BA Harris LLP

Do I Need a Will?

Published on Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Recently, my wife and I engaged a local attorney to draft our wills and various estate documents. We are in our mid-thirties, in good health, and thanks to the decrease in real estate values, have very little net worth. Although many might argue that drafting these documents was a waste of money, I strongly believe all adults should have wills, powers of attorney, and medical directives in order to plan for the uncertainties of life.

I will use my own personal experiences to walk you through the process and highlight why I think each of the various documents is important.

Will

Our primary concern in drafting our wills was appointing guardians for our children and designating that we want the remainder of our estate (primarily life insurance proceeds) left in trust to be managed by a responsible trustee until our children attain what we consider to be a responsible mature age. What I didn’t know until we started down this process, is that in Idaho, if my wife or I were to decease without a will, half of our share of community property would flow directly to our kids. This means that the surviving spouse would be left jointly owning our house with our kids. I suppose that would take away some of the thunder of “when you live in my house, you live by my rules…

For people that have accumulated considerable assets, wills are a necessary tool to specify who gets how much and, sometimes more importantly, what.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney allows you to appoint someone to handle your affairs while you are unavailable or unable to do so. In our case, we have named each other as our primary agents and our parents as secondary agents. In the event that something happens to me and I am physically or mentally unable to take care of my affairs, my wife has the ability to legally act on my behalf.

Medical Directive

A medical directive is a set of instructions one leaves to specify what actions should be taken for their health in the event they are no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity. For this purpose, I have named my spouse to be the final authority for decision making when I can’t make those decisions myself.

While we all assume these documents won’t be needed in our lives, the peace of mind that comes from having them is fairly inexpensive. The drafting of our documents cost us $1,200, required 2 meetings at the attorney’s office, and was wrapped up in three weeks. Just two weeks ago, my wife was in a very bad car accident through no fault of her own. Thankfully she is ok and our estate documents didn’t need to come into play, but it certainly made me think about the fact that they can become critical in the blink of an eye, and when they do, it is already too late to draft them.

Tyler Nyman, CPA
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