Do you have a will?

This week, waaaaaaay later than we should have, my husband and I finally saw a lawyer about having wills and powers of attorney drawn up. We’re in our mid-60, and yeah, we should have done this decades ago when our daughter was born. But it’s almost done - we’ll go sign everything in a couple of weeks and that will be that.

Actually, it was more than just doing wills - this attorney is also an estate planner, and she offered a lot of good suggestions to make things easier on each other and our daughter when the inevitable happens. One thing was to make (for want of a better term) a Death Book. She suggested we gather all important documents (like our DD-214 and life insurance info) and all account information, including passwords, into a binder or an accordion file. This is another thing that should have been done eons ago, since I manage our finances and spousal unit has no idea what I do.

So in the coming couple of weeks, we’ll pull all this info together, show it to our daughter, then get a fireproof box to store it all. The lawyer specifically said not to put it in a safe deposit box. She also had suggestions about listing our daughter on our bank accounts so any assets would go directly to her with no tax implications.

The conversation made me realize how reckless we’ve been all these years. Learn from my mistakes, especially if you have children. Do your estate planning early and often! You’re welcome!

I’m ashamed to say … that I don’t. I’m over 50 years old, male, and have only mild health problems. My only inheritors are my geriatric just beginning to become forgetful mother, and my slightly younger sister, the latter of whom … I just don’t care for personality-wise. (that point of view is less than “hate my sister”, but only slightly, bordering on barely, at times.)

I’m assuming that probate court will give them enough of my investments, after a long period of time, to not be a waste for them. And they should be done grieving by then. I do wonder however, if I’m totally wrong in that regard. No other people could possibly have a claim to my assets and give them an argument. So … is that really going to be a problem?

My understanding is that different states have different probate rules. I know that here in Merrylande, you don’t need a lawyer to draw up a will - just 2 witnesses to whatever you write and sign. And if you don’t have a will, there’s a priority list of who gets your assets in a specific order. In any event, it wouldn’t hurt to google the rules where you live and decide if you want to do anything about it.

Of course, you’ll be dead, so you really won’t care, will you?

One other thing we discussed - I’m leaving my remains to the state anatomy board which means I’ll be a medical school specimen, so no need for funeral arrangements. Plus the medical power of attorney allows my husband or daughter to make end of life decisions and not keep me plugged in forever. So that’s something else to consider.

My wife and I did our wills and PoA when our oldest was a baby, about 14 years ago.

My father passed away 3 weeks ago. About a year ago he gave each of the kids an envelope that had most of the important information that made it much easier for me to get things organized for my mother.

Since almost everything was either held jointly or with cross-beneficiaries for my parents, there is nothing to probate. Very easy to manage and no legal fees, I highly recommend this if your jurisdiction and circumstances allow.

Yep that and a trust. We want to control the money from beyond the grave. Bwwwwwwaaaaa

My father’s original estate plan was for me to rush to the bank and take out all the money before anyone knew he was dead. Fortunately he and my mother took free estate planning classes at the community college, and he set up a real trust. His estate would have been a nightmare without it. It was bad enough as it was.
In California the level at which you go through probate is so low that almost anyone with two pennies to rub together sets up a trust. Ours doled out money to the kids in chunks until they reached a reasonable age - we revised it now that they are both past that age. We have a will also, but that is fairly trivial. The house and all the non-IRA accounts are in the trust.

My wife’s a mostly-retired estate attorney.

Having watched her play this game for years, IMO / IME the snip above is somewhat risky advice. There are definite pros and cons even if your daughter is a model citizen. And huge downsides if she’s less than the ideal grownup child. I could regale you for hours with horror stories.

For something like your day-to-day checking account it’s not too bad. But listing her on a large savings account or CDs can cause trouble. As in she has a bad luck car crash, gets sued, and what was your money is legally her money too and suddenly it goes to the plaintiff. Oops.

Having said that there are low-cost ways to arrange your assets to pass to her promptly upon your deaths outside of probate. Ask about pay on death or transfer on death = POD/TOD.

The “tax implications” part of your statement is a little confusing. Money received in an inheritance isn’t federal income and isn’t subject to federal income tax. I have no clue about state tax wherever you are.

Unless you’re talking $10Mil or more, federal estate taxes are mostly a non-issue these days. Same caveat on state estate law.

