Author Topic: Should I get a Will?  (Read 4744 times)

Killerbrandt

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Should I get a Will?
« on: June 12, 2015, 06:11:13 AM »
I was wondering if my wife and I should get a Will made up? We do not have any kids or care about giving our money to anyone just yet. Would a Will make it easier if one of use passes to get financial claims like life insurance, deactivating social media accounts, closing investment accounts under their name?

matchewed

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Re: Should I get a Will?
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2015, 06:27:04 AM »
To my knowledge if you're married the decision making defaults to the spouse in the event of a death. But if you do end up caring how your money and possessions are dealt with past your life it's a good idea.

YTProphet

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Re: Should I get a Will?
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2015, 06:45:30 AM »
I'd do something simple now if your net worth is below $250,000. LegalZoom or something similar. If you've got a higher net worth than that, it's probably worth paying a lawyer $1,000 or $2,000 to do something formal. And keep in mind that a will and the attendant documents can be for more than just dying. I have healthcare directives and a healthcare Power of Attorney that my spouse can rely on in case I'm close to dead but not quite, etc.

Retired To Win

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Re: Should I get a Will?
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2015, 06:59:35 AM »
Don't assume your wife will automatically get the assets without having to go through probate, which is a HUGE pain in the ass.

Make sure that you are both listed as "payees upon death" on any banking accounts you may have that are not already JOINT; make sure your real estate  -- and your vehicle -- is owned JOINTLY, and make sure that your investment accounts clearly state each other by name as beneficiaries.

Cover those bases and you will have taken care of most of the main headaches.

Good luck.

(Oh... and, yes, still get a will done for anything "left over" from the above list.)

ltt

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Re: Should I get a Will?
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2015, 07:23:41 AM »
Here is our experience.  Any accounts in your name where the spouse is listed as the beneficiary (life insurance, CDs, bank accounts, investment accounts, etc.) or joint accounts where the spouse is listed as beneficiary override what the will says.  Your home probably has both of you as joint tenants with right of survivorship??  Also, cars should have you both listed (that way if something happened to either of you, the other person could provide a death certificate and have it put in your/her name.)

We are in the process of going through our accounts and updating beneficiaries.  Either my husband or myself (depending on whose name the account is in) is the primary beneficiary and then we will list the trustee for the benefit of our children as secondary.  I was told by a legal representative in one of the investment firms where we have money that they DO NOT interpret wills.  So, if your spouse is your beneficiary, have her listed on the beneficiary form on the account (and vice versa for her), and then list your secondary beneficiary, if any (parent, cousin, etc.)  That should save you a ton of hassle without necessarily having a will. 

We never had a will until we had children, because we had each other listed as the beneficiary, home was joint tenants with right or survivorship.

You can probably make a will yourself on legal zoom or have one done inexpensively.  Unless you have a really complicated situation, a will should not cost very much--a few hundred dollars at most.

I would definitely get a POA for health care and a living will.  I think there is more of a strong likelihood that a person becomes disabled versus actually dying.

Killerbrandt

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Re: Should I get a Will?
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2015, 07:43:21 AM »
Holy cow! Thank you guys so much for the responses! I will have to have a nice talk with my wife after work today. I want to make it as easy as possible in the horrible instance one of us passes. All of your responses have me double checking everything right now and I did not know about the health side of it! I appreciate the help so much.

This forum is the best!

MNBen

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Re: Should I get a Will?
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2015, 08:50:08 AM »
A wise person once told me, everyone has a will, created by the laws of the state you live in.   It's just up to you if you want to have a different one than where they say your money is going to go.

I think that's a good way of thinking about it.  If you don't know your state laws (and who does?) than you're better off spending the little bit of money to make sure things go where you want.   My employer had a benefit to pay a small annual premium for free legal services.  Being single (but engaged), I will tell you, that made me decide to finally go in and get a will and other financial documents, and I learned a lot that I didn't know or hadn't even thought about.  Just even simple things like where do you want your money to go upon death, and then when I answered, I would get, "and what if they aren't alive, then who?" and so on.   Things I hadn't really even thought about.

So yes... it's a very good process and everyone should update their will to NOT have the one the state already has written.  Not to mention, in the event of an unexpected death, I think the last thing we would want to leave behind for any loved ones (spouse, relatives, friends) is any other stresses.   If anything, for their benefit too, just write up something so that they know what you wanted.


CommonCents

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Re: Should I get a Will?
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2015, 08:58:44 AM »
Also, please don't assume that your spouse will get the estate if you die intestate.  For example, I live in Massachusetts where the law is as follows when someone dies without a will:

Section 2-102. [Share of Spouse.]

