Thursday, January 18, 2007

Do I need a will?

This week obviously I haven't been thinking much about finances or being frugal. I haven't spent money on anything except trying to go home, board the dogs, but I've been contemplating life and my relationship with money a lot.

The question now raised is do DH and I need a will? We're DINKS who really have built our assets together from the scratch. We don't have a lot, and I'm pretty sure that for DH's company life insurance I'm the beneficiary as he is my beneficiary. So the question is do we need a will?

We both feel at this time a will is unnecessary because if the other person dies then the survivor should get everything. However I was thinking that perhaps we need a will to let our parents know our wishes. DH and I know we each want to be cremated and would like our ashes kept to be scattered when the other person settles in a permenant home (not Boston). But also I think we may need a will to allow our parents to understand that DH wants to be kept alive and I prefer to not be kept alive if a vegetable.

I think if my life is not happy and healthy, I don't want to live. But I am not sure if my parents could deal with DH taking me off of life support. By the same token I'm not sure what DH's parents would want. It's funny that your parents, who love you dearly and raise you, would never discuss this with it. The idea of losing a child is the most painful loss. Because it's ingrained that the older personw ill die first.

I guess I'll discuss at least informally DH and I putting our wishes down on paper. Does everyone have a will? Was it put together with the conception of your first child or earlier?


Anonymous said...

Anonymous here again. On the wrong side of this one too. My wife and I got our wills together a few months before she died (which was in a car wreck, so obviously unexpectedly). We have a child, which is what pushed us to do it.

One thing I've learned is that the whole process goes much more quickly with a will than without. Without a will, everything that's not designated either through joint tenancy with right of survivorship or established beneficiary (e.g. life insurance, most retirement plans) has to be reviewed by a judge. That's a big pain and far more costly in attorney time than a will. So make sure all of your financial accounts are in both names and you've got the right beneficiaries declared. I believe it's law that spouses are the primary beneficiaries on retirement accounts unless the spouse specifically declares otherwise. On brokerage accounts, you typically would title in both names with JTWROS in the account name. Real estate typically is considered JTWROS unless otherwise titled, but I believe that varies by state. Cars should be titled in both names.

The tricky part is if you both die. If one clearly dies before the other (even if it's only by minutes), without a will all assets would go to the longest surviving spouse, then to his/her survivors. I don't know the order of priority, but without kids it's probably parents then siblings. Even if you trust your respective parents to "do the right thing," it becomes sticky with tax consequences, etc. A will would solve a lot of those problems.

You can purchase software to do uncomplicated wills. You can also find resources on The best solution though is to use an attorney. An uncomplicated will shouldn't cost more than a few hundred dollars, maybe $500. If that will is structured as if you already have children, you won't need to redo the will if/when you do.

threadbndr (karla) said...

Yes, you need a will. And a medical power of attorney and a living will (that will cover your concerns about long term care). Everyone needs them at age 18, especially if you have any assets or liabilities at all - even just a car that's titled in your name and a savings account.

My dad took me to the family lawyer the week after I turned 18, I did the same with my son before he went to boot camp (he's a Marine). I remember being in total shock when my late husband told me that he didn't have a will at age 25. I made sure that was done before we married! When he passed away at age 43, I was DARN glad all our legal and financial ducks were in a row.

You don't want the state to get involved. Nobody like to think about the necessity, but as both Anonymous and I prove - you can loose your life partner without notice.

Having a will, funeral wishes in writing, and the proper amount of life insurance (for your specific circumstance) is the last loving thing you can do for your partner. Don't put it off just because you don't have children to consider.

Living Almost Large said...

I'll look probably into something cheap online. I'll get more serious about it after we have kids.

One big reason I can see is stalling when we have kids is we don't have anyone we'd leave the kids to. Sounds crazy, but with 5 siblings (between us) you'd think we'd have someone to choose.

I know we could settle on DH's best friend as trustee for the estate or one of my close guy friends. But kids? Our sibs are great, but mine are 10, 19, and 20 years older so I think they are done raising kids (well almost). And DH's younger brother is so irresponsible.

Guess we'll get a will online to just take care of our dogs. Of course same thing who'd take them? Our parents are getting older, but maybe my sister.