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Wills & instructions for loved ones
Old 02-10-2012, 10:52 AM   #1
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Wills & instructions for loved ones

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.
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Old 02-10-2012, 11:04 AM   #2
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Rather than rely on a default process, IMO it's better to define your preference in writing. A will makes things clear, removes doubt, discourages fraud, etc.

Regarding helpful info for your wife, you might snip short articles from magazines or print web pages that contain info you deem important. Include these items with your personal papers so they will be found. My dad did that and I found it both useful at a stressful time as well as comforting to know I was proceeding in a manner consistent with his wishes.
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Old 02-10-2012, 11:13 AM   #3
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Not having a will could make things way more difficult for your spouse than necessary, at a time when he/she may not be up to it.
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If you die intestate--meaning without a proper will or living trust--your assets will be divvied up according to the law in the state where you live.

Since 1991, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, a group dedicated to rationalizing and harmonizing state laws, has urged states to make this the default for a married person with kids (but no children from a previous marriage) who dies intestate. "A lot of people think their spouse gets everything," says Nilson. Yet only 16 states have adopted this outcome in their laws.
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/money...n21/index3.htm
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Old 02-10-2012, 11:17 AM   #4
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I've worried for a long time that hubby wouldn't have any idea what to do no matter how much I try to get him involved with our finances. Just not an interest of his. The best way I found to deal with it is to make things as easy as possible for him. I'm in the process of switching our investment (iras, roths) to Vanguard and our savings/cds are with our credit union. I've told him he only has two calls to make if I go before him. As far as paying the bills..........he'll figure it out.
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Old 02-10-2012, 11:26 AM   #5
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You absolutely need a will. Given your opinion of your wife's ability to manage money I would also provide specific instructions to her about what to do with, for example, your life insurance proceeds. An attorney can give you information about setting up a trust to receive your life insurance proceeds and how to protect that resource from ill-advised spending. Given her lack of interest in learning, in general, and likely need of income Vanguard's Wellington mutual fund may meet her needs.
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Old 02-10-2012, 11:37 AM   #6
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Back in 1980 my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a very short time left to live. He got a 3-ring binder and dividers, and filled it with instructions and guidance for my mother, and contact information for trusted people to ask for further assistance.

The binder was very helpful during the first months after he passed, and kept her from feeling helpless when confronted with tasks that were new to her. After that she "got her sea legs" so to speak and no longer needed it at all.

As for a will, yes, that is something I need to do as well.
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Old 02-10-2012, 12:11 PM   #7
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Going in to sign papers this afternoon on setting up the family trust. It also includes the other end of life papers like living wills and durable powers of attorney. The one thing I still lack is to list all bank accounts, life insurance, etc., and who to contact when that time comes. Also, starting this weekend, I'm am going to guide her through the bill pay system I use including online banking. She is very computer savy but has never done the banking with bill pay. Her first question is going to be "why do you do it like that?"
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Old 02-10-2012, 12:14 PM   #8
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The good thing about doing a will is that it forces you to discuss your wishes . My husband died suddenly so no time for instructions but he had everything organized . I had been investing for years so it was easy for me to take over . I do write a letter which I update yearly to my daughter and I also have discussed my wishes with my SO. The letter to my daughter explains where my investments are ,who to contact ,who my lawyer is , things that need to be done (call SS, Stop pension ),where the deed to the house is ,car title , insurance records etc. I also tell her to spend some but save the rest as she will need it . I would also advise you to tell your wife to do nothing for a year since that is when most widows and widowers are the most vulnerable .
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Old 02-10-2012, 12:18 PM   #9
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I have a file on the computer desktop with recommendations and all account names and passwords. (Direct links wherever possible.) One recommendation: I originally labeled this file "TeeRuh is dead". This was not very popular with DW. I have changed the file name to "For DW with Love" and it seems to have made her much happier.

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Old 02-10-2012, 12:22 PM   #10
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I have the 3 ring binder that I update at least once a year. has all investment and bank accounts, as well as life insurance information. I also have told my DW numerous times just talk to David - (My boss) he will go over loose ends and financial advise. I work at a credit union so he and I have dealt with settling matters for families after death of a spouse many times.
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Old 02-10-2012, 02:19 PM   #11
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Thanks everyone. I've always known we should have a will, we just keep putting it off...I'll set a goal to get it done by July.

Also, thanks for the advice on the "3 ring binders." I am going to start assembling one with account info, who to contact, where to put money etc. I like that vanguard already puts holes in the papers they send you!
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Old 02-10-2012, 02:46 PM   #12
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I have a folder, first folder in the top drawer of my file cabinet boldly labeled:

Bucket List-Things to know if I kick the bucket

DW knows where it is, but doesn't have any interest in knowing any details, then again I am relatively young so barring a real surprise, there is (hopefully) time to fill in the gaps.
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Old 02-10-2012, 07:29 PM   #13
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You may also want to be be sure all appropriate accounts are titles jointly. If not, they may have to pass through probate, leaving her without sufficient assets for a time. A will for sure seems appropriate, along with advise on how to take an IRA if as a surving spouse if oyu have an IRA she may inherit. It may be a good idea to discuss these details with your daughter if she is up to it as well. If you have concerns about your wife being able to handle the money, or concerns about your daughter influenceing her in a way that may not be in her best interest, then maybe some other arrangements might make sense.
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Old 02-10-2012, 08:13 PM   #14
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I suspect his daughter is quite young but once she gets to middle school age time to start her financial education.
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Old 02-10-2012, 09:03 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TeeRuh View Post
I have a file on the computer desktop with recommendations and all account names and passwords. (Direct links wherever possible.) One recommendation: I originally labeled this file "TeeRuh is dead". This was not very popular with DW. I have changed the file name to "For DW with Love" and it seems to have made her much happier.

t.r.
Presumably this is a password protected file with a sufficiently complex password.

I have a "I'm dead, read this" notebook. It has all the account numbers, telephone numbers etc. The access codes etc are in the safe deposit box.
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Old 02-11-2012, 06:42 AM   #16
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Presumably this is a password protected file with a sufficiently complex password.

I have a "I'm dead, read this" notebook. It has all the account numbers, telephone numbers etc. The access codes etc are in the safe deposit box.
I like farmerED's binder cover better. It says "IF" I die.
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Old 02-11-2012, 06:55 AM   #17
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I like farmerED's binder cover better. It says "IF" I die.
eternal optimism.
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Old 02-11-2012, 07:16 AM   #18
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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.
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Old 02-11-2012, 07:26 AM   #19
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Instead of keeping everything on a hard drive, I put it all on a flash drive. The flash drive contains all account information as well as a detailed "what to do" with a suggested time line. The flash drive is password protected (she picked the password) and is locked in our fire proof safe.

I do have a printout in our safety deposit box (box is free), but she knows to compare the two even though I keep them updated regularly. The beauty of the electronic file is there are links to the various accounts.
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Old 02-11-2012, 07:32 AM   #20
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My understanding is if I just check out, DW as my legal spouse gets control of the estate?
Not necessarily. In Maryland (the only place I've handled an estate) a court appoints an administrator. That person may or may not be a family member. This is another reason to have a will, as you can specify who the administrator is in the will, and how much if anything that person will be compensated. Unless there is a good reason not the the court will go along with the will's designation of the administrator but the final say is the court's, not yours.

There is good reason for that. It may happen if the designated person is incapacitated or if an heir successfully challenges the impartiality or competence of the designated person.

Much depends on state law although most are similar in intent if not practice. It is one of those things where "dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's" is crucial.
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