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Getting our shit at LEAST in a diaper or something
February 18, 2014 1:30 PM   Subscribe

OH HAY it's another prenatal question. Pursuant to getyourshittogether.org, I am trying to put those pesky ducks in a row before August. What kinds of documents, topics, etc. should we include in an estate plan et. al.? And what should we add (e.g. life insurance) to solidify things a bit more in case of Bad Things Happening?

We don't have investments or real estate or anything. We are a married heterosexual couple in Wisconsin.

Things I can think of thus far:
--Will
--Medical directive/power of attorney/whatever
--Something (perhaps within the will?) outlining who would take care of the kid(s) if we are unable to do so

How much life insurance should we get? We are adding a LOT of expenses to our life in the coming months, so I don't know how much extra we can shell out.

Anything else?
posted by Madamina to Work & Money (14 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
I believe all of this is included in WillMaker. If, after you use it, you still feel uncomfortable, you could always hire a lawyer for an hour or two to review what you've done. (Note that you might have to look around to find someone willing to do it, as some lawyers don't like the idea that much of their work can be done by software.)

Here's a good intro to life insurance from Consumer Reports, which also includes a link to a recommended calculator. For agents, they mention Accuquote.com, Selectquote.com, and FindMyInsurance.com; I had a good experience with Accuquote, but check with at least two agents. And the cost is nonlinear (that is, a $2 million policy costs less than twice as much as a $1 million policy), so you should probably get more than you think you might need; it will likely be less than a couple bucks a day to up the amount.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:58 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


I think your child needs to be alive before you can include the child in a will. I would not write the will until later.

Power of attorney is useful in advance.

Yes you should have life insurance and you should have it before the birth. The purpose of life insurance is to replace the salary of the parent that dies off ideally until the child becomes independent, which is after college. I have always just taken life insurance through work benefits and hoped that I didn't die in between jobs. If you can afford it and your benefits offer it, insure to 5x salary. If there is a significant income disparity between spouses, you might want to insure just the highest earning spouse at this level, and insure the low earner to 1x or 2x to cut costs. Basically for the low earner you want enough to pay for a funeral and a cleaner to take care of the chores for a while.

Medical directives I think are less useful. See the case of Marlise Munoz as an example of a case where the advanced directive was not followed and the woman was kept on life support against the family's wishes. Also you might not want the advanced directive to be binding anyway. See the case of Robyn Benson where the woman was kept on life support until the baby was viable and delivered alive. Given those two cases and those two scenarios, I think it is difficult for anybody entering or in pregnancy to write a meaningful medical directive in advance.

For non-pregnant people, I also am of the opinion now that young people in fair to good health don't need medical directives. You might want to be intubated after a car crash if you've got a good shot at living another 40+ years. I think you can skip this part altogether.
posted by crazycanuck at 1:59 PM on February 18


Our wills contain our directives as to who would care for our kids were we to die. We also had living wills done at the same time. We got more life insurance (partly because we had a kid, partly because we bought a more expensive house). We met with a life insurance salesman and he explained the different kinds of life insurance and helped us figure out what we wanted/could afford (yes, he was a salesman, but still knowledgeable and helpful).
posted by amro at 2:01 PM on February 18


If you have no assets and no children, then there's really not a lot you need to worry about. Do you actually have kids, or are you just talking about hypothetical kids?

It can't hurt to have each of you fill out an advance healthcare directive, but at the same time, it probably will make less of a difference than you think, as *someone* will be assigned to make decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to do so. If that's your spouse, then that's what would happen anyway.

Same thing with a will. If one of you dies, then nothing interesting happens with your stuff, it just becomes the property of the surviving spouse and nobody will ask anything about it. If there is some contention here and this is unacceptable, then you can make a will, but in general the default case is what most people expect anyway.

I have a million dollars in life insurance. I figured if I were to die, then it'd be enough for my wife to pay off the house (thus vastly lowering my wife's expenses) and then live off of for a while while she raised our daughter. Ironically, since she was not earning any money, we didn't have life insurance on her, and she was the one who died (so I have experience going through this sort of situation). I'd recommend at least $50k for each spouse, if only to cover funeral costs and time off work and such. If you have no kids and are both employed, you don't really *need* any more than that, necessarily.

You can go ahead and do more than that, but consider what sort of event you're anticipating, and what you expect the outcome to be, and how your actions are supposed to change that outcome. If you're thinking, "if one of us gets cancer and dies and will leave everything to the other one of us, " well then I can tell you if you do nothing at all that's pretty much what will happen anyway.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:02 PM on February 18


Somehow I missed the "prenatal" part of the question above. It doesn't change a *lot*, though I'd say get enough life insurance for five years of child care on top of everything else, for either parent.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:04 PM on February 18


For non-pregnant people, I also am of the opinion now that young people in fair to good health don't need medical directives. You might want to be intubated after a car crash if you've got a good shot at living another 40+ years. I think you can skip this part altogether.

