead of time that an attorney would ask of you. Just by getting a head start on making these decisions, you’re going to save time, and with attorneys, time is money. If you saved half an hour of attorney time, you’d be saving $150 compared to the price of the planner.
Similarly, when you experience incapacity or die without an estate plan, your loved ones are going to be faced with a much greater expense. That’s because it’s much more difficult to sort out an estate without a will. A will is a roadmap that guides a judge through your assets and your values. Without a map, the judge may have to hear from a lot more people, which costs in time and court’s fees. Meanwhile, your assets may be frozen and only a small allowance for living expenses is given to your family.
Sure, there are free will templates you can download online. But they won’t be tailored to the laws of your state, and they certainly won’t cover all the details. For example, many times these wills don’t work in a court because they haven’t been witnessed by two people and notarized. Then the whole will is invalid. Even if you have a “simple” situation, having an incomplete estate plan, or one that is invalid, can cost thousands of dollars to your estate.
In that way, Side by Side Planner is meant to help you save a great deal of money in the long run. It’s a small investment with a huge pay out.
Perhaps more importantly, I’m an estate planning attorney with more than fifteen years of experience, and I’ve poured everything I know about creating a comprehensive plan into these documents. I have covered all the details and thought of everything so you don’t have to, so you don’t have to run the risk of using a free template online that might not really work.
My expertise as an attorney is in these pages, and it’s my hope that after filling in Side by Side Planner, you’ll feel just as confident as clients feel when they leave my office after meeting with me.
Filling in Side by Side Planner won’t always be easy. It requires a thoughtful and thorough consideration. But when it’s done?
Complete peace of mind.
If something happened to you tomorrow, you’d have put in the hard work of planning that would make life so much easier for the ones you love.
The Side by Side Planner is a 62-page document that guides you through the process of estate planning, just as if you were meeting with an experienced attorney.
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