New baby: Do I need a will?

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chrischris
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New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by chrischris » Sat Sep 07, 2013 11:30 pm

My wife and I are both 27 years old and we just had our first child. We are planning on having more children and living off of my income. I work in law enforcement and thus have adequate life insurance to protect my wife and children in the event I pass away.

I currently have a low six figures in liquid assets. The other day I began wondering what would happen to our assets if my wife and I were to pass away at the same time.

Do I need a will?

I know nothing about wills or living trusts. Both my family and my wife's family are reasonable people but I am not sure if the state would get involved to decide how my assets should be distributed to my child (ren).

Any advice? I tend to keep my finances pretty simple. If I need a will could I use Quicken's program or an online resource?

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rob
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by rob » Sat Sep 07, 2013 11:34 pm

I think a will is pretty necessary regardless of children... unless your happy with whatever the default disposition of property that the relevant state/jurisdiction will specify. They do not have to be complex and can be done cheaply.
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Texas hold em71
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by Texas hold em71 » Sat Sep 07, 2013 11:49 pm

If you were to pass away at the same time, who would care for your child? I would want a will for that at the very least.

Even if she survives you, there may be reasons for a will. Every state is different in distribution of assets when you die intestate. Look up your state's rules. If you don't like them, you need a will.

Many of your accounts like 401(k)s require you to list beneficiaries. You don't need a will for those. But for assets outside of those accounts without your wife's name on them, you will need a will.

They are VERY easy to get and simple ones are very inexpensive. You can afford it.

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by Watty » Sat Sep 07, 2013 11:52 pm

Both my family and my wife's family are reasonable people but I am not sure if the state would get involved to decide how my assets should be distributed to my child (ren).
One of the problems is that if you kid inherits all your assets then they will not have any authority to do anything with the money that is in your kids name and any financial institution will not even talk to them about it.

Without a will everything could be tied up for a long time before your estate is settled too and there will be lots of legal costs.

Yes you need a will.

Also be sure to update all the beneficiary information on all your retirement accounts too.

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by chrischris » Sun Sep 08, 2013 12:34 am

Also be sure to update all the beneficiary information on all your retirement accounts too.
Are you saying I shouldn't name my daughter as a secondary beneficiary and instead name a family member? I have named my wife as the primary beneficiary.

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by MooseandBear » Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:13 am

Hi ChrisChris,

I think the posters above are saying the following things:

1) You need a will to specify who would take care of the baby if both of you were unable to do so (i.e. if you were both to pass away).
2) You need to change all of your beneficiaries on accounts to be spouse = primary, baby = contingent/secondary. (Before we had kids, we had our siblings as secondaries.)
3) You may want to include a provision in your will for someone else to manage the baby's assets (if both of you were to pass) until the baby is of age since even if they're a genius, they might not have the expertise to do it at 9 months of age. This could be the people in step #1 above or it could be another family member/friend. (There are lots of ways to set this up...)

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by livesoft » Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:16 am

Your spouse needs a will, too. Both of you should have wills.
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by nisiprius » Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:42 am

Yes. In general everyone needs a will if they have dependents. There are lots of ways to do it but I don't see this as an area for do-it-yourself; I've had it done three or four times, and the lawyers I went to charged like a few hundreds of dollars for it--it's not hugely expensive and you only do it once a decade or so. My wife and I have what lawyers call "I-love-you-honey" wills, meaning very simple wills that don't specify anything very different from what would happen anyway, but we have them.

The lawyers like to point out that when you have a lawyer do it, they keep a copy on file in their office etc. Plus, it's always just a bit tricky figuring out who is going to witness your will since it shouldn't be anyone too closely connected with you, and it always seems embarrassingly personal--friends always wonder if you've got some cancer you haven't mentioned to them--while lawyers can always snag someone in their office to do it.

Maybe you could carve "my spouse gets everything" on a pumpkin and have your 17-year-old brother-in-law witness it with a Sharpie and, who knows, that might be a legal will, but who wants to take the chance? The law is different in every state and it makes sense to go to someone who knows what the customary phrasing is and will draw up something that will make the authorities yawn because it's in stiff blue covers just like everything else they see, and sign off.

