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Doing a will without an attorney

Dear Dave,

My husband and I have a 5-month-old little girl. We’d like to draw up a will to specify her caretaker if something were to happen to both of us.

The will should include a trust to be set up for her with our remaining insurance. We’d like to avoid the expense of an attorney, so I was wondering if you could tell us how to find information on preparing a simple document for ourselves.

Dawn

Denver, Colo.

Dear Dawn,

In this case I think it is very unwise to avoid the expense of an attorney. A mirror-image will usually costs around $300 if you do some shopping and talk to several attorneys first. It is a very basic will, called a mirror image because there are two wills, yours and your husband’s, and they both say the same thing.

However, $300 or even $400 in this case would be worth every penny. You should pay to have it done correctly. It is that important. But you should not buy one of these little will kits off the television, or the ones they sell at the local office supply store. State law affects wills and those laws vary from state to state. What you need is an estate-planning attorney from your state to do this for you. It is very unwise to do your own will.

Dave


How to avoid nagging your kids

Dear Dave,

How do you strike a balance between being a control freak over your teen-agers and not nagging them? I am faced with a 13-year-old who is driving me nuts, and I am trying to figure out a way to deal with him in a loving, constructive manner.

I am trying to teach him about money and why it is important to save some of it instead of letting it slip through his fingers like water. Help me out.

Wayne

Phoenix, Ariz.

Dear Wayne,

Bill Cosby says something happens to kids when they reach the age of 13 that causes them to go brain damaged. They are at a really difficult stage of their lives at this point. They need lots of extra attention at this age and, most importantly, they need very clear-cut boundaries.

They must be clear on what is right and what is wrong. When you get to the point where you say, “Do it because I am your father and I said so,” then you’ve lost the battle.

You know you’ve done it right when you’ve talked through together and clearly outlined what the game plan is and what the rules are, and also what the results are if we don’t follow the rules.

A good example is with grades. My kids know what is expected of them when it comes to their grades. If they don’t meet those expectations, they know that there will be consequences. What we will do is find room in their schedule so they can spend more time studying to get their grades up.

If we take away their time on the computer, suddenly there are two more hours for them to study. If we say no television for a while, there are two more hours for them to work on their grades. We have a little fun with it like that and then it is set. You are off of those other things until the grades come up. Some people will call that grounding, but it is more of a realigning of the time schedule to help the child.

As far as teaching them about money matters, one of the best things you can do is to lead by example. You’d be amazed at what your kids pick up on just by watching you. Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about money often. Let them know it is important to know how to handle it. Involve your children in budget meetings with your spouse, just to let them know about things such as savings and investing. You can guide them to being smart with money as long as they are willing to learn.

Dave


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