This week, we’ll begin a deeper dive into the first level of our Hierarchy of Financial Priorities. The most important step is getting your wills and other legal documents in order. While I jokingly say “imagine the relative you like least in life raising your children” as a way to encourage people to get this done, it’s not far off.
First, know that everyone has a will. If you haven’t written one, the state has given you one. It’s called intestacy or dying without a will. For example, if you’ve been married less than five years and die without a will, in Maryland the first $40,000 goes to your spouse, and the remainder of your estate would be split between your spouse and your parents. If you have minor children, it would be split between your spouse and your kids. Even if you’re okay with how the law will distribute your assets, having the will makes things easier for your surviving spouse. Remember that beneficiaries trump your will, so if you’ve gotten married or divorced, be sure to update those as well.
Your will not only distributes your property, it also names a guardian for your children. It doesn’t have to be a relative; think of who would be best suited to raise your children. There should also be a testamentary, or springing, trust in your will. If they are under 18, your kids can’t have an account in their name. Instead, when you die, a trust would be established following the directions in your will, and the assets can be used to support your children until a certain age, when they could receive the remaining amount.
Two other important documents are your Power of Attorney (POA) and Medical Directive. The Power of Attorney allows someone else to make financial decisions for you if you are not capable of making them for yourself. The Health Directive and POA allows someone to make medical decisions for you, and also provides guidance as to your wishes if you are in a vegetative state.
While my preference for anyone with children is to work with a qualified estate attorney, there are several online sources for these documents. We often use Trust & Will, and you can use this code for a 10% discount (we don’t receive any commissions or rebates for this): https://trustandwill.com/advisors/invite/la10r46c
If you have questions, or would like copies of the Maryland statutory POA and Medical Directive, email us at email@example.com. We can also notarize your documents for you at no charge, just stop by!
Investment advice offered through Great Valley Advisor Group, a Registered Investment Advisor. Great Valley Advisor Group and CovingtonAlsina are separate entities. This is not intended to be used as tax or legal advice. Please consult a tax or legal professional for specific information and advice. The opinions voiced in this column are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.