A simple will .... not!

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
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JTJjr
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A simple will .... not!

Post by JTJjr » Mon Sep 06, 2010 11:57 am

Dear Diehards,

Years ago my wife and I made a will leaving our assets in equal proportions to our two boys , then 8 and 6. Two weeks ago our first grandchild was born and I suggested that my son and his wife should make a will. I told them it was simple and decided that my wife and I would update our will at the same time, since our family now consists of 2 wives and a grandchild as well as 2 sons. We sat down at my son's dining room table with a laptop and pulled up Quicken Wills. I went first. I learned a lot in 5 minutes. No longer is it simple. Just allocating equal amounts to both sons does not seem to suffice. What do I do if one is deceased when we die. How do I equitably distribute our assets if one of our sons has 3 children and the other has none or just one? What do we do if one son is deceased leaving a wife and 4 children while the other son is alive and has no children? And most perplexingly, how do we make a will without any members of our family feeling as if they have been short-changed? Woe's me. I would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions. Peace, JTJjr
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Ron
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Post by Ron » Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:19 pm

Bonjour! (Comment ca va?)

This is never an easy question nor easily answered. Sometimes you just have to face the facts that you cannot insure equality in your bequests.

It is certainly easy to allocate assets to your immediate children "Per stirpes" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Per_stirpes ) but often more difficult to take beyond one generation.

What if one of your grandchildren is a "genius" who would benefit from advanced studies?

What if one of you grandchildren is disabled?

Who "should" get more support?

That's based upon not only personal feelings, but also unknowns that will only be revealed in the future, as your/their life progresses.

If you wish to keep it simple (at this time), keep it simple. You have time to change your will (via codicil) as time progresses (decor?)

Au Revour!

The Wizard
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Post by The Wizard » Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:22 pm

No one is ENTITLED to receive an inheritance from you, me, or anyone else when we die.
People need to get over that concept if they have it.
If you decide to leave a large portion of your estate to charity, that's completely fine, too.
Sorry if I haven't tried to answer your specific questions...

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norookie
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Post by norookie » Mon Sep 06, 2010 12:40 pm

:D I'm with the Wizard. I'd not change it. Thats just me. You mention wives and one has kids one does not, thats their choice. In your place I'd want to take care of my boys.-just sayin-
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kyounge1956
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Re: A simple will .... not!

Post by kyounge1956 » Mon Sep 06, 2010 1:14 pm

JTJjr wrote:Dear Diehards,

Years ago my wife and I made a will leaving our assets in equal proportions to our two boys , then 8 and 6. Two weeks ago our first grandchild was born and I suggested that my son and his wife should make a will. I told them it was simple and decided that my wife and I would update our will at the same time, since our family now consists of 2 wives and a grandchild as well as 2 sons. We sat down at my son's dining room table with a laptop and pulled up Quicken Wills. I went first. I learned a lot in 5 minutes. No longer is it simple. Just allocating equal amounts to both sons does not seem to suffice. What do I do if one is deceased when we die. How do I equitably distribute our assets if one of our sons has 3 children and the other has none or just one? What do we do if one son is deceased leaving a wife and 4 children while the other son is alive and has no children? And most perplexingly, how do we make a will without any members of our family feeling as if they have been short-changed? Woe's me. I would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions. Peace, JTJjr
I sympathize! I am unmarried and childless, but have seven nieces, a step-niece and step-nephew, and as of this past May, one great-nephew, so I have even less idea than you of what to leave to whom. Full disclosure: I don't have a will myself. My parents are both still living and I believe in this state (WA) either they or my siblings would inherit if I died intestate. That's OK with me, so writing a will is rather low on my priority list.

Here is a thought experiment: suppose you had died when your sons were young. They would each have inherited half of your assets, but after that, any of the hypothetical situations you mention might have happened, and the assets they inherited from you would have passed to their heirs as specified in their will, or according to the law of your state if they didn't have one. If that was OK with you when they were little boys, why isn't it still OK now that they are grown men? IOW, I suggest you consider leaving the division equal between your sons, and let them decide who inherits the assets from them.

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dandan14
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Post by dandan14 » Mon Sep 06, 2010 1:31 pm

While I thought that a will should be fairly simple for my wife and I, my mind was still put at ease by hiring an attorney. It gave me some peace to just have conversations about some of the same types of things you mentioned.

To answer one of your questions, a "per stirpes" distribution means that each "root" of your family tree gets the same percentage. So if one of your children pre-deceases you, his/her family gets 50%.

The opposite is per capita. That would mean that if one of your children was childless and the other had 2 children, and the one with 2 children died, your will would be divided into thirds with your surviving son getting 1/3, and the two children of the deceased son also get 1/3 and 1/3.

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nisiprius
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Post by nisiprius » Mon Sep 06, 2010 1:40 pm

At least consider talking to a lawyer.

Remember, their expertise is not just drawing up a will that matches your intentions, it is also helping you decide what your intentions should be. An experienced lawyer may have seen a situation before, may have suggestions on what seems fair and what families perceive as fair--may have insight into the human parts as well as the legal parts.

I have no reason to think I live in a place with cheap lawyers--rather the opposite--but it cost me $500 to have him draw up two wills, two durable powers of attorney, and a declaration of homestead. They were simple wills, and for all I know "I love you honey" scribbled on a napkin might be just as good, but $500 is hardly a fortune.

After you've got the wills done, you can always buy a Nolo Press book and read it to get a better understanding of what the lawyer did!
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

chaz
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Post by chaz » Mon Sep 06, 2010 2:35 pm

While talking to a lawyer you may decide to create a revocable living trust so that your sons can avoid the costs of probate.
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kenbrumy
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Post by kenbrumy » Mon Sep 06, 2010 2:48 pm

Laws vary considerably between the US states. You list yourself as being in France. GET A LAWYER! Don't trust your assets to how well Quicken happens to work in your situation.

