Do We Need a Will? And More Great Reader Questions

By Mary Hunt
Mary Hunt
Mary Hunt
Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Mary invites you to visit her at her website, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at EverydayCheapskate.com/contact, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at Tips.EverydayCheapskate.com. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Copyright 2021 Creators.com
October 7, 2021 Updated: October 13, 2021

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? —Willing Parents

Dear Willing Parents: First, congratulations on your new addition! You are right on the money. You do need to create your wills, stating how you want your assets distributed, and also name who will become legal guardians of your child (plus an alternate in case your first choice isn’t available), if you should die together. If a court ever needs to step in and appoint a guardian, the judge will appoint the person you nominated in your wills, unless it is not in the best interests of your child(ren) for some reason. If you don’t name a guardian in your will, anyone who is interested can ask for the position. The judge then must decide, without the benefit of your opinion, who will do the best job of raising your kids.

You can write your own wills and then have them witnessed and signed by three people who are not named as beneficiaries in the wills. However, I suggest this 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. You can make an appointment with a local attorney who specializes in estate planning. Or you can do this yourself with the aid of a quality, reliable, and well-vetted software. Go to Nolo.com and check out Quicken Willmaker & Trust 2022. For less than $100, you can download all of the forms and documents for the legal documents that every adult needs, including your individual wills and instructions for custody of minor children. Hope that helps!

The Real Deal on Free Credit Report

Dear Mary: Recently, I went online and was all set to order a copy of my credit report when I noticed a small disclaimer at the bottom of the page that said I’d be charged a monthly $10 fee for credit monitoring services. I immediately cancelled the request. Is this legal, and can you recommend a site that really is free? —Call Me Skeptical

Dear Skeptical: Yes. The law that requires credit bureaus give each person one free credit report each year, upon request. It also grants permission to the bureaus to attempt to “upsell” or advertise other products and services to consumers at the time they request their reports. Just keep saying “no thanks” as you click through. The best place to get your free reports is at the official site, AnnualCreditReport.com, by calling 1-877-322-8228 or by writing to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5281.

Keep in mind that you are entitled to one free report each year from each of the big three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). However, you are not required to get all of them at the same time. In that all three of your reports should show the same information, I suggest you stagger them so you are getting a free updated report every four months.

Need t0 Save ATM Slips?

Dear Mary: This has been bugging me: At my bank’s ATM, there is a big trash can where everyone throws away their 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, cluttered wallet. Do I need to save them, and what’s the best way to get rid of them? —Over-Slipped

Dear OS: Ignore those waste bins and hold on to your ATM receipts. 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, handbag, or any place that is convenient. Just make sure you always put that receipt in the same place so that 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. But 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, the slips aren’t too much of a concern.

Mary Hunt
Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Mary invites you to visit her at her website, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at EverydayCheapskate.com/contact, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at Tips.EverydayCheapskate.com. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Copyright 2021 Creators.com