Author Topic: Mustachian options for a simple will  (Read 2595 times)

sgonsalv

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Mustachian options for a simple will
« on: October 27, 2017, 04:19:26 PM »
Hi folks,

My wife recently delivered our first child.  We'd like to have a simple will drawn up that will specify 2 things...  first, that all the $$$ goes to him of course, and second, we have a very specific order of relatives we would want to take over as his legal guardian.  Any recommendations for reliable but not-too-spendy services that can take care of this for us?

englishteacheralex

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2017, 05:28:20 PM »
Can't figure this out for the life of me. Called two estate lawyers and both said there's no point in having a will because the state laws will just figure it all out.

We have two kids, a 3 year old and a 10 month old. We own a condo. $125k in 401ks. Both of us have life insurance. Is it dumb to spend $1000 on a will?

brycedoula

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2017, 09:10:29 PM »
We had a lawyer write up a fairly basic will for us a few months after our daughter was born. Nothing fancy, as we don’t have complicated finances or a business. Total cost was $300-ish CAD.

Is it “dumb” to spend $1000 on a will? Probably, as that seems like an incredibly high price. Is it “dumb” to have a will, in the extremely tragic event that you & your wife both die @ the same time & leave your children orphans? Of course not.

If you don’t specify who you want to look after your minor children, then a judge decides. It’s generally with the child[ren]’s best interest in mind, but it might not be your #1 choice.

Find a local family law practise that doesn’t have big, fancy offices downtown - no need for you to subsidize that kind of rent. Are there any law offices around the edge of your neighbourhood?

Freedomin5

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2017, 09:10:57 PM »
Wow...I would keep searching for a good family lawyer. We had our first kid a few years ago, and the first thing we did was get our wills done as well as a Power of Attorney and a Personal Health directive. We thought it would be simple, but it's really not as simple as you think, and a good family lawyer whose been around the block a few times will flag all the potential pitfalls and make sure your will is as foolproof as it can be.

For example, our lawyer asked us a bunch of questions when drafting our will, like:

What if something happens to you before your child reaches the age of majority? Do you really want to suddenly be giving your 14 year old son 8 million dollars to spend as he likes? 14 year olds are not generally known to have great executive functioning skills.
Do you want to give all the money in one lump sum, or give an annual sum? Do you want your child's guardian and the estate executor to be the same person?
What happens if you divorce?
What happens if one of you has a child out of wedlock?
What happens if you adopt?
When does your child get control of his money instead of his guardian? (Of course, you can redraw your will once he reaches an age where you would be comfortable having him handle his own financial affairs)

There are a lot more questions she asked that I can't remember. All I remember was that we were in her office for over an hour while she asked us question after question. Ask your friends/relatives for recommendations and get one done properly. For us, it was not worth it to potentially jeopardize our child's financial safety and care in our absence, just to save a few bucks. I think it cost around CAD $400 (in Toronto) for all of the documents for both my spouse and I. We have a copy, our lawyer has a copy, and the potential legal guardian has a copy.

Edited to add:

Find a lawyer who is from your state/province instead of one of those online, national companies. Each province/state may have slightly different rules, and you want to make sure that your will is problem-free in the state in which you reside.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2017, 09:14:08 PM by Freedomin5 »

SimpleCycle

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2017, 07:29:26 AM »
The most mustachian option, in my opinion, is to pay whatever the going rate is for someone to do a good job.  It is not the cost minimizing option, but it offers the most protection for your family.

I'll share the two experiences I have with this.

First, when my dad was in his early 60s, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  We went to a family lawyer (she was also a family friend) who helped my parents put together wills, but also helped guide us in how to avoid probate.  Since everything was going to my mom, most of this was making sure the beneficiary designations were correct, that all titled property also had my mom on the title, and then a simple will to cover anything that wasn't covered by that.  In the end the entire estate passed to my mother without opening probate, which was a blessing considering she was dealing with losing her spouse and didn't need a year of assets being tied up in court.  Cost was $500 in LCOL ten years ago.

