Maybe you are expecting. Or, maybe you already have children. Either way, if statistics bear out, more than half of you don't have a will.
Maybe you are expecting. Or, maybe you already have children. Either way, if statistics bear out, more than half of you don't have a will. I know. You're too busy shuttling the kids to school and soccer, working or getting dinner on the table to even think about a will. Yet you really do need one (and a small number of other legal documents). If you die in Ohio without a will and with minor children, probate court (and possibly a stranger or unsavory relative appointed by that court) could decide who will care for your children, and who gets your savings, retirement accounts and your home. If the job falls to one of your relatives, it will be especially difficult, expensive and time-consuming to wrap up your affairs. So, here is what you need to put together a will. Brad Huffman, a certified financial planner with Future Finances in Worthington, has a checklist to help clients prepare a short and simple will. For starters, you'll need to choose guardians for the children, as well as a back-up guardian, and executors for each spouse's will. If your children are small, it might make sense to set up a trust, which would pool all of your financial resources into an account to pay for their care and education should you and your honey die before they're 18. You'll need to appoint a trustee - a trusted friend or family member who is good with money - to manage that estate until your children are grown. Most families need "a will, living will, health care power of attorney, general power of attorney and a family trust for the benefit of the children," Huffman said. You also might want to include a living will (it's gruesome, but this is your do-you-leave-me-on-life-support-or-pull-the-plug document). These documents are critical, so it's best not to go it alone - and discount will-drafting computer programs might not serve your needs best. Some estates might need a trust if you have a special-needs child or a blended family. An attorney specializing in estate planning can help you navigate your particular circumstances, something a cookie-cutter computer program cannot do. Attorney's fees run about $1,000 to $1,800 for wills and related documents. Setting up more complicated trusts likely will cost more. Don't beat yourself up if the idea of legal documents makes your head spin. There are resources out there to help you get your thoughts in order before meeting with the attorney. Good checklists and inventory sheets are free online, to help you sort through the parts of your financial life (try this one: fwslaw.com/estate_checklist.pdf). Your attorney might also provide a list of information to bring to your first meeting. There are also a lot of books out there: My personal favorite is "The Mom's Guide to Wills & Estate Planning" by Liza Hanks. A will is an easy task to push to the bottom of your to-do list, but it's too important to forgo, so start pushing it to the top. -Denise Trowbridge is a self-professed money geek who writes about personal finance, banking and insurance for The Columbus Dispatch, bankrate.com and middlepathfinance.com.