Custodianship of the children in the event of both parents' death is one where you'd certainly want to have a specific name--from someone who's agreed to do it.

Note the first item in Scott Adam's wonderful Dilbert Guide to Personal Finance says:
Scott Adams wrote:Everything you need to know about financial planning

Make a will.
Pay off your credit cards.
Get term life insurance if you have a family to support.
Fund your 401(k) to the maximum.
Fund your IRA to the maximum.
Buy a house if you want to live in a house and you can afford it.
Put six months’ expenses in a money market fund.
Take whatever money is left over and invest 70% in a stock index fund and 30% in a bond fund through any discount broker and never touch it until retirement.

If any of this confuses you, or you have something special going on (retirement, college planning, tax issues) hire a fee-based financial planner, not one who charges a percentage of your portfolio.
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by ruralavalon » Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:00 am

Both you and your wife need wills, and that should include trust and guardianship provisions for the child(ren), and do change the beneficiary provisions on all investment accounts, retirement accounts and life insurance policies.

Related issue to address, also get health care and property powers of attorney for both you and your wife so that if one of you becomes incapacitated the other has legal power to make necessary decisions.

Don't try to do any of this without a lawyer. Martindale.com
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by Rodc » Sun Sep 08, 2013 8:25 am

rob wrote:I think a will is pretty necessary regardless of children... unless your happy with whatever the default disposition of property that the relevant state/jurisdiction will specify. They do not have to be complex and can be done cheaply.
And happy with the cost and time.

You both need a will.

Some sort of simple trust to hold the proceeds of life insurance, pension and/or retirement account payouts, proceeds from selling your house etc. might also be a very good idea. Even if you are "cash poor" now, once life insurance pays out your estate may not be as small as it now feels, and in 10 or 15 years your estate will be rather larger, so you might want to think ahead.
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Sun Sep 08, 2013 8:32 am

Yes, you need a will if you want your wishes to be carried out. Otherwise, someone from the state will make decisions for you - and charge you for it.

The will - and each one of you (husband,wife) should have one.
You can leave your estate to your wife and/or child. If you split the estate (your property that is titled in your name only) and decide to leave some to your child(ren) - you will leave it to your child in "trust". That is usually called a testamentary trust and is only funded upon your death. Then, you must select a trusted person "a trustee" to act on your behalf (following your stated wishes as to how to invest the assets or not, when to distribute funds for child, etc). The remaining money if any, becomes the childs at the age you specify - and you can make the child the successor trustee at that age - they will then control the assets, if any. The will also states who you select as guardian of your child(ren) until they become age of majority.
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by brxn » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:52 am

Also, a responsible step would be to purchase a term life insurance policy covering your wife for the duration of time you expect her to be at home taking care of the children.

chrischris
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by chrischris » Sun Sep 08, 2013 12:36 pm

Thanks everyone. I'll go ahead and plan on making a will for my wife as well.

Does anyone have any feedback regarding online legal services, such as legalzoom.com?

From my research it sounds like legalzoom.com is great for simple wills, such as mine, but for more complex estates an attorney is best.

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dm200
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by dm200 » Sun Sep 08, 2013 1:22 pm

Actually - you DO have a will - If you have not done one, the state has one. You may not like its provisions though. These provisions vary by state.

Our estate planning attorney advised that minor children should not be beneficiaries of any significant amounts (such as real estate, life insurance, 401k, etc.). Set up a trust instead.

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by dandan14 » Sun Sep 08, 2013 2:34 pm

Yes...as others have said, you need a will. Since you have life insurance, you may even want to specify things such as if you and your wife die at the same time, perhaps you want the money from insurance to go into a trust until the children are a certain age.

In addition to a will, you should also have a living will and a medical power of attorney. Both of those make your wishes known in the event that you are incapacitated.

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by smackboy1 » Sun Sep 08, 2013 2:39 pm

chrischris wrote:My wife and I are both 27 years old and we just had our first child. We are planning on having more children and living off of my income. I work in law enforcement and thus have adequate life insurance to protect my wife and children in the event I pass away.

I currently have a low six figures in liquid assets. The other day I began wondering what would happen to our assets if my wife and I were to pass away at the same time.

Do I need a will?