Second, for our own wills, our concerns were very similar.  We have two children and designated guardians (including in our case, non-family guardians over our siblings).  Our family lawyer set up wills and a simple trust in the event that our relatively substantial assets need to be used for the care of our children and eventually passed down to them.  It was not something I would have remotely been able to do on my own.  It cost $1500 a year ago.

TVRodriguez

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2017, 04:23:42 PM »
Congratulations on your new little one!  Very exciting time for you.  I have some thoughts.

Disclaimer:  I am a trusts and estates attorney, practicing in Florida (used to practice in NY & NJ).

First, look for an estate planning attorney in your geographic area who does this for a living.  That is not the same thing (usually) as a family law attorney.  And it's not the same as a GP or a litigator or a car accident attorney.  And it's not the same as a "friend" who "does you a favor" but who does not practice in this area.  I've probated estates where the Will was drafted by an attorney--and they were terrible because the attorney was not an estate planning attorney.  And local law matters here.  Don't buy a national product that does not meet your local needs.  Waste of money and time. 

Second, talk to a couple of attorneys and choose one you get along with and who takes the time to answer your questions and tell you the answers to questions you have not even considered.  The problem most people have is that they don't know what it is that they don't know.  So often I've heard people say that they want something "simple," when in reality, what they want is simply what they want.  That doesn't make it "simple."  And it doesn't make it cheap.  They focus on the wrong things (a mile-long list of potential guardians and a long list of exact amounts those guardians should spend or not spend on a car or trips for their future teenager) or things that are so unlikely to happen ("what if we both die in a plane crash?") while ignoring the actual simple things that they can do to "put their house in order" so to speak (name proper beneficiaries on contract products, title assets correctly now, name an executor/personal representative/trustee in their documents).

Third, expect to pay for the initial consultation.  I charge for my initial consult because I give a LOT of education to the client in that meeting, and it has real value.  I can save you lots of money and hassle and time.  I can't save you grief.  And I credit my initial fee towards a flat fee plan if the prospective client hires me, so it's not "wasted" if you decide to proceed with me.  (It's also not wasted if you don't hire me, because I guarantee you I give a lot of information in that meeting.)  Look for someone like that.
 Someone who does not charge for the initial consultation, at least in my geographic area and area of practice, does not have enough business already.  I have more than enough work as it is, and I have no interest in trolling for new clients who are not ready to deal with this yet (that includes paying for it).  That said, the initial consult should be between $100-500--there's no need to pay more than that up front.

Fourth, yes, your state/province has laws about what should happen to your assets if you die intestate.  You might not like those laws.  But at least there is something on the books.

Fifth, don't name minors as potential beneficiaries on contract products (life insurance, retirement accounts, etc).  A 14 year old cannot legally own anything, so anything left to her would have to go through a guardianship, which costs more to set up than a proper estate plan in many jurisdictions.

I'm a red panda

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2017, 04:30:39 PM »
I can elect metlaw as part of my annual benefits. The total cost for the year was less than what I was quoted for wills.

My husband and I had wills made, designated the conditions of a trust, a power of attorney for medical and a power of attorney for financial.  We also made sure all our insurance pays to the estate instead of our daughter.  To the estate, our designee controls it. To our daughter, the state takes control of the trust.

NeonPegasus

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2017, 05:44:27 AM »
Wow...I would keep searching for a good family lawyer. We had our first kid a few years ago, and the first thing we did was get our wills done as well as a Power of Attorney and a Personal Health directive. We thought it would be simple, but it's really not as simple as you think, and a good family lawyer whose been around the block a few times will flag all the potential pitfalls and make sure your will is as foolproof as it can be.

For example, our lawyer asked us a bunch of questions when drafting our will, like:

What if something happens to you before your child reaches the age of majority? Do you really want to suddenly be giving your 14 year old son 8 million dollars to spend as he likes? 14 year olds are not generally known to have great executive functioning skills.
Do you want to give all the money in one lump sum, or give an annual sum? Do you want your child's guardian and the estate executor to be the same person?
What happens if you divorce?
What happens if one of you has a child out of wedlock?
What happens if you adopt?
When does your child get control of his money instead of his guardian? (Of course, you can redraw your will once he reaches an age where you would be comfortable having him handle his own financial affairs)

There are a lot more questions she asked that I can't remember. All I remember was that we were in her office for over an hour while she asked us question after question. Ask your friends/relatives for recommendations and get one done properly. For us, it was not worth it to potentially jeopardize our child's financial safety and care in our absence, just to save a few bucks. I think it cost around CAD $400 (in Toronto) for all of the documents for both my spouse and I. We have a copy, our lawyer has a copy, and the potential legal guardian has a copy.

