Where There's A Will...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I know none of us needs any more depressing or "downer" material in our lives right now. But the tragic and unexpected death of Natasha Richardson reminded me of something my husband and I have meant to do since we had our first child, but that somehow never climbed up the (constantly growing) to-do list: Make a will.

When you think of a will, you probably think about the divvying up of assets, and scenes in movies when the do-gooder magically gets the entire estate and the smarmy guy makes a smarmy face. And it's true, a will does set forth where your stuff would go. But much more importantly: A will is the only document that allows you to designate a guardian for your children, should anything unexpected happen to you. Clearly, figuring out who to designate in this role isn't the most pleasant conversation to have with your spouse. Wouldn't plan a hot date-night around it. But it's obviously an important decision to make.

We should all also look into a living will and a health care proxy. A living will is simple: It tells your medical care provider whether you want life support. The companion document, the health care proxy, designates somebody to make your medical decisions for you if you are not capable of making them yourself. The requirements for these documents are pretty simple, but do vary by state.

Of course if you have complicated assets or other exceptional circumstances, you should consult a lawyer to draft these documents but, for the majority of people, there are simple tools that allow you to memorialize your wishes yourself. Willmaker is a great program to create a simple will, and you can consult Agingwithdignity.org for more information on living wills and health care proxies.

Tomorrow, I promise, I will write about shopping, or puppies, or candy...!
9 comments:
Anonymous said...

good advice. not fun in the short term, security in the long term.

Anonymous said...

We did this too - along with life insurance. We went with an estate lawyer for peace of mind and it is a bit pricey the lawyer fees etc (was the fastest I ever spent in my life!!)- but a real necessity especially in California where house values for homes are in the range of 1-1.5M easily. With the 2M cap on tax free estate we can pass on - it is all but mandatory that parents here should get the living trust set up as soon as a house is bought or assets add up to more than 2M (house+life insurance gets there very quickly).

In fact you can set up the living trust before having the kids too - the trust just puts a generic 'placeholder" for the kids to come.

thanks for the great blog BTW.

N.M. said...

Concur w/ above poster: Living trust w/ a "pour over" will was the best combo for us, and most of the people we know. There is definiteli a piece of mind knowing that, should anything happen, I have eerything in order.

Anonymous said...

Most state bar associations have links or forms for the living trust documents, and it's free!

Anonymous said...

Ooof. This is something I have known we should do for such a long time. But the idea of comparing my brother to his sister in terms of guaridan leaves such a bad taste in my mouth. I guess we have to do it though...

Anonymous said...

Cannot say enough how impoartant this is, regardless of how difficult the process may be and whether it will cost money. You never know what is going to happen and I just saw it happen with a good friend whose 2 year old child is now in the middle of a vicious guardianship battle. It's the saddest thing I've ever seen especially because I know what she would have wanted but she never wrote it down.

S. Khanna said...

Total downer but totally necessary. We avoided this stuff for YEARS and it took my husband being on a plane where the oxygen masks came down to get us to put this stuff in order. It's just a responsible thing to do.

J said...

If I want everything to go to my husband or, if he (god i can't even write it) isn't around then to my children, can I just write that down or do i need a "formal" will?

Nikki said...

This is really great advice and I know this is going to be difficult to believe but I hadn't even thought about doing this!!! We are pregnant with our first child and due in a month. Add it to the list!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!

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