I know nothing about wills or living trusts. Both my family and my wife's family are reasonable people but I am not sure if the state would get involved to decide how my assets should be distributed to my child (ren).

Any advice? I tend to keep my finances pretty simple. If I need a will could I use Quicken's program or an online resource?
At minimum you and your wife need the following:

Advice from an experienced trust and estate lawyer
Will
Durable power of attorney
Advanced healthcare directive
Life insurance
Disability insurance

Your lawyer will be able to advise your family on trusts and beneficiary designations based on your unique needs. Generally it is not a good idea for a minor or even young adults to inherit full control of large amounts of $, so be careful of naming your baby as a beneficiary on your accounts. Nobody has a crystal ball that can foretell who will become disabled, ill, divorced, remarried, in debt, bankrupt, alcoholic, incompetent, drug dependent, spendthrift etc., so your plans should try to cover as many bases as possible.
Disclaimer: nothing written here should be taken as legal advice, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by chaz » Sun Sep 08, 2013 3:14 pm

Go to www.legalzoom.com or see an estate lawyer.

Good luck.
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by chrischris » Sun Sep 08, 2013 5:21 pm

I'm going to look into legalzoom.com

I can't help but feel like my situation is very simple and I don't feel I need to pay an expensive attorney several thousand dollars.

My simple plan: If I die, everything goes to my wife. If both my wife and I die, everything goes to a guardian who will manage my child and her assets until she is of legal age.

Maybe this is oversimplifying things as I do realize both my wife and I could end up on life support simultaneously, but I feel a simple solution is in order....

Texas hold em71
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by Texas hold em71 » Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:37 pm

We paid a local attorney less than 500 for similar wills for both of us. So 250 a piece. That was 15 years ago for what it is worth.

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by dm200 » Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:46 pm

chrischris wrote:I'm going to look into legalzoom.com

I can't help but feel like my situation is very simple and I don't feel I need to pay an expensive attorney several thousand dollars.

My simple plan: If I die, everything goes to my wife. If both my wife and I die, everything goes to a guardian who will manage my child and her assets until she is of legal age.

Maybe this is oversimplifying things as I do realize both my wife and I could end up on life support simultaneously, but I feel a simple solution is in order....
My opinion is that you should spend several thousand dollars on a not-so-expensive attorney (experienced in estate planning). You probably only get one change to get this right - because you will be dead when something turns out to be messed up. You need (In My Opinion), two wills (probably with testamentary trusts), two Powers of Attorney (durable) and two advanced medical directives. The testamentary trusts would be created on your death(s) to provide for your child(ren). Both wills should be drafted such that they provide (as you wish) for both your deaths at the same time (same incident) or one dies within a few months of the other - before a new will could be drafted (if needed).

BUT - just my opinions, and basically how my wife and I did things. BUT - we both are still alive, well -and we have no minor child(ren) any more.

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by LadyGeek » Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:53 pm

Within the last year, 800 dollars for my attorney - experienced in elder law. It's a package deal for everything you need - will, advanced health care directive, power of attorney, durable power of attorney. We got a set of documents for each of us.

He runs his own set of software to generate the package (meant for lawyers). Even after he was done with the software, he still made some "manual" updates. We don't have anything complicated, but it was a sure sign that you can't replace experience with software.
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by nisiprius » Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:03 pm

chrischris wrote:I can't help but feel like my situation is very simple and I don't feel I need to pay an expensive attorney several thousand dollars.
It didn't cost me several thousand. More like $500. For two wills, two durable powers of attorney, one declaration of homestead, and a partridge in a pear tree. Then a couple of years ago we needed a simple change, and he charged $100 total to change two wills (and re-print them and snag some of his people to re-witness them).
My simple plan: If I die, everything goes to my wife. If both my wife and I die, everything goes to a guardian who will manage my child and her assets until she is of legal age.
Our will isn't much more complicated than that. As I say, lawyers call it an "I-love-you-honey" will. Nevertheless it does go to several pages. A lot of sentences authorizing the executor to pay fees out of the estate and things like that.
Maybe this is oversimplifying things as I do realize both my wife and I could end up on life support simultaneously, but I feel a simple solution is in order....
I just would not be all that lawyer-averse. In your situation I'd at least try the experiment of walking downtown to the nearest storefront that has a pair of scales decaled on the window, and ask what it costs.
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.

