View Full Version : Do You Have a Will?
06-11-2012, 07:40 PM
I don't know if it's because I'm just over the 40 y/o mark or not, but lately I've been wondering about wills. I don't have one. It's one of those things that I think about every once and a while, but never follow through on.
Why? I think my main reasons are 1) I don't realy have much to will to anyone at this stage in my life, and I don't know what I WILL have upon my death and 2) I wonder if it's as easy as those kits you see in Staples to do your own will vs payng an attorney to do it for me.
I'm single, have a house (with a mortgage), term life insurance with my employer that will more than cover any funeral expenses and then some, 401k, some other savings. Nothing major in terms of assets.
Have you ever done a will? I need a motivational push I guess.
06-11-2012, 07:55 PM
Owning a house is more than enough of an "estate" to make it worth having a will. If you die without one, things get very complicated and expensive.
The do-it-yourself kits are probably sufficient for your needs, but there's a more modern option available too: an online do-it-yourself. The laws may differ where you are, but for me (in BC), because the site is operated by lawyers, I didn't need pay to have it notorized. I just filled in my particulars, printed it, had it witnessed, and done.
The site I used is called LegalWills.ca (http://legalwill.ca/). I'm sure there's an equivalent for your side of the border. I bought mine through Groupon. :D
06-11-2012, 07:59 PM
You may think you don't have a lot, but in reality, those are all things that would need to be dealt with if something should happen to you. I would definitely recommend a lawyer do it. Do-It-Yourself wills, while inexpensive, are easily challenged and subject to error. Not sure about where you live, but here a single will is about $200 plus disbursements - definitely worth the peace of mind.
I understand the procrastination. My husband and I finally got our will a few years ago. Now that it's done, I wonder what took us so long!
06-11-2012, 08:05 PM
I have a will because I have children and I wanted their guardian to be someone I named.
By law, if I die without a will today, everything I have would go to my husband (there are complications there, but that is essentially what would happen). If he died with me, it would go to my children. If we didn't have children and died together, it would go to my siblings.
That's exactly how my will does it. Aside from the guardianship issue, I don't think there is any particular need for me to have a will, as I have very simple estate.
Dying without a will is not necessarily a nightmare. Both of my parents died without a will, but it was no big deal. Much depends on the laws for your state and how complex your family is, and whether you want to leave your estate to your immediate family or not. Do a Google search on your state and "descent and distribution" to find out what your state would do if you died intestate.
I made up my own will using a form from the a state legal forms book, which I got at a college library. But again, what I want is very simple, and I live in a state where probate law is very lenient.
06-11-2012, 08:20 PM
I have a will which I created for some nominal fee off a website. Mine is very uncomplicated; I don't have much and it all goes to one person but it still seems like a good idea to have one. Or at least it did to me when I was going in for major surgery and I used that as a prod to make me do it!
I think equally important is to have a living will and advance directive so that if you face a medical crisis you will get the treatment you want. You can fill out advance directive forms for your state if you are in the US for free. Just google your state and advance directive. One resource is here: http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/info-03-2012/free-printable-advance-directives.html
06-11-2012, 08:25 PM
Your 401(k) account can be handled via a beneficiary form through your plan administrator, but for the rest of your assets I would definitely recommend using an attorney. If your estate is simple, it will be surprisingly inexpensive and you will be assured that it will be right.
06-11-2012, 08:30 PM
First, you can check with your local bar association for lawyers who do estate planning ... you can call and see how much a consultation would be. That may help you find something affordable.
Also, if you aren't sure who you want to leave things to, you can name a favorite charity or cause as the beneficiary. A will also lets you leave specific items to specific people.
06-11-2012, 08:30 PM
I have a will, but I would recommend looking into not only getting a will, but also a health care proxy and a living will. If something were to happen to you, who do you want to make decisions about your care? I also did a power of attorney for my sisters should I become incapacitated.
As a single person, I thought it was important to be clear about who I wanted making decisions for me if anything were to happen. I had the forms done by a lawyer, and they're all pretty simple and it wasn't that expensive. Also, if I were ever in a position where I had a pet and it wasn't clear that a close family member would take the pet, I'd want to establish in the will who I'd like to take the pet (and talk to them in advance to make sure they'd be willing) and leave that person sufficient money to cover the costs.
06-11-2012, 08:37 PM
I do have a living will for any medical crisis as BlueRidge mentioned. I do not have a will as my sister is my sole beneficiary and she is already on every account that matters. I went to my attorney and he told me that--in my case--one was not needed. He could have told me differently and charged me accordingly. If something happens to my sister then I will make a will for my nieces. My attorney already has instructions about this as well and my sister and her husband have a will to make sure their daughters are provided for should the worst happen.
06-11-2012, 08:39 PM
I also recommend hiring a lawyer. The small investment is worth it to ensure that your will includes important issues as already mentioned like who has control over health decisions and financial decisions (not necessarily the same person) if you are unable to, and that it can't be contested.
Sadly estates, no matter how small, can bring out the ugly in people, and often from unexpected places, so it's much better to have it all written out and iron clad.
06-11-2012, 08:56 PM
In the US there are set forms for living will and health care directives. You don't have to go to an attorney. Just google them for your state. You will need to have witnesses to sign them, but no more than that. It is extremely easy to do.
06-11-2012, 09:00 PM
Like others, I recommend that you get the Power of Attorney, Healthcare PoA and Directive to Physicians taken care of, will or not.
Also, as far as having assets to cover things goes, you might keep in mind that there is always a period of time after a death where funds might be hard to access. That is a good reason for a PoA and for a will. If you have one, there is no probate period. Also, you could have one account set up (if the work insurance isn't), as a "Pay on Death". That way there are funds available more quickly.
And Jenny is right - settling estates can bring out the ugly in people.
06-11-2012, 09:06 PM
While an attorney would be nice, if you know how you want your assets distributed, your assets aren't substantial, and who you would like to serve as your executor, I'd think one of the programs (Willmaker?) would be fine. Really, almost any will is better than none at all.
Additionally, if you have thought about what kind of arrangements you'd like (enbalming/no enbalming, fancy casket/simple casket, open casket/closed casket, cremation, dispersal of cremains vs. interring cremains, service (type & style), cemetery & headstone choice (if applicable) and obituary wishes are all incredibly helpful as a separate document, kept in an easy-to-find place. If you've always wanted that NASCAR casket, now's your chance to say that.
06-11-2012, 09:07 PM
My husband & I just did our wills & our living wills/advance directives. If you're not going to have a will then you should have a secondary beneficiary on everything. My mother had a will but she forgot to change the beneficiary on some of her bonds & on one of her life insurances. She left my dad on them & because he predeceased her, it caused a big hassle.
Also, one of my friends became a widow recently. Her husband had terminal cancer but he refused to make a will. Because of that, her kids can make claim to a share in everything the couple owned. I don't think they will but she can't even sell the house without having them sign off on it since he died intestate.
I think it's important to have your final wishes written down too. You may think that your life insurance would cover those expenses, but it's a burden to your family to decide everything like buriel or cremation, religious service or not, what songs, what flowers, bury or scatter, etc.
06-11-2012, 09:14 PM
That is a good reason for a PoA and for a will. If you have one, there is no probate period.
That must vary from place to place, because that is definitely not the case here. A POA becomes invalid upon death of the principal and a will has no validity until it has been accepted by the probate court. If my husband died tomorrow, one of the first things I would do (at least if I am thinking clearly) is run to the bank and withdraw money.
Wills can always be contested, whether a lawyer draws them up or not; having a lawyer does not ensure that your will is unbreakable.
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