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Old 02-15-2012, 10:38 PM   #41
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The big problem would be him having no one to run his life, so I feel like I need to add a codicil to my letter of instruction that names a stand-in nagger, who can direct him and keep him out of trouble should I pass before him.
I did all the required documents and forgot about the nagger . What was I thinking ?
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Old 02-16-2012, 01:46 PM   #42
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Originally Posted by ronocnikral View Post
I know this has been covered before, but searching has been annoying.

I was talking with DW the other night and she mentioned she wouldn't know the first thing to do if I was to kick the bucket and doesn't even know how to get into our financial accounts. If I died, she would get ~ $2.25MM in insurance benefits + SS while DD is of age (I think) + whatever our current estate is worth (~$500k right now).

So...this got me thinking, first off, we need a will? This isn't so much for if I was to just kick the bucket, but how we would want our estate spread out amongst various people and organizations. I assume, if DW and I both get our ticket stamped at the same, DD would automatically get everything? My understanding is if I just check out, DW as my legal spouse gets control of the estate?

Second, I was thinking of a letter to DW giving her "advice" on what I would do with the money (stay away from advisors, put in these funds, should generate x% income/yr, don't loan any to your brother, you need it to last you for the rest of your life etc) and my hopes for her and any children we may have (certainly raising a child(ren) solo is a difficult task, I just don't want her bringing a date to the funeral). Is this common?

Unfortunately, I consider DW to lack any skills neccessary to support a family as a single parent (she could get a job pulling in $12-$15/hr, part time) but no real college education (despite her being in her 30's and her father STILL offering to pay for it). And she's been out of the workforce for so long, who wants to go back? I've tried talking finance with her and getting her to read books, but to no avail.

Any advice on the need for a will, a letter to DW etc is greatly appreciated.
The devil is in the details. My brother passes away about 3 weeks ago and I have been helping his wife sort through things.

Estate planning 101- There are 3 ways items pass on death
1) is ownership. items like a house, car etc...
2) is beneficiary- like IRAs and life insurance
3) is probate

Some jointly owned assets will go through a probate process. For example my sister in law is being told her house (jointly owned) needs to go through probate. An attorney in my state told me I could title my house so that was not an issue in Ohio. He did not know law where my sister in law lives.

I would strongly suggest going through a detailed estate plan with an estate planning attorney. The issues will be at very small details. Like the house going through probate (or not) or making sure the ownership of assets is very clear to bypass probate.

I would also suggest pre-planning as much of a funeral/memorial as possible. The ability to make good decisions when going through grief is impossible.

For example, Urns at a funeral home cost $500+, urns online cost less than $100. I have heard same thing for coffins. 300% markup is possible at funeral home.
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Old 02-16-2012, 01:52 PM   #43
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Get to an estate planning attorney like YESTERDAY!
You need;
Family Trust or your estate will go through probate and cost your heirs many thousands of dollars
Living will to declare how you want your life to continue or end if you can't speak up. Doctors will spend every last dime you have, leaving nothing for heirs if you don't have a directive for life support.
Power of Attorney for medical decisions. Someone you trust to follow though with your wishes and sign for you until you are able to again.
Power of Attorney for financial decisions. Same as medical but usually a different person. No need to tempt anyone with an inheritance AND your end of life decisions....
Last Will and Testament. From the music to the flower choices. Veteran death and funeral benefits. Progeny; know what that is? Defined as a child born of legal wedlock. If your will lists an heir as your progeny, then some gal can't claim your 'love child' as an heir to your estate. You have that right and power, so exercise it.
Executor of your will and estate.

An estate planning attorney will take care of all these things during a couple interviews with you and some documents he or she will ask you to produce. All of these will cost around $1500 and include usual and customary updating without additional costs. It all comes in a nice binder with the instructions to call the attorney upon your death. This guy will have the fiduciary responsibility to you and you alone.
I set this up for my parents and let me tell you it was great. When Mom passed, Dad couldn't even answer whether or not Mom wanted to be an organ donor. Not to worry; it was in this binder. Prepaid funeral expenses? Only if someone knows it's there and knows immediately. Dad is a vet and so Mom's ashes were placed in the Veteran's Cemetery with no charge as the spouse of a vet.

don't leave this to chance. If you love your family, plan for the eventuality of your death.
+1
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Old 02-18-2012, 12:03 AM   #44
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I would also suggest pre-planning as much of a funeral/memorial as possible. The ability to make good decisions when going through grief is impossible.
My father's will/letters essentially say "Cremate me. Do whatever you want for a memorial service. I'll be dead; I won't care."

Spouse and I added to our wills "Try to donate our bodies to the medical school or to science." (We've done the paperwork for that.) If I die first, though, and one of you happens to come over to our house, you might want to stay clear of our compost pile for a few months. I'm just sayin'.
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Old 02-18-2012, 09:49 AM   #45
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I think everyone should have a will and leave instructions and preferences for heirs. It's hard to settle an estate when you are trying to figure out what deceased person wanted. Also, as in my parents' case, they had a will, but did not leave us a list of their IRAs, savings accounts, safety deposit boxes, or other financial records. Therefore, even though my dad died in May, 2010, we are still finding money here and there. Not huge amounts, but enough to certainly be concerned about claiming. Just this month, we discovered an IRA because they mailed a letter saying they would assess a penalty, since he failed to make the minimum withdrawal in 2010 and 2011.
Therefore, I put lists of all our accounts, insurances, will, etc in a green folder and I've shown my children where it is.
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Old 02-18-2012, 10:06 AM   #46
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I'll add a point that hasn't come through clearly in the posts: the OP and his DW both need wills.