The intestate share of a decedentís surviving spouse is:
(1) the entire intestate estate if:
(i) no descendant or parent of the decedent survives the decedent; or
(ii) all of the decedentís surviving descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse and there is no other descendant of the surviving spouse who survives the decedent;
(2) the first $200,000, plus 3/4 of any balance of the intestate estate, if no descendant of the decedent survives the decedent, but a parent of the decedent survives the decedent;
(3) the first $100,000 plus 1/2 of any balance of the intestate estate, if all of the decedentís surviving descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse and the surviving spouse has 1 or more surviving descendants who are not descendants of the decedent;
(4) the first $100,000 plus 1/2 of any balance of the intestate estate, if 1 or more of the decedentís surviving descendants are not descendants of the surviving spouse.

This means that as neither my husband nor I have kids, if one of us dies, 1/4 of the estate (after $200k), would be split by the parents of the deceased.  We do jointly own the house and a few bank accounts so those would pass separately.

ETA: Also, FYI it'll likely take longer for your heirs to get the money if you die intestate.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2015, 09:01:39 AM by CommonCents »

gillstone

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Re: Should I get a Will?
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2015, 09:21:21 AM »
A will is important.  Even more important is setting who your medical and financial proxies are in the event you, your spouse or both of you are rendered unable to make decisions.  For example, if the two of you were in a car crash and you were killed and your wife placed in a coma - who would be the medical proxy to make the call and respect her wishes concerning treatment.  During that time, who would manage your estate to ensure unpaid bills didn't pile up? Will it be someone you trust or some deadbeat who happened to be next of kin?  Would that person respect your medical decisions or will you be the centerpiece in a Terry Schiavo type fight because nothing was written down when you were well?

There is an upfront cost, but many estate law firms will provide package deals for a flat fee.

NorCal

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Re: Should I get a Will?
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2015, 09:53:28 AM »
I would say a will is important, but you don't need a complicated one.  When I was in your situation, I got a copy of Quicken Willmaker software for ~$25.  It did the will, medical directives, etc.  There are other comparable and easy services.

Once you get significant assets and kids, you should probably look into a trust, which can be a little more complicated.  My employer offered a "legal insurance" plan that covered trusts.  I signed up for that this year, and we are having a lawyer complete it for ~$200.

JessEsq

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Re: Should I get a Will?
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2015, 10:22:07 AM »
I am an attorney in Ohio.

Everyone should have a Last Will and Testament, Financial Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney, and Living Will (end of life decisions), at a minimum.

In my area, the cost to hire an attorney for Husband and Wife to get all of the above documents (including office conference time and sometimes a deed to put the house in Joint Tenants) is under $1,000.

The HCPOA and FPOA are absolutely vital. If one of you were incapacitated (sick, coma, dementia, etc...), the other spouse does not necessarily have authority to do things like 1) access non-joint accounts 2) negotiate settlements/claims, 3) collect on loans owed to the injured spouse, 4) inquire about benefits (vacation/disability pay, FMLA leave, etc...). In Ohio, without an FPOA a probate court guardianship is required. It's expensive, takes time, and is 100% public record (all documents available online for the world to see).

After your death, EVEN IF your assets pay on death/transfer on death to a spouse (i.e., joint bank accounts, name a beneficiary on your life insurance, etc...), there are still reasons to have a will "just in case" such as:

1) If your death is the result of an accident, your spouse may want to bring a suit to collect damages on behalf of your estate & a  will can make appointing the spouse simpler and settling claims easier.
2) Refinancing a mortgage after the death of a spouse can require a probate procedure and therefore a will is helpful
3) If you die with someone owing YOU money, a probate estate may be necessary to collect and a will makes probate court simpler
4) If you and your souse die in a common accident, you want to name a person you trust to be executor/executrix and/or name beneficiaries/charities to avoid your assets going according to your state's laws
5) If you die shortly after your parent passes, your estate may inherit the assets and a will is helpful in probate court to administer that inheritance

For under $1,000, these documents are a solid investment. Probate court (especially guardianships if you don't have POAs) is a huge pain and is very expensive.

~JessEsq

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Re: Should I get a Will?
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2015, 10:24:23 AM »
Thanks JessEsq, great information.

Any recommendations for an attorney in New Jersey?

Killerbrandt

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Re: Should I get a Will?
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2015, 10:38:06 AM »
WoW!! Yeah I need to for sure talk to my wife about all of this. This is all great info and it's now officially scaring me! :) I need to jump on this soon!

