Nov 17 2010

Will it be with a will? Or will you die without a will?

Shane and I met with an attorney to discuss creating our wills and a few other legal documents. The meeting took all of a half an hour, and it was mainly a conversation about who we’d want to take care of our children — the legal guardian of the person and guardian of the estate (the person who will handle the money).

He asked us some questions and we discussed different scenarios, and he’s going to draft up the documents for us to review.

We’ll look it over and have him make changes if we want, and then we’ll get it witnessed and notarized.

That’s it.

Seriously SO easy and I feel like a goober for putting it off so long.

I asked him what it would cost if we didn’t have Shane’s employer benefit, and he said it would be somewhere in the $250 range.

That might sound like a lot of money, but if you die without a will, that document could truly save your loved ones a ton of stress AND money.

Your estate would end up in probate and it’ll be a big headache for your family, plus there will be more legal costs and probably taxes then if you just went ahead and created a will.

You can use this calculator to find how your state would divide your estate if you died without a will. Some states tax heavier than others. Some will give portions to more random relatives than others. Go ahead, fiddle with it. The state *might* divvy it up the way you would, or it could give money to relatives you’d rather not include.

This page shows some states that have some crazy ways of doing things, for example:

In Arkansas, if you are married less than three years and never had a child, your spouse will share fifty percent of your intestate estate with living relations as distant as your third cousins thrice-removed and their issue.

[Wouldn’t you rather your spouse get more than 50%? What the heck is a third cousin thrice-removed, anyway? You’ll have all sorts of people coming out of the woodwork if you die in that state without a will!]

So you might think that if you died without a will, your spouse will get 100% of everything (assuming you didn’t have kids). But it will really depend on the state you lived in. Some states will do just that — but if you died with a surviving spouse and no children in Pennsylvania, your parents would receive a significant portion of your estate, too.

And if you have children, and you and your spouse die together — yikes. Who will care for your children? Don’t just think, “Oh, my sister will do it.” Unless you’ve expressed that in your will, any number of family members or friends could petition the court for this. And the court will decide.

Do you seriously want that for your children? Hopefully you will live to see your grandchildren and you’ll never need a legal guardian to step up for your kids, but why take that risk?

If you have two or more people who want to be guardian, that could create some ugly tension in the family when all the dust settles. Why do that to your family? And what if you’d prefer your best friend be the guardian over any of your relatives? Well, you’d better get that in your will, otherwise, it probably ain’t happenin.

Even if you don’t think you have any assets, you can’t predict the circumstances of your death. Someone who is killed in a car accident might be entitled to a large insurance claim that would then become part of the estate, for example, as it happened with Dee’s daughter (Dee commented on this post).

Bottom line:

You are going to die. True story. And you probably won’t know when. But, you can know if you’ll die with a will, or without one. There is no good reason to die without a will.

Call a few attorney’s offices who specialize in estate planning and find out what it might cost you. Check and see if your employer offers a group legal plan that would lower your expenses. And then make your appointment and just do it.

If you’d like to read a great book explaining things to consider when creating wills and trusts, may I recommend A Parent’s Guide to Wills & Trusts* by Don Silver? I received this book as a review copy awhile back, and I’m keeping this on my bookshelf for reference for years to come.

It’s not a do-it-yourself guide (and really, I’m convinced that it’s worth the money to have someone do it for you, rather than doing a DIY will), but the book does a great job of clearly explaining aspects of wills in a way that anyone can understand. It will help you understand different scenarios and will give you ideas of questions to ask when you meet with an attorney.

So will you get it done already?

*Affiliate link

6 Responses to “Will it be with a will? Or will you die without a will?”

  1. DEFINITELY going to put this on the agenda! I looked into a DIY will and it seemed like it could still be contested and on many blogs people had run into problems having it notarized due to liability issues.

    Hopefully before 2011 we’ll have a concrete will!

  2. I looked up my state and without a will my estate would be divided 50/50 between my husband and son. Or 100% to either in the case only one was living. However, I don’t trust that enough. At the first of the new year, we have a meeting with a lawyer set up to get our wills.

    I know for a fact if something ever happened to my husband, that my inlaws would absolutely come after me for everything of his and then some. He knows this as well. I cannot wait to get it all done. We need to make some tough decisions though! Who gets to raise our son? Who can we trust to handle his trust/money? Yikes.

  3. Tough questions, yes, but better you and your husband will be making them than someone else! Glad you’re getting this done.

  4. Experience talking here…My 20 year old daughter died in a car accident, she was 7 1/2 mo pregnant. She didn’t have a will. She was a “poor college student” working part time also. All she really had was an older car, 17 pairs of jeans, lots of shoes and stuffed animals. After 2 years of probate, her estate was over 200K! Her unborn son’s estate went into her estate becasue she out-lived him by 6 hours. Paternity had not been established, so the baby’s dad didn’t have a claim on the estate. Now here’s the kicker…Her father, who she had seen about 6 times since she was 3, legally was entitled to half of her estate. He didn’t get it because he didn’t show up for court and was “cocky” with the judge when the judge called him that morning. Who would have thought that a 20 year old needed a will?

  5. We had wills done a few years back, as well as medical power of attorney and durable power of attorney for each of us and for our children, and medical directives/living wills. The total cost through the lawyer for ALL the documents was about $600.
    It sounds like a lot of money – and it is – but the peace of mind is HUGE.
    Knowing who has power to make decisions in all the various scenarios that can arise is a big deal.
    Something also to consider – once a child turns 18, under the new privacy laws, etc. – you may need a medical POA for them to give you the right to make decisions, etc. for them in the event of an emergency/crisis medically. Not every state has the same rules and even hospitals/doctors will vary on giving parents the rights to decide what is best for their ‘adult’ children. Your insurance company won’t even talk to you about your college kids insurance claims if you don’t have that legal form!
    Deb´s last post ..Why is it blue

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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