For a couple with minor children, the wills' provisions for care and custody of the children if both parents pass at the same time are at least as important as the financial elements. I found this was the most challenging part of preparing my will.
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Old 02-18-2012, 03:16 PM   #47
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We're going to have our wills done next month (after our taxes are done). Neither of us want any of our family to serve as executors (plus, we are the youngest in each family so we might outlive all of them) and would rather hire a third-party professional executor?

How would that work? Assuming we go with the reputable firm in city (who have been in business for a few decades), would one of their lawyers be an executor? and at what price (do they charge a % of the estate?)
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Old 02-18-2012, 04:23 PM   #48
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A law firm would be expensive which would only be a factor if you want to preserve your estate for heirs. You can change the executor of your will without re-writing the whole kit & caboodle. Name the person in your family who you think would do the best job for now then revisit that decision in 10 years or if your opinion changes.

At one time I named my sister as executor, now I wouldn't trust her with my worst enemy.
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Old 02-19-2012, 12:26 PM   #49
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We have our lawyer as the default executor if we both pass on simultaneously.

I have a Word document that specifies all the accounts and passwords that I send to her whenever it changes. While I manage the accounts actively, I have recommended that she transfer the majority of the portfolio to passive if she outlives me.
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Old 02-19-2012, 12:27 PM   #50
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How would that work? Assuming we go with the reputable firm in city (who have been in business for a few decades), would one of their lawyers be an executor? and at what price (do they charge a % of the estate?)
I think the law firm can charge lawyers fees in addition to the 5% executor fees. Best to check with them and get their response in writing.
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Old 02-19-2012, 03:40 PM   #51
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You very definitely need to have a will done. Otherwise the state will decide how assets are distributed and depending on family structures that can get very complicated.

Understand clearly that it is not certain that your wife will by default get everything. In some states she would only get half or perhaps less, the remainder being distributed to other relatives, some related only by marriage.

A will resolves all those issues simply and (relatively) cheaply. Since a will is for most people a "one time" expense I'm in the school that says pay a lawyer for it rather than risk screwing it up myself.

As for us DW is very much "in the loop" on finances (she wrote the spreadsheet we use for income/expenses on an almost daily basis) so she would have little difficulty taking over.
Reading Midpack's link and above got me thinking. In Pennsylvania, even though we don't have any kids, part of the estate goes to surviving mother in-law if DW kicks the bucket 1st. I am surprised to learn this. I am starting to appreciate that the $500 for will and other documents was money well spent.
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Old 02-20-2012, 09:21 AM   #52
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I am starting to appreciate that the $500 for will and other documents was money well spent.
Also politicans can change the rules at any time so a will is necessary to protect your estate from such vagraries.
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Old 02-20-2012, 09:40 AM   #53
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DW and I had an excellent discussion last night about wills and who we would want to raise DD if we both pass and how to split everything up if we all go at the same time. It was good to have this conversation, as DW was raised with the mentality that everything should be equally divided up. But we decided some family members show us a great deal more love while others leave us feeling used. Also, some family members could use the money a great deal more than others. There are going to be some upset people, but it is our money and we're using it how we want to.

It was great to get aligned on some of the major issues. Now, to find someone to actually do our will....
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Old 02-20-2012, 11:31 AM   #54
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Neither of us want any of our family to serve as executors (plus, we are the youngest in each family so we might outlive all of them) and would rather hire a third-party professional executor?
We are in the same boat...we have seen up close what happens when you pick the wrong people/person to be executor; DW's parents both died about 18 months ago, in quick succession. Of 5 sibling, one was named to be the executor, and proceeded to be a complete a total a*hole during the entire process and severely ruined the previously close family dynamics such that it is very likely there will never be a reconciliation - and all this done even though the will was about as fair and simple as possible (divided everything by 5).

Having an executor who is not a family member, while costly, at least has all the heirs united on one side, and the executor on the other.

When my time comes, I think I'd rather have my 4 kids aligned together (if things go badly) battling a non-family member executor, than split the family - which is what often happens instead.
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Old 02-20-2012, 12:21 PM   #55
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When my time comes, I think I'd rather have my 4 kids aligned together (if things go badly) battling a non-family member executor, than split the family - which is what often happens instead.
"The enemy of my enemy is my friend",
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"You really can put a price on family harmony"...
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Old 02-20-2012, 04:34 PM   #56
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We are in the same boat...we have seen up close what happens when you pick the wrong people/person to be executor; DW's parents both died about 18 months ago, in quick succession. Of 5 sibling, one was named to be the executor, and proceeded to be a complete a total a*hole during the entire process and severely ruined the previously close family dynamics such that it is very likely there will never be a reconciliation - and all this done even though the will was about as fair and simple as possible (divided everything by 5).
Same thing happened when my Dad died. His will left everything even to all the kids, but the oldest brother was the executor. It took a couple of years to sell the stocks and divide the money and everyone kept thinking it was my brother's fault for not hassling the lawyer more and speeding things along. (I was happy though - the Euro got stronger in the meantime and I made more by waiting!)
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