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by 2stepsbehind » Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:33 pm

OP--I wouldn't waste time with legalzoom. Go to your public library and see if they have Quicken Willmaker by Nolo then read your state statutes and see precisely what you need to do to have a valid will in your state and what happens if you don't. If your situation is as easy as you think, you find the software easy to understand, and you feel comfortable taking the risk, then proceed. You can always visit an attorney as your situation becomes more complex. Biggest things for you are to identify who you want raising your child and who you want handling the money should you pass away. You should obviously speak with that individual/those individuals to make sure they are on board and to also convey how you'd like your child to be raised.
Last edited by 2stepsbehind on Sun Sep 08, 2013 8:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by bsteiner » Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:43 pm

chrischris wrote:My wife and I are both 27 years old and we just had our first child. We are planning on having more children and living off of my income. I work in law enforcement and thus have adequate life insurance to protect my wife and children in the event I pass away.

I currently have a low six figures in liquid assets. The other day I began wondering what would happen to our assets if my wife and I were to pass away at the same time.

Do I need a will?

I know nothing about wills or living trusts. Both my family and my wife's family are reasonable people but I am not sure if the state would get involved to decide how my assets should be distributed to my child (ren).

Any advice? I tend to keep my finances pretty simple. If I need a will could I use Quicken's program or an online resource?
This is a hard question. On the one hand, for estate planning purposes, your assets would include your life insurance, since the life insurance would become cash upon your death. On the other hand, you can't use the life insurance to pay the lawyer. Also, since you're only 27, the chance that you'll use the Wills you sign now is small.

As several people have pointed out, you'll want to name trustees and guardians for your child(ren), and you'll have to decide at what age each child should get control over his/her trust.
chrischris wrote:I'm going to look into legalzoom.com.

I can't help but feel like my situation is very simple and I don't feel I need to pay an expensive attorney several thousand dollars ....
dm200 wrote:...My opinion is that you should spend several thousand dollars on a not-so-expensive attorney (experienced in estate planning) ....
nisiprius wrote:...I've had it done three or four times, and the lawyers I went to charged like a few hundreds of dollars for it ....
Texas hold em71 wrote:We paid a local attorney less than 500 for similar wills for both of us. So 250 a piece. That was 15 years ago for what it is worth.
LadyGeek wrote:Within the last year, 800 dollars for my attorney - experienced in elder law ....
nisiprius wrote:...I'd at least try the experiment of walking downtown to the nearest storefront that has a pair of scales decaled on the window, and ask what it costs.
2stepsbehind wrote:... Go to your public library and see if they have Quicken Willmaker by Nolo then read your state statutes and see precisely what you need to do to have a valid will in your state and what happens if you don't. ...
I think the above sums up the obvious choices: a few thousand dollars for a trusts and estates lawyer, substantially less for a lawyer who doesn't focus on trusts and estates, or probably a couple of hundred dollars for legalzoom or even less for Willmaker.

This situation comes up from time to time. Someone will ask for a recommendation for a modestly priced but competent lawyer to do an estate plan for a young couple with modest assets. If possible, I would look for a lawyer who had been in the trusts and estates department of a firm but is now practicing on his/her own and can do a good job at a modest cost (though not as modest a cost as a lawyer who doesn't focus on trusts and estates as appears to be the case in the above examples). Another possibility is a lawyer who does a good deal of estate planning for people with modest estates even if that's not his/her only area of practice.

A well-respected lawyer said he created a Will on legalzoom just to see what it would be like. He said it was pretty good, especially for the price, except that it didn't allow for all the choices he wanted. For example, he said that it wouldn't allow him to create trusts for his children that would last for their lifetime. Instead, it required him to specify an age at which his children's trusts would have to end. He was able to reasonably work around that by specifying that his children's trusts would end at age 99.

If you'll say where you're located, perhaps someone will have some recommendations.

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by hq38sq43 » Sun Sep 08, 2013 8:09 pm

chrischris wrote:My wife and I are both 27 years old and we just had our first child. We are planning on having more children and living off of my income. I work in law enforcement and thus have adequate life insurance to protect my wife and children in the event I pass away.

