there's a lot of relatives. Boy, is this old saying true! At the risk of jinxing myself, I'll say that I think we're finally at the end of settling my father-in-law's estate and man has it been a wild ride! There's a lot of dirty family laundry that I'm not willing to share in my blog, but I think I can safely say that this has been the most stressful six months of our lives. Relatives and money can make for an ugly and unpredictable mix and some of our memories are forever tarnished. (This is a repost from when my father-in-law passed in 2008, but it really bears repeating)
And choose your Executor carefully. Tony's Dad picked him as the Executor, which frankly, was not a good choice. Even though he is the oldest son, he's a lousy with money, a bad record-keeper and is really terrible at any kind of paperwork and I'm not great at it either. Fortunately, his older sister (bless her!) was willing to take over and did a tremendous job, otherwise I think we'd still be wrangling with lawyers and filling out forms for the next few years.
Did you know that if you have the wrong wording on your title to your house, you can end up spending thousands of dollars in fees and taxes trying to get the matter straightened out? Again the voice of experience. One wrong line on a form and it cost us a thousand dollars in my Dad's estate. The way they set up that title is THE most important decision you will ever make in regards to your house - trust me.
Take a typical scenario - a husband and wife with a basic house and two kids. Both their names are on the house as joint tenants and they leave no will. Both of them are killed in an accident. Now the kids are wards of the court with their fate decided by lawyers - which is never a good choice. The house can't be sold until it goes through probate which will eat up as much as a quarter of the value of the house for taxes and will take up to a year to settle. Naturally, all this time, their parents or whoever is handling the estate has to pay all the house payments, utilities, and outrageous lawyers fees - it might cost as much as fifty thousand dollars, for a nice round number (guess how I know that?). If they don't have the money to do so, the house is foreclosed on and all their equity is lost for their children.
How difficult is it to set up a trust? It's a lot easier than you'd think. After all this crap we've gone through, the first thing we did was find a good estate lawyer. We didn't even have to go far, there was a great one right at the end of our street! We had one two-hour meeting with him to tell him what we wanted and how we wanted everything set up, then he had the papers ready in a week, and we had one more hour-long meeting to review and sign the papers. Cost - about $1,000 for the whole package, 2 wills, 2 trusts and all the other paperwork. Probably the best thousand dollars we've ever spent.
Sorry to be all serious and depressing, but I would sure hate for someone else to have to go through any degree of what we've had to go through over the last few months. It's just not fun and that's why we made sure our kids won't have to suffer like we have.
PS: If you really love your kids, start cleaning your house out NOW! It's surprising how much crap parents can accumulate after a few decades of living in a house - ugh!
PPS: Call your lawyer - today!!