I don’t know of many people who like to think about death but it is something we can’t escape. There used to be an old saying about death and taxes, you can get around some taxes but not death. It can strike the very young as well as the very old. A drunk driver can smash your car when you and you spouse are going out to a movie or dinner. All you have to do is look at a paper and see how many young couples are killed in accidents all the time. Have you ever wondered what happened to their children or their assets?
Everything I am going to briefly write about is from first hand knowledge the most important thing to remember is that the laws very quite a bit from state to state. I realize this is old hat stuff for most of you but if can get the attention of one person it was worth my time.
Wills: I think everyone should have a will no matter how small their estate. If not when you die if a blood relative does not come forward or is hard to find the state gets to keep your entire estate. A will is also one way you can choose guardianship of your minor children if you are a single parent or in the case where both of the parents die. This choice must be done carefully and with much discussion with your spouse. You want to pick some one around your own age who has the same values as you do and if you are not leaving behind a sizable life insurance policy or a large estate that person will also have to be financially capable of raising your children. Don’t pick one of your parents, you may have liked the way they raised you but if you are sticking a 50 pus year old with a young child. That person will be in their 60’s raising a teenager. Always discus this with the person you pick before you do anything don’t just pick someone and hope it never happens to you. I know of two people that got 2 and 3 kids dropped on their doorstep and one of them refused to take care of them for finical reasons. If you are still awake don’t think that just because you are married and one of you dies and you don’t have a will your spouse gets every thing. If you have individual assets like so many young couples do now, in the state of Kansas individual assets are split between the spouse and blood relatives. One last thing on custodial issues if you don’t have this spelled out in a will or a power of attorney and both of you should die the children become wards of the state until a judge can sort through all of the relatives that want to claim your children. This usually takes months. A will normally takes between 30 days to 6 months or more to go through probate, it doesn’t happen overnight. If you have named some one to take you children the judge normally grants a temporary custody to that person within 24 hours until the will is probated. One last thing on wills you can download the forms online and do them for free, all you need then is two witness and a power of attorney. But all of the experts recommend if you even own a house spend a few hundred bucks and get one done by a lawyer.
I just got through telling you that everyone should have a will, guess what I don’t. I went a different way because all I have is two kids in their 30’s. Everything I own from my car to my bank accounts, cd’s and mutual funds are in my daughters name with the understanding that it be split with my son. This way when I die is is perfectly legal for her to close out all of my accounts since she is the joint owner and escape Uncle Sam and his taxes.
I apologize for the size of this and wanted to cover some specif power of attorneys but I will save that for the next post.