I currently have a low six figures in liquid assets. The other day I began wondering what would happen to our assets if my wife and I were to pass away at the same time.

Do I need a will?

I know nothing about wills or living trusts. Both my family and my wife's family are reasonable people but I am not sure if the state would get involved to decide how my assets should be distributed to my child (ren).

Any advice? I tend to keep my finances pretty simple. If I need a will could I use Quicken's program or an online resource?

Yes. Every new parent needs a will. Unless, of course, she/he is content to leave to his/her state's intestate succession laws the distribution of his/her property. You might also wish to specify preference as to custody of children (although a court might over rule "in the interest or the children"). My first will was made immediately after our first child's birth, as was my first increase in life insurance.
Harry at Bradenton

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by wilked » Mon Sep 09, 2013 7:38 am

Exact same situation...

I purchased Quicken Willmaker (above was suggested to see if library has it, not a bad idea either). We created wills, durable POAs, etc with the software. I have a lawyer-friend who offered to give the docs a quick 'once-over', made a couple of small suggestions. We went to the local town office, got everything notarized and witnessed (free). It was all a bit of a pain in the rear, but now it is done and I feel better. In about 10-15 years I plan to meet with a lawyer and do it more formally, add a trust, etc. With my child so young I do not see the point. We completely trust the person we named successor and guardian, so no issue, but once our child (children) get close to college age would like to make things more complex.

Lastly, advice was given to me and I will pass it on, keep all the docs in a couple ziploc freezer bags and store in the freezer (fireproof), and let your possible guardian know they are there.

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Mon Sep 09, 2013 12:49 pm

wilked wrote:Exact same situation...

Lastly, advice was given to me and I will pass it on, keep all the docs in a couple ziploc freezer bags and store in the freezer (fireproof), and let your possible guardian know they are there.
Do you keep your cash there as well? Tell me your address, suddenly I've developed an appetite for "cold, hard, cash"! :moneybag :D
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by wilked » Mon Sep 09, 2013 12:50 pm

Grt2bOutdoors wrote:
wilked wrote:Exact same situation...

Lastly, advice was given to me and I will pass it on, keep all the docs in a couple ziploc freezer bags and store in the freezer (fireproof), and let your possible guardian know they are there.
Do you keep your cash there as well? Tell me your address, suddenly I've developed an appetite for "cold, hard, cash"! :moneybag :D
Haha, that would be perfect.

I do not keep my cash there, but I will give you a hint...you will need a shovel and a good map

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by sdrone » Mon Sep 09, 2013 1:22 pm

Can someone give me a common sense answer to this question? I haven't been able to really grasp this.

IF I have a will and....
1. I can specify that my wife gets my stuff
2. I can specify how, if my wife is dead, my assets are split up between my children
3. I can specify a guardian for my underage children

Why exactly do I need a trust? And why would I need to transfer my assets to a trust? Is it in the case of my children being young and i need something to "hold" the assets until they get older?

I don't have specific knowledge of this in my state but when for instance my father in law died in Ohio, he just had a will. It appointed an executor, and the executor split up his assets.

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by sdrone » Mon Sep 09, 2013 1:25 pm

fyi - food in a freezer will defrost/melt during a fire. That could be due to temp outside the freezer, but I'd want to verify that freezers are fireproof before using that method. the gaskets are rubber and could obviously melt/lose seal.

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by smackboy1 » Mon Sep 09, 2013 1:57 pm

sdrone wrote:Why exactly do I need a trust? And why would I need to transfer my assets to a trust? Is it in the case of my children being young and i need something to "hold" the assets until they get older?
You may not need one, but it's nice to have the option to have one createed if needed. I've always likened a good estate plan to a gun: it's better to have one and not need it than vice-versa.

Children will stop being minors and may take full ownership of property left to them in their names at 18 or up to 21 years old (depending on jurisdiction). At that time or later in life, there may be all many reasons their assets would be better held in trust.