Edited to add:

Find a lawyer who is from your state/province instead of one of those online, national companies. Each province/state may have slightly different rules, and you want to make sure that your will is problem-free in the state in which you reside.

+1

We spent $1250 for all the docs above. The process and time spent was about the same as above. As the attorney mentioned wanting simple doesn't mean it is simple. Maybe you're thinking that it would be easy because you don't have a lot of bequests to individual people and things like that but the majority of what the will covered was ensuring that our kids were taken care of properly.

This is an area where you don't want to step over a dollar to pick up a dime.




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bognish

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2017, 11:47:32 AM »
Question for TVRodriguez since you seem to be in the business. I am looking to do something similar to what the OP is asking: 2 small kids. Want to set up will, trusts, and guardianship in case wife and I die. We did the initial meeting with an estate lawyer who suggested moving house & investments into a trust now instead of kids trust inheriting them if needed. If i spend $1-3k now on an estate plan & trust set up how complex is it to execute when need be. Will the guardian have to spend another $5k on lawyers to deal with involved trusts? From what I understand probate is slow, but simple in my state (UT).

thedigitalone

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2017, 12:29:53 PM »
Anyone have a referral for an estate planning attorney in the Seattle area?  We've been remiss in getting all this in place as well.

TVRodriguez

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2017, 09:19:15 PM »
Question for TVRodriguez since you seem to be in the business. I am looking to do something similar to what the OP is asking: 2 small kids. Want to set up will, trusts, and guardianship in case wife and I die. We did the initial meeting with an estate lawyer who suggested moving house & investments into a trust now instead of kids trust inheriting them if needed. If i spend $1-3k now on an estate plan & trust set up how complex is it to execute when need be. Will the guardian have to spend another $5k on lawyers to deal with involved trusts? From what I understand probate is slow, but simple in my state (UT).

I don't know diddly squat about Utah probate, but if there are minor children then a guardianship will be required and will cost something to establish regardless of whether you have a proper estate plan in place or not.  But it's still worthwhile to set up a plan for a host of reasons.  Putting your assets in trust now is something I do for individually owned assets or after the first spouse dies, not for jointly owned assets. I prefer to have a revocable trust for each spouse and a pour over will for each.  But back to you: ask the lawyer these questions that you've asked me. The answer depends on local law and practice. If you don't trust or like that lawyer, then set up a consultation with a different one and ask them.

TVRodriguez

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2017, 09:24:33 PM »
Anyone have a referral for an estate planning attorney in the Seattle area?  We've been remiss in getting all this in place as well.

Nope. But check with the state bar and see if there is an estate planning attorney in your area who is part of the probate and trust section of the state bar. Check Martindale Hubbell online for AV rated EP lawyers in your area. Check avvo.com.  Ask around. Ask your CPA if you have one. Ask your banker if you have one. Ask your insurance agent if you have one. Ask a development officer of a local non profit. These are the types of professionals who run in similar circles. I would say ask your financial planner if you have one but my presumption on these boards is that no one has one.

TVRodriguez

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2017, 09:30:45 PM »
I can elect metlaw as part of my annual benefits. The total cost for the year was less than what I was quoted for wills.

My husband and I had wills made, designated the conditions of a trust, a power of attorney for medical and a power of attorney for financial.  We also made sure all our insurance pays to the estate instead of our daughter.  To the estate, our designee controls it. To our daughter, the state takes control of the trust.

