October 27, 2017

Writing a Will: What You Need To Know

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Being young parents, this may seem like a "morbid" thing to do or some may think it's bad luck to write one as if you are dooming yourself to die young, but having a Will is extremely important for your children in case something terrible does happen. We definitely don't have any intentions of dying anytime soon.

A Will is an ever-changing document, which you are supposed to visit time and time again to make updates as you age. People's addresses change, relationships change, assets change, and the number of children you have may or may not change. We are fortunate enough to find an attorney who will do free updates as time goes on.

However, getting a Will written turned out to be a more difficult process than I had expected, and then it became really simple. The problem we ran into in the beginning was that no one we knew, knew much about Wills! Sure some had one written, but they just had an attorney to do it for them so they weren't able to help with what all the documents were. Others used an online site, which many attorneys don't recommend because they may not follow your state's laws, so they just followed the prompt given to them.

In the end, we finally found an attorney who charged a reasonable amount and he explained everything to us. After talking to him, the Will no longer seemed as complicated as the internet had made it out to be.

I highly recommend contacting multiple attorneys in your area to find out how much they charge for their Estate Planning services as many, sadly, overcharge in my opinion. We got quotes from attorney's that were in the $1,000 - $2,000 range and that is way overpriced for a Will. Now if you are doing Trusts along with a Will, that would definitely put in the $1,000 range, otherwise, it should be under $1,000.

Our community does offer a Will class, which will get you a basic Will written and notarized on spot for $50 per person, but it is missing some important documents like Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive, so we decided it was not for us as we wanted those documents.

To make your Will writing process easier, here are some things to consider before contacting an attorney:


1) Gather Your Assets


Find out how much your estate is worth. What is in your bank accounts? Do you have any CD's or bonds? Do you own real estate? Do you have life insurance? Any retirement plans? Do you own cars and what are they worth? Anything that is of any value should be added to your assets. 


2) Choose Your Child's Guardian(s)


This was our main reason for writing a Will. We wanted to make sure our daughter would go to the guardian of our choice should we both happen to pass away while she is young. You will need two people for this, basically a first and a second choice in case the first is unable to do so. I highly recommend you ask the person beforehand if they would be willing to be your child's guardian before having it written in the Will.

Side note: Godparents are not guaranteed to be guardians of your child. It is only recognized by the Church, so if you want to make sure the Godparents are the guardians of your child, then you will need to have a written Will.


3) Pick a Personal Representative


The Personal Representative will be the person in charge of making sure your Will is followed once you pass away. If married, the first choice is usually your spouse, and then you will have to pick a second person in case you both pass away at the same time.

Our Attorney recommended having the same backup for both if you are married or it becomes a little more complicated should you both get in a deadly accident at the same time. He mentioned it becomes a "race to the death," as it becomes a matter of who technically died first that will determine the way the Wills will work out. If you have the same person, not an issue, but there could be a conflict if not.


4) Pick a Trustee


This is the person who will manage your child's trust funds if they are still a minor. For many, this would likely be the same person you chose as your child's guardian. It just makes sense, in my opinion, that the person you chose to raise your child would also be the one helping them manage their money in case something should happen to you.


5) Choose An Age For Your Children To Recieve Their Inheritance


This was honestly not something we thought about at all until we met with our attorney. If there is no Will, the inheritance usually defaults to age 18, but our attorney recommended to wait till they are at least 25.

We both thought about it and ended up going with his recommendation of 25, with the idea that we could also change it later. I was pretty responsible in my early twenties and so was my husband, but we knew many who weren't and our daughter may or may not be responsible enough at a younger age so we will have to wait and see.


6) Choose Your Financial Power of Attorney


The Financial Power of Attorney is someone who will handle your finances if you are unable to do so. This will often be your spouse, but you will want a backup in case you both are in an accident.

Our attorney recommends picking someone you trust for this but do not tell them until the time is necessary as once they sign the document, it goes into effect. They can sign it when they need to know about it and take over handling your finances then.


7) Pick A Health Care Directive


This is the person who will make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so. You will want to pick someone who knows what your life and death decisions are and will follow your wishes, such as how you want to buried or if you wish to be an organ donor. This will most likely be your spouse but you will want a backup should you both be in the same accident.

Our attorney recommends sticking to family members as a backup and in this case for your spouse and you to have different people,


8) Don't Forget Pets!


Different states have different laws when it comes to pets. In my state, you couldn't leave a trust for your pets until 2016, when that rule changed. This is not recommended if you have children as it takes away from the money they could receive. Another option is to pick an organization like the humane society, but our issue with this is that often times older animals are put down.

We went the third option route which was to pick someone we trusted to leave our pets to in case we both should pass at the same time and leave them some money to care for them. The only downside to this is sometimes that person you pick may put your animals down just to keep the cash so you will want to make sure to choose someone you really trust.


***

These are just a few things to think about when it comes to writing your Will. Your attorney will, of course, walk you through the process, but knowing ahead of time the answer to these things, will make the writing process quicker.

Once your will is written, it will need to be notarized and you will need to have witnesses, usually, these are provided by your attorney. However, if you so choose to go the online route, which is not recommended, you will need to find witnesses and someone to notarize your Will, or it is not considered official.

Once that is done, you can live the rest of your life with peace of mind that your child and pets will be taken care of if something should happen to you. Hopefully, it will be a long life and we will be able to come back later to change our backups to be our daughter once she turns eighteen.


Attribution: Image used in blog post photo does not belong to me and was found on Unsplash.

9 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing, I so need to get on doing this so my children will be protected if something ever happened to us. Definitely giving me food for shot and the kick in the bum I need to get on this!

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  2. I def think going with an attorney for all possibilities is a must-especially one that is knowledgeable and qualified.

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  3. This is surely an eye opener for me, I have never really given it any thought. I would strongly consider doing it now, thanks for sharing your experience.

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    1. You're welcome! Death is certainly not something people want to think about. Not having a Will isn't the end of the world, but it just makes the process longer and harder as the state will have to choose someone to execute your Will and will have to pick guardians for your kids if you have any. It was more important to us as there are family members we do not want as our child's guardian.

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  4. I've never thought about writing a will, as I've just assumed my husband would take care of things should I die. But then what if we both die? My husband and I are going to follow the steps here. Thank you.

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    1. If you don't have a Will, the state will do the traditional route for you. Your spouse would be default unless you both die, then it's your kids, if no kids, it flows up and splits between your and your spouses parents.

      It is more of a concern if you want a specific person to be in charge of certain things. For us, we wanted to make sure our daughter went to the guardian of our choice as there are certain family members we do not want to be her guardian, otherwise the courts will do the picking for you.

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  5. Wow this is something I should really think about doing soon. Thank you!

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  6. This is a really informative post. It's something that's on our to-do list and we really need to get around to getting it down. I'm sure we'll be using an attorney to be sure we don't forget anything!

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  7. I cannot stress enough about how important this post actually is! Thank you for writing this!

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