This post is part of a group project on will writing and estate planning. Other blogs participating are: Thicken My Wallet, Million Dollar Journey, Where Does All My Money Go, The Financial Blogger and Canadian Capitalist.
…was finally completed recently – the “will” at least, not sure about the “testament” thingy. We had started this effort a year and a half ago but when the lawyer had one final question for us to answer, we put it on the back burner and didn’t get around to it until now. Kudos to my wife for putting in the final push to get this done!
Why do you need a will?
The main motivation for us was our kids. We wanted to ensure that if something happened to both of us, that the kids would be looked after by someone that we could choose rather than someone a court would appoint. Another reason was that if one of us passed away, then we wanted to make it easier for the survivor to carry on and not have to pay extra legal fees to get things settled.
How much does a will cost?
We paid $350 to get a will done with our lawyer (who is in Toronto, Canada) – he said he normally charges $400 but we have done a lot of business with him so he gave us a discount (or so he says).
How much work is involved?
I would suggest there are a few hours involved because you have to decide a lot of things like:
- Who will look after your kids (and a backup).
- Who will be the executor of the will (and backup).
- Who will have power of attorney and decision-making ability in the case where one or both spouses becomes incapacitated (ie decide to pull the plug) (and a backup).
- Who inherits your possessions in the case of one or more deaths in the family (this could include everyone dying).
There are other situations to be covered which I won’t list since I don’t want this post to be the reference point for a home-made will.
It is also important to let other people know of your intentions – especially if you are designating them to look after your kids. Not everyone will be interested!
How do I decide who will look after my kids?
Good question! I think the best way to approach this is to figure out which friends or relatives are most likely to raise them in a way that you approve (which doesn’t have to be the same way as you).
Things we thought about:
- Family unit – both couples we chose have kids about the same age as our kids. We felt that it would be less of a burden for someone to add a couple more kids rather than to add kids to a family that either doesn’t have kids or the kids are a lot older.
- Values – you can’t rule from the grave so don’t try. Don’t give the potential guardians four million rules and instructions, just pick someone you trust and respect – they will do the right thing.
Make a list of financial accounts
It’s important to make a list of all your financial accounts and assets so that the survivor or executor doesn’t miss anything and doesn’t have to spend hours and hours going through all your old paperwork to find various accounts. We made a list of all our financial accounts like credit cards, bank accounts, investment accounts etc and will give a copy to the executor. We have a copy here at our house for the survivor in case one of us passes away. Ok we haven’t quite finished this last step but it will happen!
What about just writing my own will or use a “do it home” kit?
I asked my lawyer this very question and he said that although it’s not the worst strategy – the problem is that if there are any errors or omissions or if things change after the will was written then it won’t stand up in court as well as a proper will. I think that if you don’t have kids and maybe don’t have a ton of money then doing it yourself is probably a good option but keep in mind that you are not saving a lot of money so hiring a lawyer shouldn’t be a last resort.
Check out the other posts in this series:
Thicken My Wallet wrote about “Top 5 myths about wills“.
Million Dollar Journey details “Why you need a will and the basics of estate planning“.
The Financial Blogger has “Common mistakes on a will“.
Canadian Capitalist came up with “A guide to getting your will done through a lawyer“.
Where Does All My Money Go provides some “Benefits of a professional executor“.