I'm in the process of watching my children marry and start their own families. At this point, there's no compelling reason to not divide it equally between our children since it's very likely one of us will survive for another couple of decades. In reflection on the piss poor job my in-laws did with their estate, I'm tempted to evaluate changing the will and leave the bulk of the estate to be equally divided amongst the grandchildren. Since I don't know how many or if any have special situations, I think it's too early to try to get too clever.

drewmo
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Post by drewmo » Mon Sep 06, 2010 3:13 pm

If you own assets in France then your will is going to be much more complicated then you think. You'll have to deal w/ France's very complicated and inflexible succession laws. If not done right your children will end up paying huge succession taxes to the French government (up to 45%!!) as well as having to declare the assets (and maybe pay more taxes) to uncle Sam.

Bon courage!

imagardener
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Post by imagardener » Mon Sep 06, 2010 4:56 pm

What does your wife think? She will most likely survive you and need a little money to live on. What if she remarries? What if her second husband has children also and he survives her?

Yes of course you need professional advice.

Oh what the hell, spend every last dime taking your grandkids on trips, they will have a wealth of memories that will be your and your wife's legacy.

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Sunflower
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Post by Sunflower » Mon Sep 06, 2010 7:06 pm

norookie wrote::D I'm with the Wizard. I'd not change it. Thats just me. You mention wives and one has kids one does not, thats their choice. In your place I'd want to take care of my boys.-just sayin-
Plus this may change down the road too -- either more births or an untimely death.

I think I would leave equal amounts to each child: If a child is not living when I die it passes to his/her children equally; if he/she has no children the inheritance goes to his/her sibling(s) equally. I think this is standard.

sscritic
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Post by sscritic » Mon Sep 06, 2010 9:50 pm

I also leave equally to my two children. If one of them predeceases me, their share goes into trust for their children. Currently, one has one child and the other has three. If both die before me, one grandchild will get 1/2 and the other three each get 1/6 of my estate. Nothing goes to my children's current spouses.

You may think it unfair that one grandchild gets 3 times as much as her cousins, but that was a choice my children made in having the numbers of children they did. It is also what would possibly happen if I were to predecease my children (the most likely scenario). On the other hand, if I die first, my children might leave much of my estate to their spouses and create a chance my grandchildren will have to share with future step-siblings. Hmmm, who suggested bypassing your children and leaving your estate directly to your grandchildren?

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JTJjr
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Many thanks for such thoughtful responses

Post by JTJjr » Thu Sep 09, 2010 12:48 am

Dear Bogleheads,

First, my apologies for this late reply to all your excellent comments and suggestions. I wrote my question a few hours before leaving L.A. for France, so it has taken a couple of days to make this reply.

Your responses were exactly what I was looking for: confirmation of the complexity of the issue, discussion of various senarios, explanations of the thinking that went into developing a will, and recommendations based on the thinking and experience. We have made three decisions: 1. For now, our will will continue to equally split our assets between our two sons. 2. We own no property in France and intentionally keep assets here low, but we will seek the advice of a notaire regarding the need for a will here; and we will consult a lawyer on our next trip to the USA regarding issues raised by your responses. 3. We will plan to act fully on the wonderful advice offered by "imagardener". What a terrific way to use our assets! We, too, will benefit along with our children and grandchilden. Thank you all so much. I cannot tell you how pleased I am by the advice I have received in this forum and in other Bogleheads' forums . You are a wonderful and thoughtful group of people. Peace, JTJjr
Aimlessly wandering to discover where I am.

letsgobobby
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Post by letsgobobby » Thu Sep 09, 2010 6:47 pm

a simple anecdote:

when my grandfather died he had 3 adult children: a son with no children; a son with 2 children; a daughter with 2 children. All involved were successful adults (4 MDs, 2 PhDs, a computer scientist and an English professor among the 6). No one 'needed' the money.

My grandfather was smart beyond his high school education and a good investor beyond his experience. When he died at age 98 he had a $300,000 estate. He left $60,000 to each adult child; and $30,000 to each adult grandchild. This meant the son with no children "got less" than the others. But I don't think anyone could think of this arrangement as unfair. It seemed equitable and generous simultaneously.

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JTJjr
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Post by JTJjr » Thu Sep 09, 2010 11:18 pm

Thanks letgobobby. Very nice. I hope my children and grandchildren achieve such success. It would certainly make will-related decisions easier. Peace, JTJjr
Aimlessly wandering to discover where I am.

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LongDistanceRunner
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Post by LongDistanceRunner » Fri Sep 10, 2010 1:17 pm

letsgobobby wrote:a simple anecdote:

when my grandfather died he had 3 adult children: a son with no children; a son with 2 children; a daughter with 2 children. All involved were successful adults (4 MDs, 2 PhDs, a computer scientist and an English professor among the 6). No one 'needed' the money.
Bobby: I count 7 heirs.

LDR
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letsgobobby
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Post by letsgobobby » Mon Sep 13, 2010 6:06 pm

LongDistanceRunner wrote:
letsgobobby wrote:a simple anecdote:

when my grandfather died he had 3 adult children: a son with no children; a son with 2 children; a daughter with 2 children. All involved were successful adults (4 MDs, 2 PhDs, a computer scientist and an English professor among the 6). No one 'needed' the money.
Bobby: I count 7 heirs.

LDR
sorry, you are correct. 7 heirs (3 at 20% each, and 4 at 10% each = 100%). thanks

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