Category Archives: Wills

Writing a Simple Will

Dear Liza: My best friend of 26 years would like to write up a will. She has a 5 year old daughter, whom does not have a god mother. Both of my best friends parents are dead and the daughters father is not in her life, nor has he been since her birth. My best friend asked my husband and I if we would be her daughters “guardian” if anything should happen to her. We were honored and happily accepted! The problem is, how do we word the will so it is legal?

The good news is that it’s pretty easy to write a valid Will. There are not a lot of hidden ‘gotcha’s’ in doing a Will (unlike a living trust, as you can see from the blog post immediately before this one). Your friend should go to www.nolo.com and use their simple online Will, or purchase WillMaker software, or purchase or go to the library and get a Nolo book like, Nolo’s SImple Will Book, and use their suggested language. Your friend needs to say that she wants you and your husband to serve as the guardians of her minor child and that her child’s biological father is not part of her daughter’s life, and that placement with him would not be in the child’s best interest.

Both of you need to know that she is only nominating you two to serve in her Will – if your friend were to die, a judge would ultimately have to make the guardianship appointment in the best interest of the daughter. A judge will certainly try and honor a parent’s nomination via a
Will, but when there’s a living parent out there, unless they’ve legally abandoned that child (which this father may in fact have done), a judge has to take their parental rights into account as well. If that parent doesn’t want to take custody of the child, the court can certainly also appoint a guardian without severing that parent’s parental rights.

The bottom line is GET THAT WILL DONE. Writing down her wishes for her daughter is the best way your daughter can try and make sure that the right people take care of her daughter if she can’t.

She should sign the Will in front of two witnesses who don’t benefit from the Will in any way. And all of these self-help resources can walk you through the process.

 

Madame Clark-Reclusive Heiress to Huge Fortune Dies at 104

Estate planning in the news. This week, Huguette Marcelle Clark, heiress to her father’s copper fortune, thought to be close to one-half abillion dollars, died at 104, after living for decades in New York hospitals. Reportedly, her accountant and lawyer were the only people in close contact with her. Her passion was for fine French dolls. No news yet on the fate of her fortune. Stay tuned. There will almost certainly be more on this story in the coming weeks. It has it all: a recluse; a fortune; close advisors; an estranged family; a vulnerable old person.

 

When does it make sense to do a Living Trust?

Dear Liza: We are a young family with significant debt  and very little in tangible assets (we completely own just one car — we rent our house).  However, my wife and I have plans of significantly decreasing debt and increasing assets/wealth in the future.  Is it worth the time/costs to create a Living Trust now?  Or should we wait until we actually have assets?  Does it matter?

Because you have a young child, what you really need right now is a Will, naming guardians for your kids and putting a plan in place to manage assets for those kids until they grow up. If you don’t own a house right now, or more than 100K in the bank, I’d say, wait on the trust. The purpose of a trust is to transfer what you’ve got to your kids efficiently and inexpensively. But if you’ve really got nothing to transfer, the trust doesn’t buy you much at the moment. You could certainly create a living trust now, in anticipation of your future wealth, but if there’s nothing to fund that trust with at the moment, I’d say hold off. But do get that Will done. :)