Dear Mary: My husband and I just had our first child, and now that we have a new little life depending on us, we want to make sure she is always taken care of. Neither one of us has a will, but I think it's important to set one up just in case. Problem is, we haven't ever thought about a will, much less have any idea of what we need to include. Do you have any pointers? — Monique
Dear Monique: You are right on the money. You both need to create wills stating how you want your assets distributed and who would become the legal guardian of your child should you and your husband die together (plus an alternate in case your first choice isn't available). If a court ever needs to step in and appoint a guardian, the judge will appoint the person you nominated in your will, unless for some reason it is not in the best interests of your child(ren).
When thinking about who to name as guardian, choose someone who knows you and your children well. If you don't name a guardian, anyone who is interested can ask for the position. The judge must then decide, without the benefit of your opinion, who will do the best job raising your kids.
You can write your own wills and then have them witnessed and signed by three persons who are not named as beneficiaries. However, I think this matter is too important to be left to chance. Spend a few dollars to make sure you do everything correctly according to your particular state's requirements.
QUICKEN WILLMAKER PLUS. This is highly reputable software from Nolo that you download to your computer. It allows you and members of your immediate family to create a customized estate plan with the following essential legal documents: will (including guardianship for minor children), health care directive, durable power of attorney, executor documents and final arrangements. The software works with both PC and Mac computers and includes a free one-year subscription to a Nolo Online Living Trust. The software costs about $55. It is my first choice for you, and it's the software my husband and I own and use to keep our essential legal documents updated.
LEGALZOOM. For about $69 each, you can hire Legal Zoom to create wills specific to your state, including instructions for custody of minor children.
HIRE AN ATTORNEY. This is going to cost a minimum of several hundred dollars, but you'll end up with documents that are specific to you and your children.
Dear Mary: This has been bugging me: At my bank ATM there is a big trash can in which everyone throws away their transaction slips. It seems like a bad idea to toss them away since they show the balance and transaction info. But being cautious means I end up with an overstuffed and cluttered wallet. Do I need to save them? And what's the best way to get rid of them? — Rob
Dear Rob: Always take your receipts with you. Never leave them at the ATM or throw them in the trash can there. You'll need them when you receive your bank statement to verify that all your deposits and withdrawals were posted correctly to your account. Keep your receipts in chronological order in the pocket of your checkbook, wallet or handbag, or any place that is convenient. Just make sure you always put them in the same place so it becomes a useful habit. Banks do make mistakes, and those little slips may be your only proof. That said, once everything checks out, get rid of them. As with any financial document, the safest way to get rid of ATM receipts is with a paper shredder. If you don't have one, it is OK to simply tear them up before tossing since they don't list your account number or other highly sensitive information.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.