JessEsq

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Re: Should I get a Will?
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2015, 03:11:32 PM »
Thanks JessEsq, great information.

Any recommendations for an attorney in New Jersey?

No, sorry - I don't know anyone in NJ. Usually your city or county Bar Association will have a referral service. In Akron, the service costs $30 and gets you a 1/2 hour consultation. ($1/minute is cheap for attorneys!). For basic Estate Planning documents, a solid general practicing lawyer (rather than a specialist) should be more than sufficient. No big names or big firms needed.

WoW!! Yeah I need to for sure talk to my wife about all of this. This is all great info and it's now officially scaring me! :) I need to jump on this soon!

Haha - attorneys have a way of seeing the worst possible outcomes (that's what we are paid for!). MOST of the time, things work out fine and there are no problems. But, for the times the worst happens (i.e., you're in a coma and your wife needs access to your non-joint account to hire a nurse to care for you in your home), not having the planning in place makes a terrible situation even worse.

Check2400

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Re: Should I get a Will?
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2015, 03:39:22 PM »
JessEsq. hit the nail on the head, but to add in my two cents. In addition to the more immediate concerns about Medical Directives, Guardianships, etc., the will is about making the probate process easier for who you leave behind.  For example, you will need a will, or the probate process, to be able to sell real property that has the deceased name on it--no will just means that you're making more work for whoever gets the property.  Same thing for accounts that are not in your name, 401k docs, etc. 

A war story--A widow had to pay nearly 4 grand to buy out the nonexistent interest in real property of her infant son to be able to sell property she and her husband owner prior to marriage (by 1 month) because husband died sans will.  Why?  Well, real property owned prior to marriage passes to your children, not your spouse.  So a toddler owned half the home, but the interest that was "separate" was approximately $500.  But because he was a minor, the sale had to be approved by a court. 

Another thread is currently going on with a person who was "told 750-1000" for the cost of a will.  The lawyer then charged $2500 for the document.  The real problem isn't the overbilling (although, wow, that is a problem), but instead not having an agreement in writing up front-the first thing any lawyer should do.  A simple will package should absolutely be a flat fee purchase-not hourly. 

Lastly, do not do legal zoom.  My statement about needing documents to transfer real estate?  You know what, that's only for my state.  Legal zoom is boilerplate.  They give you a form, and you fill it out, then forget to have two witnesses sign it, have it notarized, and whadya know, you've got a piece of paper that says what you want, but doesn't prove what the court needs.  Legal Zoom is like going to WebMD instead of a doctor, but whatevs, vaccines cause autism, right?

To paraphrase the old Eli Whitney story, you're not paying for the document to be filled out, you're paying to have the questions asked and procedures followed to have the document filled out correctly.

Killerbrandt

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Re: Should I get a Will?
« Reply #15 on: June 15, 2015, 12:07:23 PM »
JessEsq. hit the nail on the head, but to add in my two cents. In addition to the more immediate concerns about Medical Directives, Guardianships, etc., the will is about making the probate process easier for who you leave behind.  For example, you will need a will, or the probate process, to be able to sell real property that has the deceased name on it--no will just means that you're making more work for whoever gets the property.  Same thing for accounts that are not in your name, 401k docs, etc. 

A war story--A widow had to pay nearly 4 grand to buy out the nonexistent interest in real property of her infant son to be able to sell property she and her husband owner prior to marriage (by 1 month) because husband died sans will.  Why?  Well, real property owned prior to marriage passes to your children, not your spouse.  So a toddler owned half the home, but the interest that was "separate" was approximately $500.  But because he was a minor, the sale had to be approved by a court. 

Another thread is currently going on with a person who was "told 750-1000" for the cost of a will.  The lawyer then charged $2500 for the document.  The real problem isn't the overbilling (although, wow, that is a problem), but instead not having an agreement in writing up front-the first thing any lawyer should do.  A simple will package should absolutely be a flat fee purchase-not hourly. 

Lastly, do not do legal zoom.  My statement about needing documents to transfer real estate?  You know what, that's only for my state.  Legal zoom is boilerplate.  They give you a form, and you fill it out, then forget to have two witnesses sign it, have it notarized, and whadya know, you've got a piece of paper that says what you want, but doesn't prove what the court needs.  Legal Zoom is like going to WebMD instead of a doctor, but whatevs, vaccines cause autism, right?

To paraphrase the old Eli Whitney story, you're not paying for the document to be filled out, you're paying to have the questions asked and procedures followed to have the document filled out correctly.

Oh! good to know! I will make sure to avoid the online stuff then. Thank you all for the help!