Okay I don't practice in your state (I'm guessing that's Iowa; correct me if I'm wrong), but in my state I would never name an estate as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. I would name the trustee of the kids trust, subject to the terms of the trust established for the children under the will or the parent's trust. One of the benefits of life insurance is that the proceeds pay out quickly and directly and are outside of the probate process. Paying over to the estate can not only delay payment but can also (depending on state law) possibly subject the proceeds to claims from creditors of the estate.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2017, 09:41:40 AM by TVRodriguez »

Chesleygirl

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2017, 10:11:44 PM »
I think (if I remember correctly) it cost about $300 to get my will drafted by a lawyer.

bognish

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2017, 12:15:33 PM »
Thanks TV. We are asking around and inquiring with multiple lawyers. Its hard to evaluate how hard it will be for someone (aka guardian/executor) to navigate through these documents once I am dead. Sometimes a fancy gimmic to save some taxes isn't worth it if my sister has to deal with finding a lawyer to navigate/execute or defend it.

CidreCreek

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #15 on: March 26, 2018, 08:12:54 PM »
We paid $900, which was a discounted rate for a lawyer that did a "will party". We paid less because we did not have the initial consult and worked with the lawyer mainly over the phone, by email, and text. The lawyer organized a group of about 10 families and we all witnesses another family's will. It was an interesting idea and the lawyer was really great at working with us. She was very precise and walked us through all of our options. We had a little bit of a complicated situation as well. From what I normally hear--in our area, it's about $1200.

jeroly

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #16 on: March 27, 2018, 08:02:30 AM »
My father used a cookie-cutter form for his will (that we found on a $10 CD-ROM at CompUSA filled with generic legal forms), and that wound up creating a gigantic problem for the trustee (me) after he passed away...

He lived in NY State, which requires the witnesses to the will to sign affadavits attesting that the will that they signed was the will that they signed.  (It is absolutely crazy, at least in my opinion - seems to defeat the purpose of signing the will in the first place - but arguing about the sanity of the law doesn't make it go away). 

Since there was no mention of the need to do this in the form, no such affadavits were filled out at the time of the will signing (which would have made the will 'self-authorizing'), and I therefore needed to track down the witnesses to have them fill them out before the will could be entered into probate.

Moreover, the form he used for his will did not have a space for the witnesses to print their names or to put their addresses, so when I needed to track them down to get them to sign the affidavits, I had huge difficulties in figuring out their names from their signatures... they had been employees in the shop where the will was notarized, and the notary had died in the years between the signing of the will and my dad's death.

It eventually got resolved - it's a story too long to relate here! - but the moral of this story is that different states have different requirements related to wills and you should be sure to adhere to them when doing the will in the first place.  Using a lawyer to make sure that the t's are crossed and the i's dotted may cost some bucks up front but may save lots of time and money on the back end if you do something wrong without them.

TVRodriguez

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #17 on: March 27, 2018, 09:30:47 AM »
My father used a cookie-cutter form for his will (that we found on a $10 CD-ROM at CompUSA filled with generic legal forms), and that wound up creating a gigantic problem for the trustee (me) after he passed away...

He lived in NY State, which requires the witnesses to the will to sign affadavits attesting that the will that they signed was the will that they signed.  (It is absolutely crazy, at least in my opinion - seems to defeat the purpose of signing the will in the first place - but arguing about the sanity of the law doesn't make it go away). 

Since there was no mention of the need to do this in the form, no such affadavits were filled out at the time of the will signing (which would have made the will 'self-authorizing'), and I therefore needed to track down the witnesses to have them fill them out before the will could be entered into probate.

Moreover, the form he used for his will did not have a space for the witnesses to print their names or to put their addresses, so when I needed to track them down to get them to sign the affidavits, I had huge difficulties in figuring out their names from their signatures... they had been employees in the shop where the will was notarized, and the notary had died in the years between the signing of the will and my dad's death.

It eventually got resolved - it's a story too long to relate here! - but the moral of this story is that different states have different requirements related to wills and you should be sure to adhere to them when doing the will in the first place.  Using a lawyer to make sure that the t's are crossed and the i's dotted may cost some bucks up front but may save lots of time and money on the back end if you do something wrong without them.

Your story hits all the points--cheap form, legally and correctly executed but missing something important (due to ignorance), the time and hassle spent to resolve things, tracking down witnesses, etc.  Most forms I have seen have nothing "wrong" with the forms themselves.  It's the lack of information as to how to complete them and as to which documents are actually useful in your particular circumstance.  I'm quite impressed that you tracked down the witnesses, actually, jeroly.  Well done there.

