Chanel Reynolds: Don't Make My Estate Planning Mistakes

Chanel Reynolds /
Chanel Reynolds /

By Ross Kenneth Urken

If you ever needed to be reminded of the importance of estate planning, look no further than this New York Times story on the financial planning website founded by Chanel Reynolds. Reynolds, a Seattle mother of two, was in her late thirties when her husband, José Hernando, was struck and fatally injured while riding his bicycle near their home.

The name for the site she launched this month--a less polite version of "get your act together"-- comes from the desperate rallying cry she issued to herself over the state of the family's financial affairs at the time of his death. They had no signed wills, little in the way of an emergency fund, and Reynolds had deferred to her husband when it came to managing the family's affairs.

So even as she kept vigil in the hospital, her grief took a back seat to her fears about money.

"Those were actually the words that came out of my mouth in the I.C.U.," Reynolds told the Times'sRon Lieber about the origins of the site's slightly off-putting name. "To try to come up with another word to describe something that is part of my own personal experience is too hard to do for me, and it doesn't, for me, communicate the level of importance and intensity and emotion that comes along with the content."

That content includes free templates for estate planning documents like wills and powers of attorney, and a checklist of important details--online account passwords, bank information, insurance and the like--that often falls through the cracks.

Reynolds, who spent painstaking months piecing her finances together, is clear about what she hopes to accomplish: "There are a few simple things I wish I had taken care of before my life went sideways," she writes on the site. "Should the ground fall out from under your feet, plan now for a safer landing."

Hear Reynolds explain her mission in the video below.

And for more estate planning advice, check out these articles:
Planning for Trouble: Money and Estate Tips for Every Age
10 Vital Documents Every Grownup Should Have
Why More Than Half of Americans Don't Have Wills