Financial Matters

I read in a Parenting magazine that before having a child, it is a good idea to write a will in the case that something happens to us. While I’ve never felt a need to write a will before, our child will be the most valuable thing we have in our keeping. Perhaps the only valuable thing.

Does anyone know how to legally write a will for such a matter? I’ve googled it, but it was just so I could get an idea of what’s out there. I’d much rather get advice from someone directly.

Also, does anyone have any idea how to start a college fund? While the fact that Jesse and I are still paying off our school loans could get in the way ofΒ putting money away for someone who might not even decide to go to college someday, it’s actually an incentive. I don’t want Gregory to need vast amounts of school loans to go to the college he wants. I keep thinking that just a little bit of money now could reap vast rewards in 18 more years.

Has anyone else done either of these things and have advice to give?

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5 thoughts on “Financial Matters

  1. You can do things online or get a lawyer to walk you through the process–like if there is someone in your church. Justin and I set up a living trust with one of the lawyers I work with because that is really the best especially if you have children (yeah its kinda funny, we have the whole kid section part filled out even though we don’t have any…). You can do a will, but they are easily contested and rather weak documents and things get stuck in probate with a will–not a trust. Because I work with Wills and Trusts all day, I have really seen how families fall apart after the fact and bicker and fight and contest everything if they do not like how it is written out. Its really amazing how the legal system can fight the most iron clad sounding things…. and very sad. But, wills are particularly easy to contest.

    You have to include things like who will watch the kids if you die, and you also have to put a second group in case the first also dies and caveats for what you want to happen if the people you choose decide to divorce (things like that).

    You will also want to put together an Advanced Directive and Power of Attorney while you are at it. Basically, end of life care if you and Jesse are, say, both in a car accident and unable to make medical decisions for each other and you have kids…do you pull the plug or make a go of it? Writing all that out and the Power of Attorney basically says that if you are unable to make decisions, that person can do so in your stead–funeral arrangements, making sure the kids get to the right guardians, getting rid of all your stuff and closing out bank accounts and giving the money to the kid or whoever else you want as well in case the kids die with you (family, church, etc.).

    You will want several copies of the documents–to keep at home, to give to your hospital, to give to your Power of Attorney so that when an accident happens, people know where the documents are and can act on them according to your wishes. Now, you may want to update the docs as things change–friendships, wishes, more kids, etc. and that is fine, you will just have to get an amendment to the original and send out copies of those as well so there is not confusion over which is the most up to date version–trust me, we have issues with this all the time….or people even forget to amend! We had one lady who used to be Masonic and then became a Christian. She had wanted all her money to go to us (work) and her church and had verbally expressed quite adamantly that she did not want any going to the Masons but did not get around to actually amending the docs before she died. It was fought in court; but, the documents stood and the money all went to the Masons… so, remember to update! πŸ˜‰

    As for college funds, there are government programs right now that allow for tax breaks on college funds, so its not a bad idea. Gerber has a college fund program that I had heard about; but, I don’t know too much about it. Just search Gerber College Plan. I would recommend going to http://www.kiplinger.com and http://www.smartmoney.com and doing a search for 529 Plan–that’s the name of the college saving plan type account. Both sites pull up TONS of information on investing in a college plan for your kids though it is a lot of info to wade through. I spent some time on http://www.savingforcollege.com and it seemed to give a good overview of the options. You can also check out the government page http://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/intro529.htm. Also just a cursory google search of 529 plan will bring tons up.

    Good luck! and, as far as the end of life docs, let me know if you have any more questions or specific wonderings. As I said, Justin and I already went through all this so we should be able to answer some things. =)

  2. The wife and I met with a lawyer last year to get a will set up. Turns out that wasn’t what we wanted. We were concerned about who gets custody of any potential underlings and who gets our vast riches if die, and who makes medical decisions for us if we’re unable to.

    What we actually needed was a living trust, an advance medical directive, and a power of attorney. We started with boilerplate documents and talked through them with the attorney, making changes as we went. When everything was completed, everything was witnesses and notarized. The whole thing cost us about $200. Notary fees will cost you at least half that.

    I think it was worthwhile to be able to ask questions and talk through what we wanted with someone who knew how to restate it in legal terms. Not cheap, but not exactly expensive either, especially for the peace of mind and not spending hours and hours figuring things out on my own (and probably still getting things wrong).

    As for college funds, there are a lot of different ways. The easiest is to take a chunk of “unexpected” money and open a money-market savings account. By “unexpected” all I mean is money that doesn’t come from a normal paycheck (e.g. tax return, birthday gift, school refund, etc.), it doesn’t have to be much.

    Often times you can get a higher interest rate account by setting up an automatic transfer into the account. We were able to get a much higher interest rate by setting our checking account to automatically make a set deposit into our money-market savings account every time we get paid. This also serves the dual purpose of taking the human element out of the process. In essence, we never have that money to spend to begin with. The psychological effect of having less money in our spending budget saves us more than if we were putting that money towards paying off our card loan (which mathematically makes more sense).

    If you have the option to put money into a retirement savings plan like a 401k through work, that’s an even better way. When you take money out to pay for Gregory’s education, any penalties for early withdrawal will largely be offset by education tax credits, and the higher interest rates you get on a 401k (plus potential employer contributions) should far exceed the difference.

  3. I think the funniest part of the whole thing is that Biola is paying you guys to give me financial advice πŸ™‚ It’s oddly ironic, seeing as I paid them tons of money, and now they are paying to help me get some of it back!

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