They could be:

- Emotionally/financially immature
- Fiscally irresponsible
- Heavily in debt
- Being sued for lots of $$$
- Alcohol/drug abuser
- Married to someone with the above problems
- Divorced and paying alimony/child support
- Unexpectedly dead without a will and leaving behind minor children
Disclaimer: nothing written here should be taken as legal advice, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by bsteiner » Mon Sep 09, 2013 2:00 pm

sdrone wrote:Can someone give me a common sense answer to this question? I haven't been able to really grasp this.

IF I have a will and....
1. I can specify that my wife gets my stuff
2. I can specify how, if my wife is dead, my assets are split up between my children
3. I can specify a guardian for my underage children

Why exactly do I need a trust? And why would I need to transfer my assets to a trust? Is it in the case of my children being young and i need something to "hold" the assets until they get older?

I don't have specific knowledge of this in my state but when for instance my father in law died in Ohio, he just had a will. It appointed an executor, and the executor split up his assets.
Even with a $5.25 million (indexed) exempt amount and portability, there are still some peopIe who expect to have an estate large enough to pay estate taxes. They may want to begin giving away assets during your lifetime. There are various reasons they might make gifts in trust rather than outright.

You might want to provide (in your Will) for your spouse, or your children, to receive their inheritance in trust rather than outright. There are various reasons (some of which smackboy1 listed in his response) you might do this. These trusts would be created in your Will. They wouldn't come into existence during your lifetime, so you wouldn't transfer any assets to these trusts during your lifetime.

chrischris
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by chrischris » Mon Sep 09, 2013 2:15 pm

I live in Seattle, which Forbes previously considered the most overpriced city in America. Naturally, I checked Craigslist and located a paralegal who specializes in Wills.

http://www.washingtonlegaldocuments.com/

I contacted her and she quoted me $260 for completing an entire will package.

"which includes 2 Wills (one for each of you), 2 Power of Attorney, 2 Advance Directives and 1 Community Property Agreement"

Again, I have never hired an attorney and I know nothing about this subject. Is this affordable option a "cheap" option? Should I find an attorney?

Andyrunner
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by Andyrunner » Mon Sep 09, 2013 2:26 pm

Simular situation. My buddy who is a lawyer quoted us at $550 for the whole package and said he doesnt recommend the online wills as they may not take into account different laws in different states.

Sister in law told us what her will looked like and just said take it, replace the names and get it notarized. Done deal. Is this an option as well?

Would seem a bit crazy why these lawyers are asking a ton of money for something that is very generic. We don't need anything unique.

sdrone
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by sdrone » Mon Sep 09, 2013 4:01 pm

OK, so it's not like I create a trust now and transfer assets to it (though some people have phrased it that way to me).


The trust is created when either I or my wife or both die. At that point, assets are transferred to the trust, which becomes "the estate."

Then what, I'd have the person I designated in charge of the trust make a judgement call on whether my children are mature enough, not insane, not running from the law?

Grt2bOutdoors
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Mon Sep 09, 2013 4:13 pm

sdrone wrote:OK, so it's not like I create a trust now and transfer assets to it (though some people have phrased it that way to me).


The trust is created when either I or my wife or both die. At that point, assets are transferred to the trust, which becomes "the estate."

Then what, I'd have the person I designated in charge of the trust make a judgement call on whether my children are mature enough, not insane, not running from the law?
That ^ or you can dictate from beyond the grave by stipulating under what conditions and age you would allow said heir to become the successor trustee. Recommend you get your hands on a copy of "Beyond the grave by Condon" - some of the situations could apply to you, many will not, but it is an interesting read to see how the "other half" deals (or not :oops: ) with their estate planning.
"One should invest based on their need, ability and willingness to take risk - Larry Swedroe" Asking Portfolio Questions

bsteiner
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by bsteiner » Mon Sep 09, 2013 5:07 pm

Andyrunner wrote:Simular situation. My buddy who is a lawyer quoted us at $550 for the whole package and said he doesnt recommend the online wills as they may not take into account different laws in different states.

Sister in law told us what her will looked like and just said take it, replace the names and get it notarized. Done deal. Is this an option as well?

Would seem a bit crazy why these lawyers are asking a ton of money for something that is very generic. We don't need anything unique.
Given your age, net worth, and situation, you might not want a lawyer who would charge a "ton of money." However, someone older or with a much greater net worth (which might be your situation at some point) might want such a lawyer.