For accounts holding investable assets like stocks or bonds you’re far better off to have them be inherited / TOD-ed versus simply making her a joint owner. That gives her the benefit of stepped-up basis upon your demise, making all the unrealized capital gains suddenly un-taxable to her when they would have been taxable to you. And will be fully taxable to her too if she’s a joint owner.
[Advice mode = off]

As to me/us:
We don’t have kids. So a big issue for us is who will manage our affairs if we are both killed or hospitalized or aged & senile. So we have the appropriate wills, trusts, POAs, health care directives, etc. And a professional paid trustee to handle all this if we’re overcome by a bad event. They don’t cost hardly anything while just being on standby. And will be priceless when we’re elderly / infirm.

I don’t have one, and I really don’t have much to begin with. I rent my apartment and I have crappy furniture. The only thing of value is my iMac and large screen TV. The leased car can be returned. And only a few thousand in the bank.

Only family left is my younger sister and her daughter (my niece). And they’ll have my $75,000 life insurance policy to split.

I didn’t mean to suggest that she’d be joint on the accounts. I think she would be listed as the beneficiary on the accounts. I don’t recall the exact wording our lawyer used but we made a note of what we need to do. I just don’t have those notes at hand right now.

Based on her advice, virtually nothing would be held up in probate.

Went to a lawyer, maybe 40 years ago, and drew up a case-by-case will. It doesn’t need to be updated if (my God forbid) various members of my family pass away, because every condition is covered.

Not that my estate amounts to a hill of beans anyway…

Yup, my wife and I had a will drawn up a few years ago. We have no kids but wanted to make sure our estate was distributed through our siblings evenly and without confusion.

My wife and I set up a living trust years ago. It needs updating.

We made wills back in 1990 something, and supposedly they would still be valid, even though we are in Switzerland, because we only have U.S. citizenship. Switzerland has some rules about family members getting a compulsory share of the assets.

We should get our wills validated here as well. They were written that the other one inherits, unless we are both dead. Then the children of my husband’s sisters would get everything. I have no siblings.

At the time there were no children, and now there is one and there will only be one. So we could change this to state the child by name.

Nope. I’ve got nothing and nobody, so there’s nothing to give anybody. I’ll sort it out if anything changes.

Oh, that will. I thought we were going to talk about free will or “when there is a will, there is a way” issues.

People in my country are not fans of such wills. When they’re too old to administrate their property, they will cede it to their legal heirs before they pass out so that the latter will go through as little hassle as possible. Legal heirs, on the other hand, do fulfill their duty of looking after the old person properly. Inheritance disputes are usually solved amiably. People go to court typically when large sums of money are involved and in those situations there is always a will involved. When there is a will, there is a lawsuit.

Which country is that? In the US giving your children your property before you die is considered a gift, and there is a tax on it above a not very large amount.
Plus, what happens if the children are estranged from the parents, or are just greedy. If your country is full of saints, maybe I want to move there. :innocent:

The biological father of my son-in-law, who is German, just passed away and the estate is a mess. He is very happy that he lives some thousand miles away and thus can’t get directly involved.

Canada does not have an inheritances gift tax at the moment, but it is considered a capital disposal to the estate if anyone other than a spouse inherits. There is scuttlebutt that with the latest economic crisis some kind of inheritance or wealth tax is likely to be brought in.

My father-in-law is considering transferring the cottage to the kids now (he’s in his 70s), but I don’t think he’s thought through the capital gains impact to him which will bring the adjusted cost basis up to market value.

No, I anticipate looking on from the Great Beyond as my sibs fight over my earthly possessions and finances. I’m a little tempted to get a will and favor one sib a little over the other as they are likely to get trampled.

Virtually all assets of wife and me are in a joint bank account, so I see no reason to pay a lawyer hundreds of dollars to lord it over me for that.

No, maybe they would tear you apart. I think it is a traditional environment, where in certain situations unwritten laws can become as strong as written ones. I think people prefer to negotiate things and reach an amiable solution so that they will save time or money. I’m not familiar with the Romanian legal aspects right now, but bureaucratic processes can sometimes get so tedious here that donations or sales for ridiculously small amounts of money may (at different points in time, because there have been frequent changes in the law lately) turn out more advantageous. This is a country where 98% of the population is Christian and when it comes to birth, marriage, and death, traditional rules are generally regarded as sacred.