This seems totally contradictory and I REALLY don't get the point of the paragraph before it. At any rate, in my opinion (and having been in this situation), leaving your loved ones to try to guess what you want and to potentially fight about it is unfair. Living wills do not cover every situation (like in the case of my mom who had ALS, and her living will just wasn't specific enough for that unexpected situation), but they can address many.
posted by amro at 2:06 PM on February 18


I think your child needs to be alive before you can include the child in a will. I would not write the will until later.

My father's will, when he went into the military, said that in the event of his death, his estate would go first to his wife, and then secondly to his unborn child (which turned out to be me). So there's definitely precedent.

I applaud you for doing this now: when my father died, I was in my 20s and his will still referred to me as "the unborn child" because he'd never updated it and declined too swiftly at the end to sign the new will he and Mom hurriedly drew up when it became clear he was terminal. We had no problems over it, luckily.
posted by telophase at 2:16 PM on February 18


I don't know if I'm misunderstanding what tylerkaraszewski meant or not but there is always the unlikely but horrible possibility of both parents dying in an accident, and it is pretty commonly understood that responsible parents should absolutely have a will, regardless of the size of their estate. My understanding is that it is possible to have a will cover hypothetical unborn heirs, but uncommon and in any case updating a will is a relatively trivial and inexpensive legal task.
posted by Wretch729 at 2:19 PM on February 18


First order of business is the life insurance. Even if you have one non-working spouse, make sure both of you have life insurance because child care is expensive and that's replacement cost of the "free" labor. If you buy a house at some point, increase the life insurance on each person until it's enough to pay off the house AND cover child care costs (plus salary on the employed spouse).

That covers if ONE of you dies. Next order of priority: if BOTH of you die, then your kid will need a guardian. Deciding who will care for your kid(s) can be really complicated if you don't have a lot of obvious relatives who will be their guardians, because you'll need to decide who, in which order, will get your kids (as in, if both of you die AND your first choice dies, then who? and if THAT person dies, then who? and if THAT person dies, then who? etc. until you really truly run out of possibilities. This made for very interesting conversations in my household, along the lines of "we can't give Kid Rabbit to the Smith-Joneses, they don't even compost!").

Third priorty is medical directives/living wills. I think this is the least important because it's pretty evident that these often aren't followed and if your family knows your general wishes, you leave things open so that the best decisions can be made with all the facts. But if someone else has a good argument for them, I'd be happy to concede that I don't know what I'm talking about on this one (I don't have one myself but maybe I should?)
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:22 PM on February 18


I don't know if I'm misunderstanding what tylerkaraszewski meant or not but there is always the unlikely but horrible possibility of both parents dying in an accident.

I am just not specifically addressing that scenario. It's worth noting that what would happen anyway in that scenario is likely that one set of grandparents would become responsible for your child.

Mostly what I'm saying is prioritize the things that you're doing based on how different you want things to end up than they would if you took no action. If you absolutely can't stand the thought of your spouse's parents raising your child, then get something written up making sure that the child will end up with the other set of grandparents in the event that you both die simultaneously. On the other hand, you don't need to make sure that you leave your blender to your spouse, because for one nobody cares about that and secondly, that's what will happen anyway.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:24 PM on February 18


Also, it's worth noting that if one of you dies but not the other, which is far more likely than both of you dying at once, anything that happens after that point is basically going to be starting with a clean slate, as far as wills and such go. In all likelihood the surviving spouse may end up remarrying and having more kids and lots of other things that completely changes the dynamic of what might happen if the older child were to lose another parent or step-parent in the future.

People don't like to think about it, but the wishes of the dead are often discarded when they become an undue burden on the living.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:28 PM on February 18


I am just not specifically addressing that scenario. It's worth noting that what would happen anyway in that scenario is likely that one set of grandparents would become responsible for your child.

Personally I think it's a very important scenario to address, again if only to help those you leave behind to know what you would want and to prevent potential custody battles. Further, it gives you the opportunity to tell the people you pick and make sure that they are comfortable with the possibility, however unlikely.
FWIW, in our case we picked one of my husband's siblings and his wife (much closer to our ages than our parents) to take our kids (both born and unborn) in the event that we die at the same time. So no, not always the grandparents.
posted by amro at 3:10 PM on February 18


Potential guardianship seems to be the only real wrinkle in this situation. My parents could take care of a kid for, oh, a week or so, but they are older and have issues of all sorts; my brother would never be in a position to care for a kid. My husband has (for all intents and purposes) no parents, and his closest family lives on a pot farm and behaves accordingly.

So we will probably ask a young uncle and friends of 10+ years, who have kids of their own, if they would be willing to serve as godparents and guardians.
posted by Madamina at 4:16 PM on February 18


Definitely the guardians is the most crucial. It's helpful for them and your child to have an outline of what you'd like for your child - religious tradition or not to be raised in, you'd like them to go to this type of kindergarten and school, you want them to have music lessons etc. None of that may be possible due to circumstances, but it's good to have a direction and so your kids can see what you had hoped for them.

Also if you have any heirloom-y things like great-grandma's pearl necklace etc, specify them for your child and say why they mattered in the will.
posted by viggorlijah at 2:55 AM on February 19


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