Here's why it might cost a "ton of money." The couple would come in to discuss their planning. We would ask about the family members, the assets, and the client's objectives. We would discuss the degree of control the surviving spouse should have, and the degree of control each child should have over his/her share, and at what point. We would discuss executors, trustees and guardians. We would discuss powers of attorney, living Wills and health care proxies (or the equivalent in the particular state). That meeting usually takes an hour and a half to two hours. After you send in your retainer letter, conflict letter (in the case of a couple) and check, we prepare the Wills and related documents, including riders to your IRA beneficiary designation forms, and we prepare a letter outlining the documents. For quality control, a colleague reviews them. Then we send out the drafts. If they're OK, or after we make any changes you want, you come in to sign them. It's x hours at $y per hour, which might comes out to a "ton of money" for someone in your situation.

If that's not practical for you, you'll have to select a less expensive option. Others have suggested (i) legalzoom, (ii) Willmaker, (iii) your buddy, (iv) using a lawyer who's not a trusts and estates lawyer (less expensive since he/she won't spot some of the issues), (v) using your sister-in-law's Will (which might work if her situation is similar to yours and hers was done appropriately), or (vi) using a non-lawyer. I suggested trying to find a trusts and estates lawyer who worked in a firm but is now on his/her own, or a lawyer who spends a substantial portion of his/her time dealing with modest size estates even if he/she also does work in other areas of law. That would probably cost more than the solutions in (i) through (vi), but less than the "ton of money" that a firm with a trusts and estates practice might charge.
Grt2bOutdoors wrote:
sdrone wrote:OK, so it's not like I create a trust now and transfer assets to it (though some people have phrased it that way to me).

The trust is created when either I or my wife or both die. At that point, assets are transferred to the trust, which becomes "the estate."

Then what, I'd have the person I designated in charge of the trust make a judgement call on whether my children are mature enough, not insane, not running from the law?
That ^ or you can dictate from beyond the grave by stipulating under what conditions and age you would allow said heir to become the successor trustee. Recommend you get your hands on a copy of "Beyond the grave by Condon" - some of the situations could apply to you, many will not, but it is an interesting read to see how the "other half" deals (or not :oops: ) with their estate planning.
I was not familiar with Condon or his book before becoming a participant in this group. While most estate planning books written for nonlawyers aren't very helpful, I thought Condon's book was pretty good. He points out many of the things that can go wrong. He doesn't pay as much attention to tax issues as he might, and much of the book is geared to community property (which is only in effect in 9 1/2 states, counting Alaska as the 1/2 since it's elective in Alaska), and California in particular. Nevertheless, it provides some useful information that you might not get from other sources.

Our clients usually provide that upon reaching a specified age (such as 30 or 35), or upon the death of the surviving parent if the child has reached that age at that point, the child gets to become a trustee of his/her trust, can remove and replace his/her co-trustee (provided the replacement trustee is not a close relative or subordinate employee), and can appoint (give or leave) the trust assets to anyone he/she wants (except the child or his/her estate or creditors). (Our clients usually let the child appoint the trust assets by Will at any age, since regardless of the child's age it's unlikely that the child would write a Will to exercise the power and then commit suicide to effectuate it.) (Eric uses a slightly different structure, which also works to keep the child's inheritance out of his/her estate for estate tax purposes.)

Texas hold em71
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by Texas hold em71 » Mon Sep 09, 2013 9:34 pm

Thanks, bsteiner! Even though I am not the OP, I always learn a lot from your posts.

I have a pretty simple will set up when I was about the OP age. My husband and I don't have estates (assets plus insurance) approaching the new estate tax limits so I thought I had escaped the need for a new will.

After reading your post, I think the testamentary trust in our wills are not detailed enough. IIRC they simply say: set up a trust, here is who will be the trustee, here is the back up trustee and the trust ends at age 25. Since I was 27ish who we wrote it, I thought 25 was plenty old enough. Hmmm. Don't recall anything in there about removing co-trustees etc. I think that is a good idea. That seems to give the adult child the ability to keep the trust out of the hands of an ex-spouse but still have access to them.

