Financial Planning for Generation X & Y Women
 
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Expert Q&A Archive

04/29/2004
What is a good age to create a will?
I just finished the first chapter in the program. One of my questions is how important is it to have a will? I am 32, in reasonably good health. When I got my first "real" job that I have now, I put down my niece as my beneficiary for my life insurance. I am not sure if there is a designee on my retirement plan or not. it doesn't seem like my assets are that complicated but I don't want to ever be in a position where there are issues in case something happens to me either. Also would about a form stating preferences in case I die, for example a non-resuscitate statement. Just curious. This is starting to make me nervous thinking about all of these issues.
Gail V. Marquet:
expert info »
Even without considerable assets, a will is of utmost importance. Without one, the State of SC takes a large bite and your survivors don't have any say in the disposition of your assets. Having been a sole survivor recently, the probate process in SC is challenging enough with a will, and can be a real nightmare without one. It's a good thing to check your beneficiaries on life insurance, 401K, investments, etc. annually in case you need to make any changes. A simple will is easily obtained for a very reasonable cost and I would encourage you not to put it off.
Gary Silverman, CFP:
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A very simple will (which is probably all you need) is very inexpensive and very important. While you are correct that assets such as life insurance and your retirement plan will pass to the beneficiary you name, you do own other stuff. (Don't forget to find out who, if anyone, is your retirement plan's beneficiary.) Do you own a car? Clothes? A stereo, television, or DVD player? Don't you want to decide who gets those items? Also, a will makes things a lot easier on the folks left behind trying to handle your estate.

Get the will.

While you are at it, you should also be talked into two other documents: a durable power of attorney and a health care power of attorney. The first establishes someone to handle your affairs if you can't (for instance if you are in a coma). The second determines who makes medical decisions for you if you cannot do so yourself.
Carrie Bailey Morey:
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I think any person that has assets needs a will unless you don't care who in your family gets what upon your death. If you have a will, it's clearly stated and your wishes will be honored! It's very simple and shouldn't be very expensive since you don't seem to have a large estate at this point. It also gives your loved ones a bit of direction. The last thing you want is to cause confusion at such a tough time and certainly you don't want to cause any arguments.

The other sort of will you are speaking of is a "living will" and that is another thing I think you should have--especially if you have strong views about how you want to be cared for in case of an emergency. You should be able to get all this for under $500.00. It's a good investment for your family, and will avoid headaches in the unlikely event of your death or serious illness!
Michelle Beneski, Esq.:
expert info »
You should have a will, even if it is a simple one. In our area a simple will costs about $125.00. Think of it as insurance to guarantee that any assets you have when you die go to whom ever you desire they go to. You don't know what the future will hold for you and we see many clients who never made a will because they didn't think they had any assets. Later we find out they bought some stock or a house or something and didn't get around to making a will. If you own assets that don't automatically pass to someone else at your death (like a IRA for example) and you don't have a will; the assets will go to whom ever your state law designates (usually family) not whom you would like the asset to pass to.

Just as important as a will are two other documents a Durable Power of Attorney - which gives the person you name in it the ability to make legal and financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated and cannot make them for yourself. A Health Care Proxy (also called a living will in some states) - in which you give the person in it the ability to make health care decisions for you if you become incapcitated. In a Health Care Proxy/Living Will you also can state your desire for certain types of medicial treatment or withholding of certain treatment (i.e. no extreme measures if comatosed or use all measures necessary to save my life, etc.).

If you don't have a durable power of attorney and health care proxy and become unable to make your own decisions then a court will have to appoint a guardian for you. The guardian will then make your decsions. You have no control over who the court picks and it could even be a stranger. A durable power or attorney and health care proxy give you the power to decide who should make decisions for you if you can't make them for yourself. A guardianship is a very public and expensive process in Massachusetts. It's something we try to avoid if possible by having the other documents.
Delores Lenzy - Jones, CPA, CIA:
expert info »
It's never to early to have a will. Life is just so unpredictable and it's always nice to be prepared for life's unexpectancies.

Consider using a hand-written will, which is perfectly legal and only requires a witness. For more formal fare, there are "boiler plate" templates out on the web. It is also advisable to complete a non-resuscitate statement, which will reduce your loved ones' stress and anxiety.
 

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