Monday, August 29, 2011

wills and other important documents

When I first blogged about when and how to obtain a will, I didn't expect this process to take six months, but at long last, Brad and I finally have wills, durable powers of attorney, and living wills. The process really doesn't take six months--it took some time to get going on this project, and then once I found a suitable attorney, summer had arrived and we had to plan meetings around multiple hectic schedules.

My goal was to have these documents, or at least the last will and testament, in place before the baby arrived. If something happens to both Brad and me, our child will NOT become a ward of the DC court!

Many people believe a last will and testament is solely for delegating assets, and if they don't have much, then a will is not necessary. However, delegating assets was the least of our concerns and that section of the document took us about five seconds to complete because we don't care about it that much. We don't have many assets and our lawyer kindly told us that if something happened to both of us in the near future, our estate would not support our child financially until he or she turns 18. We set up a will to make sure our child is cared for in our absence and would not become a ward of the court or end up with someone unsuitable.

Laws vary by state, but in DC, if both parents die and leave behind a minor, and don't have a last will and testament that names a guardian for the child, that child becomes a ward of the court. Most times, the court will work out an arrangement with family or close friends to house and care for the child during the court proceedings, but not always, and there's a chance that the child could end up in foster care.  Also, family or friends must petition the court for guardianship of the child, which takes time and costs a fortune. The process takes even longer (which also means it will be more expensive) if multiple family members or friends seek guardianship of the child, and conflicts erupt.

Yes, this is a morbid topic. Yes, setting up these documents can be time consuming, confusing, and expensive. But only the Lord knows when our last day on this earth will be. And if something did happen to you and your spouse, would you want to put your family and friends, and most importantly, your child, through this unnecessary hassle and expense because you hadn't planned ahead?


diana onorio funk said...

good for you for getting this taken care of before baby's arrival! we only got our wills taken care of last year (when our children were already 3 and 1 -- shameful!). what finally pushed me? when an in-law assumed that she would have custody of our kids if something happened to us. now, a plan is in place and i can rest assured that, should the worst happen, my kids would be cared for by the people of my choosing.

@rdweatherly said...

Joe and I did this a year or so ago. Making sure we have powers or attorney, and especially MEDICAL powers of attorney was so important. We've lost friends who'd never thought of such documents, and their families were confused and torn about their wishes. We never wanted to put our families through that. Good on you guys for taking these steps!