How To Factor Embryo Adoption Into Your Will And Estate Plan


As a present for our ninth anniversary, I gave Julie the gift of death in writing. In most circles, this is known as a will. (But Halloween is approaching, and I’ve been learning about the Grim Reaper as part of my continuing education.)

If you and your spouse are even thinking halfway seriously about embryo adoption — or already have children — this is mission critical. No one explains the need for a will better than Dave Ramsey, so I’ll let him be the mean one. You can scroll down to the bottom to check out the clip.

You need a will because the odds are high you will eventually die. Your spouse needs the legal documentation proving everything will be OK financially. Your children deserve the security of knowing they will have a caretaker.

As we worked through the paperwork with our attorney, we had Phoebe in mind, even though the embryo transfer hadn’t happened. Our attorney made sure to write the will in such a way that it included any future children we might bring into our family. That way, we wouldn’t have to go back and rework the text in a year’s time.

Along with our will, we decided to put into place some additional documentation:

  • A living will, which identifies what our loved ones should do in the event that we remain alive yet medically unresponsive.

  • A trust, which ensures our children’s finances will be easy to manage in the event a loved one needs to administer those resources rather than handing over the checkbook to our darlings.

  • Power of attorney so that Julie and I can, or trusted loved ones, can manage the other’s business in the event we are physically or mentally unable to do so.

If memory serves, this entire process of visiting with our attorney about our needs, reviewing the drafted paperwork and making the documents official during a signing marathon at her office took just a couple of months.

During this process, you should be prepared to:

  • Carefully read the details of lengthy and sometimes tedious documentation that will ensure your spouse and children are protected in the event of your untimely death.

  • Find an appropriate location to file these documents in both physical and digital format. In our case, our attorney compiled all of these materials in an easy-to-spot binder with a label affixed to its spine. It is easy to spot in case someone ever needs to grab it off the shelf in a pinch.

  • Communicate your plans with your family.

That last point will not come naturally. It’s highly likely none of your family members have ever done this for you. But I can guarantee you if you are hit by a bus tomorrow, you’ll be glad you alerted them to your plans today.

If we’re being honest, it took me a good year to compile an email to my siblings, Julie’s siblings and our parents providing digital editions of our documents and explaining in bullet points who gets what (e.g. children, finances, physical assets) if something happens.

Surprisingly, I got several positive responses from family members who appreciated the gesture, as bizarro as it sounds, and saw it for what it is: An act of love in preparation for a day everyone knows is coming but few are comfortable acknowledging.

Embryo adoption shouldn’t be a reason to delay finalizing your will. If anything, it should be the trigger that pushes you to make it official.

Ask your older and wiser friends to recommend a good attorney. You might even know someone who can offer a discounted rate.

You will forever be remembered for the things you did, not the things you wish you had done. This one will put you out of a few hundred dollars, but there’s no question I sleep better knowing it is in place.

You will, too.