Now that DS is here, DH has been talking about the need to create a will. I'm not very educated on this at all, so I'm hoping you all can give me some insight. We don't own any property or a house, we are only halfway to owning our 2007 car, and we both only have a little bit of $$ in our IRAs. My only knowledge about wills is from family members who have had some serious assets. So, my questions...
Do we even need a will since we don't have many assets?
Is a will the place where you specify who gets custody of your children if you both die, or is that a different document? And can this be contested? (we would choose very close friends, not family members... but our family might not like this).
Can you create your own will? If so, any suggestions for free or very cheap?
What do you do with the will after it's made to be sure it gets followed?
Mama Bear , Papa Bear and Baby Bear (8/11)
No offense to moms on MDC who foster, but I didn't want my kids to ever spend a single night in foster care.
We chose friends of the family, too. So, in my will we included a witnessed letter stating why we made the choice we did. Yes, your family could contest it but they will have to prove to the courts they have a safe home and sufficient income. but they could win. The courts still favor blood kin over friends unless there is past history of drug, alcohol abuse or prison records.
I have copies of my will in a fireproof box in the house. I gave a copy to the person who will be the child's guardian and I gave a copy to a friend in another state. You don't leave them in the safety deposit box at the bank.. it will take someone several days to get your death certificates and petition the bank to open your box. Days that your your child could linger in limbo.
I'm so proud of you for taking on this issue. This is in my mind, a very mature and responsible parent thing to do. You are making sure your child is safely provided for even if the unthinkable should happen.
You definitely want a will if you have children, and especially if you want non-family members as custodians. I wouldn't recommend making one yourself because if it's not made correctly you can't ensure that it gets followed.
It should be a pretty simple will since you have no assets. Ours only cost $400. We called the free legal aid for our state and they didn't have free will services for people in our situation but were able to recommend one or two places that did it pretty inexpensively. I think wills tend to run in the $1000+ range so we really needed an inexpensive lawyer with a flat rate for wills! One thing to keep in mind is you actually need 2 wills, one for yourself & another for your DH. They might be virtually identical but you need both. So the price they gave us originally ($200) was for ONE will. Just something to be aware of.
We met with the lawyer -- DS came with us -- and gave him the name & residence of the guardians we had chosen as well as our back-up guardians. He also asked for our basic info (names, bday, address, approx. worth of our assets). Then he drew up the will (the second copy will just reverse my name & DH's) and sent it to us to review, and we called him with a few changes & just need to come in & sign it. We also plan to include a letter to our guardian with the will -- I don't think the letter has any legal power but I would like our guardian to know our wishes & want to clarify why certain people were not chosen as guardians and should not spend time unsupervised with DS.
I believe the will is registered with the town or state or something? And you choose an executor (for us, it was one of our chosen guardians) so you probably want to tell that person who your lawyer is etc.
In addition to the above PP's comments, a will is also a good place to state how you want your remains handled (i.e. do you want to be cremated, buried, donated to science, etc). If either of you have a death benefit through work or other means (both my DH and I have death benefits up to $5,000k through our jobs), you should define how that should be implemented. I know it sounds depressing to think about it now, but you don't want to have friends or family to have to make that difficult decision for you. If you have no benefits or assets by which to fund your departure to the other side, there's a likelihood that someone will have to pay the bill and perhaps you can mitigate that with a clear cut plan on how you want your body handled. That sounds terrible, but it is the reality.
To me, one of the main purposes of a will is to create a system by which things should be handled for you post-death. How money is divided up is important, but I think some of the more non-monetary items such as guardianship, etc. trumps the money aspect, whether you have significant assets or not.