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nedsaid
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by nedsaid » Mon Sep 09, 2013 9:56 pm

Yes. You need a will. You need a durable power of attorney. You need a health care directive.

Add to your list as much additional term life insurance as you can afford. You probably want a minimum of $500,000 in term. That way if something happened to you, it gives your spouse some breathing room. She would not be in a big hurry to remarry. It also makes provision for your child. (I reread your post and saw that you had life insurance. The question is, do you have enough?)

I know folks in law enforcement and have a family member who is a Police Officer. It is a rather hazardous occupation. So make sure you have your paperwork in order.

Another thing you might add, is a letter of final instructions. Pretty much, tell your survivors all the information they need to handle your estate. Where the bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, etc. are. Also keep your spouse up to date on all the family finances in case she at some point has to handle them herself.
A fool and his money are good for business.

smackboy1
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by smackboy1 » Mon Sep 09, 2013 10:29 pm

sdrone wrote:OK, so it's not like I create a trust now and transfer assets to it (though some people have phrased it that way to me).


The trust is created when either I or my wife or both die. At that point, assets are transferred to the trust, which becomes "the estate."

Then what, I'd have the person I designated in charge of the trust make a judgement call on whether my children are mature enough, not insane, not running from the law?
All roads lead to Rome. There are trusts which can be created and funded while a person is living: living trusts a.k.a. inter vivos trusts. There are also trusts which are created by a person's will after death: testamentary trusts a.k.a. will trusts. Trusts also come in lots of other flavors e.g. revocable, irrevocable, special needs, credit shelter, Crummey, QTIP, etc.. Which tool to use depends on the situation. For example the will may specify a testamentary trust for the surviving spouse and children funded by the estate, but the life insurance policy would be owned by and paid out to an irrevocable life insurance trust created now for that sole purpose.

Each arrangement has it's pros and cons, which is why it's somewhat important to have a live person explain it all.
Disclaimer: nothing written here should be taken as legal advice, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

chrischris
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by chrischris » Mon Sep 09, 2013 11:30 pm

nedsaid wrote:Yes. You need a will. You need a durable power of attorney. You need a health care directive.

Add to your list as much additional term life insurance as you can afford. You probably want a minimum of $500,000 in term.(I reread your post and saw that you had life insurance. The question is, do you have enough?)


Another thing you might add, is a letter of final instructions. Pretty much, tell your survivors all the information they need to handle your estate. Where the bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, etc. are. Also keep your spouse up to date on all the family finances in case she at some point has to handle them herself.
Great point on life insurance. I currently carry a term policy for $500k, an additional policy for $350k and another policy through work (although I'm not sure how much, fluctuates based off of on duty death, etc). All this combined with my liquid net worth and no debt allows me to sleep at night.

As far as a letter of final instruction, I have been thinking about this for a while. My wife has limited knowledge of our finances. I keep her in the loop on our status and we make all decisions together. However a quick and simple document stating where accounts are located would be a lifesaver if someone else had to step in. I will get on this ASAP.

goodbishop
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by goodbishop » Wed Sep 11, 2013 9:56 am

I just had a will done - my wife and I have a 15 month old. I feel glad that at least now I am prepared (it's a Boy Scout thing).

All my stuff goes to her if I die, and vice versa. It also details what happens to my son if a calamity occurs and both my wife and I die at the same time. It's good stuff.

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nedsaid
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by nedsaid » Wed Sep 11, 2013 10:34 pm

ChrisChris,

You have plenty of life insurance. Great job.

Good job for writing a letter of final instructions.

Best wishes on your law enforcement career. May you find it extremely rewarding.

Ned
A fool and his money are good for business.

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Tortoise
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Re: New baby: Do I need a will?

Post by Tortoise » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:08 am

I just wrote about obtaining and filling out the correct forms for the state you live in on my personal finance blog, Save and Conquer. The links I provide in the articles point to fill-in-the-blank forms that are available for free. You will need to get your wills and living wills signed by two witnesses that are not named in the will, as well as not related to you even through marriage for the living wills.

Create a Will at No Cost
Create a Living Will (aka, Advanced Health Care Directive) at No Cost
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