On fees:  I've seen a variety of fees listed in this thread.  It really depends on location and circumstances--both personal circumstances and the circumstances of local law.  $500 may be appropriate in one place, while $5,000 may be appropriate in another for similarly situated families.  I still recommend that folks call their state bar or another professional to get a referral to an estate planning attorney rather than rely on what your neighbors told you to do.  Whenever my clients listen to their neighbors instead of me, they wind up screwing themselves.

TVRodriguez

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #18 on: March 27, 2018, 09:35:24 AM »
We paid $900, which was a discounted rate for a lawyer that did a "will party". We paid less because we did not have the initial consult and worked with the lawyer mainly over the phone, by email, and text. The lawyer organized a group of about 10 families and we all witnesses another family's will. It was an interesting idea and the lawyer was really great at working with us. She was very precise and walked us through all of our options. We had a little bit of a complicated situation as well. From what I normally hear--in our area, it's about $1200.

A Will party.  Well, that's a new one for me.  Personally, I need to have the initial consultation.  I need to get to know the client at least a little bit.  I cannot imagine a scenario where I would prepare and execute documents for someone whom I had not met in person.  That said, I have a colleague who does not like face to face client meetings and prefers that her clients fill out her forms on her website.  I guess there's all sorts of ways to do business.

TVRodriguez

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #19 on: March 27, 2018, 09:45:00 AM »
Thanks TV. We are asking around and inquiring with multiple lawyers. Its hard to evaluate how hard it will be for someone (aka guardian/executor) to navigate through these documents once I am dead. Sometimes a fancy gimmic to save some taxes isn't worth it if my sister has to deal with finding a lawyer to navigate/execute or defend it.

I saw this and had a couple thoughts.

Defend it against whom? 

What kind of taxes are you thinking of?  Federal estate taxes don't hit almost anyone anymore.  The Tax Cut and Jobs Act increased the estate tax exemption amount to over $11 million per person (and with portability, that is over $22 million for a married couple).  Few states impose estate taxes anymore, either.  NJ just eliminated theirs, although there is still an inheritance tax, but that's only for beneficiaries who are not spouses or children/issue.

As to the difficulty of navigating the documents, that is where choosing the right fiduciaries (trustee/executor/personal representative/guardian) is important.  A fiduciary is doing a job, and s/he can be paid for that job.  S/he can also hire advisors to assist.  Another alternative is to appoint a bank, trust company, or CPA (or other trusted financial advisor) to serve as fiduciary.  You don't have to appoint the same person to all offices, either.  You might have one sibling who is great with the kids and another who is great with money.  You can split the offices up and use one for guardian and the other for trustee, or appoint them as co-trustees, for example.  Only if they get along, though.

gettingtoyes

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #20 on: March 30, 2018, 12:38:04 PM »
We did US legal forms company with a state specific will (also included POA which was nice). There is an extra service to have a lawyer look it over which we opted to do and then had it notarized. All told less than $100 I think.

Now to be fair while we were able to establish who got the kid and when he would have access to our assets (we said age 28), there wasn't really an option to add in a lot of codicils. For example, we'd like him to go through a financial class as a condition of getting his inheritance, etc etc.

We will likely sit down in a more formal setting when we have our second kid and set it all up (also gives us some more time to think more carefully about exactly what we would like in terms of other codicils and our funerals), but we wanted to get something "on the books" per say so that we didn't leave a mess for whoever the court would appoint as the kiddo's guardian and trust.

eta: We also sets up a "legacy binder" as from Dave Ramsey which has all of our legal documents in one place so that it's very easy for my relatives to figure out "where" everything is and what our wishes are.

eta2: keep in mind that if you move to another state, you'll need an entirely new will as it's state dependent.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2018, 12:40:34 PM by gettingtoyes »

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Mustachian options for a simple will
« Reply #21 on: March 30, 2018, 02:08:46 PM »
Just another option to consider: My workplace offers a prepaid legal plan for about $15 a month and I was able to get a full estate plan at no additional cost. Could be worth looking into!