I am in my mid-seventies and widowed. I have no children. I am, however, financially comfortable. I own my own house and I have several bank accounts and cd’s and even a small brokerage account.
I have a brother and sister who are both very well off. I also have a number of nephews and nieces, but I'm not close to any of them.I haven’t seen my cousins for years.
I have never written a will. I keep putting it off because I don’t know what to do with my money when I die. Do you have any suggestions?
Money to Spare
The "Dear Mildred Column"
We all need advice from time to time. Mildred has been offering it for years!
Now she is doing it in her own column.
Please send your letters to:
Mildred c/o Senior Citizens Council
2226 Morris Avenue
Union, NJ 07083
Dear Money to Spare,
Many people avoid preparing a will because it is difficult to contemplate our own death. There are even some people who believe that if they write a will, they will then die. But we are all mortal and we will all die some day. And, if you die without a will, you will not have a say in who gets your money.
If you don’t have a will, the state law dictates who gets your money. Under New Jersey law your money goes to your closest relatives in a specific order of inheritance: spouse first, then children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and then parents, then siblings, then nieces and nephews and then cousins and finally the state itself. The law also dictates how the money gets divided.
Your brother and sister are your closest living relatives. If you don’t have a will, all your money would go to them. So if you want to make up your own mind as to who will inherit your money, you must prepare a will.
You say that your brother and sister are well off. If you don’t wish to leave your money to either of them or to any of your other family members, perhaps there is a close friend or neighbor you want to leave something to. You are not limited to people. Are you a member of a club or an organization that needs funds? a museum? a theater? Is there a church or a temple you go to? What about the schools you attended? Is there a cause you believe in? A disease you want to see cured? Only you can decide where you want your money to go.
The best starting point is to make a list. Then put it in priority order. Then make a list of your money/assets and allocate the money/assets to the list of names. Take this to a lawyer who can prepare the actual will. You must sign your will in front of two people who must also sign your will as your witnesses. And remember, you can always make changes. It is a good idea to review your will every year to make sure it still reflects your wishes.
But don’t neglect yourself so that you have money to leave to others. It’s your money. Spend it and enjoy it. You are fortunate that you do not currently have any financial concerns. You may want to see a financial planner to discuss how much money you should allocate for yourself in the future. You don’t want your money to run out.
In addition to a will, you should always have a Power of Attorney prepared for yourself as well as a Healthcare Directive. If for some reason you are in an accident or become disabled or are unable to make decisions or function on your own, you want there to be someone you trust who can help. There are no crystal balls and it is important that you are prepared should the unexpected occur. It is about your choice and your wishes and you don’t want to leave that to chance.