Sunday, June 22, 2014

Make Me Rich Part 5: Estate Planning. We Finally Made Our Wills


Thanks to my Crohn's Disease, I tend to visit hospital at least once every couple of months. I'll be back in again next month for a Colonoscopy, to suss out if everything is still OK.
Each time I get an anaesthetic, I start to panic again. I still don't have a will. How can I neglect that? It becomes front of mind again for a little while, and then in the business of life and the challenges of choosing a guardian for the kids, it drifts down the list of priorities. It's not that I really think I'm going to die, but every time I get an anaesthetic the doctors have such serious conversations and it reminds me that I'm neglecting to look after the kids. I've had Estate Planning on our serious todo list since we saw a financial planner last year

We have three kids, and my oldest is 13. We have no excuse really. Just laziness and a certain worry about the costs involved. I attended a session at work on estate planning a few years ago, and the visiting solicitors were pretty frank about their opinions on DIY will kits. As far as they were concerned they were the best thing ever - as long as they were the ones getting to challenge them. Because often these will kits are not written out and documented correctly, making them a solicitors dream to challenge on behalf of a disgruntled relative.

With that in mind, I've had no interest in wasting $50 (each!) on these will kits, but was concerned that going to a solicitor would cost more money than we have to spare at any given time. I envisaged that having our wills done as a couple would cost around $1,000-$2,000 and was too embarrassed to approach a solicitor to truly find out, lest he choke on the burning rubber I leave behind as I escape.

Our estate planning needs are pretty basic. If one or the other spouse dies, we want everything to pass to the other, (with the exception of our rings which will pass to the kids), and if both of us should go, we want everything to go to the kids with a guardian in place to care for them. 

It's with all this context that I saw a sign for the Salvation Army Will Day at the centre close to my work. It was perfect timing. In exchange for a $50 donation, volunteer solicitors would be on hand to help establish (or vary) a will. 

Having a set fee gave me the confidence to get our information together and make the appointment. Husband and I filled in our forms together, covering off all our personal and financial information, along with our burial or cremation preferences. We've talked about these things before, but it was good to get it all in writing for the first time. I was able to attend the initial appointment by myself, but Husband will need to attend to sign his will (or at the very least have the will signed and witnessed somewhere else). It was all very easy. Because we don't want anything complicated and don't have any weird or wonderful financial arrangements, our will was able to be completed through the Salvation Army Will Day without further expense.

I did ask the lovely solicitor helping me out what her fee's would normally be for a basic will through her firm. She let me know they were on the cheaper end of the scale, but for a will as simple as ours they would normally charge $330. Each. So I was way off with my estimate, but even so not easy money that I have to spare from pay to pay. $50 (each) I can do. It's still a suck of money out of the fortnightly budget, but it's one I was able to plan and allow for.

We also had the opportunity to set up power of attorneys. This is actually something I want to do as with my medical concerns I want Husband to be able to take over if I am incapacitated, however this came at an extra cost of $150 for one, or $250 for two. Something that will need to wait for a little while unfortunately.

There was the opportunity but by no means the requirement to allow for a donation to the Salvation Army (or other charity) in our wills. This was simply a space on the forms and a low pressure question from the solicitor. If this is something you would want to do the process was streamlined but if not it didn't matter.

I feel so relieved knowing that we have taken care of this. Husband and I have revisited the guardianship of our kids conversation so many times over the years. There is no simple answer. There are so many people in our lives who would know would take on our kids with love, and ultimately we want to ensure that in the event of a tragedy our wishes are clear so that we don't add the burden of an argument to our families grief.

This post is not sponsored. I made a donation to the Salvation Army and had the opportunity to seek advice and service from their volunteer solicitors. I've had Estate Planning on my todo list for some time, but most particularly since we saw a Financial Planner in 2013. You can find more posts in our Make Me Rich series documenting our Financial Planning journey.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Elise, I work for solicitors and understand the huge fees that are not always affordable. In terms of a power of attorney, they are always a good idea just in case, but you should know that they only cover legal and financial decisions. If you would also like a legal document that would entitle your hubby to make medical and lifestyle (i.e. where you live etc) decisions on your behalf if you ever were unable to, then you want to also appoint him as an Enduring Guardian. You don't necessarily have to get solicitors to draw up Powers of Attorney and Enduring Guardianship forms for you, they are available to download from Australian Govt websites and legal assistance websites. There is especially a lot on the web about Enduring Guardianship forms and brochures to help you fill them out because there are a lot of medical instructions you can put in there (like whether you would prefer resuscitation, feeding tubes, hydration, etc). There is lots of info on the website http://www.publicguardian.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/publicguardian/pg_planning/pg_enduring.html

    Hope this helps. I just thought I'd share because legal fees are so expensive and this way you could draw up your own documents and then only need to consult a solicitor at the end of the process when you want to officially register the already drawn up documents.

    That's great that you could still see a solicitor about your will and that the money went to a worthy cause. Love reading your blog!

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