Ask the grumpies: Why Leah needs to get a will

Leah asks:

How essential is a will, and how do I get over the inertia and actually get one since I suspect it’s likely really important?

If you don’t have kids, a will probably isn’t that essential unless you’re wealthy and care what happens to your money after you’re gone.  You’ll be dead and may not care if your potential heirs end up giving all your money to lawyers trying to figure out who gets what.  If that’s the case, just let probate deal with stuff.  If you’re wealthy enough to be affected by the estate tax, dying without a will means that the government will probably end up with a greater share as well, but I have a hard time feeling sorry for people in that category.

If you have kids who are not yet adults, you need a will because you need to make it clear where your kids will go (and who will take care of their money) in the event that both parents die.  This alone is the reason we got wills.  If you have kids, providing for their future care is an important responsibility and should be done ASAP.  You don’t want them to end up in the foster care system even temporarily.  It’s also important to make sure that you have named the person who will be taking care of any assets you leave them, for example, the life insurance that you have also purchased because you have minor children.  We have named DH’s brother and his wife’s family as the first place our kids would go (with their permission), but my sister would be in charge of their inheritance.  Her values about paying for education and so on are more in line with ours and she would be better able to force DH’s brother and wife to take an annual stipend for their upkeep.

It is also useful to have advance directives about what happens if you are incapacitated, though depending on what state you live in, you can do this with your doctor or using an online form rather than with your lawyer.  This was part of the full package when we did our wills.  Here’s the info for MinnesotaMichigan allows you to file yours in a statewide registry, which is pretty cool.

How to get over the inertia?

Right now.  I mean, literally right now, contact a bunch of people in your area to ask them who they have used for a will.  Once you’ve got a name, MAKE AN APPOINTMENT.  Spring break is probably a good time to actually go in, but make that appointment now.

Now, they may send you a long form asking detailed minutia about your assets.  If your net worth is nowhere near the estate tax limit, do not let this form stop you from actually going in.  Let them know that you don’t need anything fancy because your wealth is lower than 2.7 million, the estate tax limit in Minnesota (or 11.4 million if you live in Michigan, since Michigan has no estate tax…), (actually, let them know it’s lower than 1 or 2 million if that is true), so that other stuff is irrelevant.  Then you might not need to fill out the form.

You, Leah, (and your DH) need a will because you have kids.  Having a will is the responsible thing to do.  It will be pricey (ours was ~$500, but that was a decade ago!  Though we get to update ours for free in perpetuity as part of that upfront cost), but it will be worth it for your kids if the worst possible thing happens.  It’s worth saving up for.  It’s worth taking out of your emergency fund.

Grumpeteers, how did you get your will done?  Anyone have success with online outfits like legalzoom?

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I don’t even know what to title this post: more bus stop drama

Remember this post about the lady who blocks the bus with her SUV every school morning during dropoff?

This year her youngest daughter is the only other person assigned to our bus stop.  Everyone else is now in middle school.

On the first day of school, she informed DH that she was moving the bus stop so that it would be the de jure bus stop listed online rather than the de facto bus stop that the neighborhood kids had been using for years.  Since the one listed online is directly across the street from our house, we did not complain.  The bus first stopped at the old stop and then moved forward to the new stop.  The new stop is 3 houses away from her house rather than the 5 houses before.  (Yes, it is ~80 degrees in the morning.  Yes, there are sidewalks, though she would have to cross the street from her house to use them.  Yes, I have seen her and her two daughters walk longer distances from the school parking lot to the school front door and I’ve seen the daughters run around the playground without any apparent ailments so I don’t *think* there’s a disability, but disabilities can be invisible, so maybe there’s a reason for her to drive instead of walk.  They all look like they’re in great shape, and they have a ton of equipment in their backyard but you still never know.)

Importantly, with the new stop, she can just drive straight to get there.  There is no need to turn on the busy street.  There is no need to park where the bus is supposed to pick up kids.  And indeed, on Monday she just pulled through and stopped on that corner.  I thought, how lovely, this solves the problem of her being a thoughtless person.  I don’t have to seethe silently this year whenever DH is out of town.

On Tuesday she got to the stop early and decided that she wanted to make her U-Turn *before* the bus got there rather than after (note:  there are actually several ways to get turned around on this street without doing a U-Turn or 3 point turn at all because it’s a cul-de-sac with a side-loop and also there’s nobody living in the house where the bus stop is right now, so she could even park in the driveway there), so she U-Turned and then had to cross the street with her daughters on foot.

On Wednesday she decided that was a terrible idea and instead of pulling through, made a right on the busy street, made a U-Turn in the middle of the busy street, and parked right where the bus is supposed to stop.  Then, because she had come early, she came out with her daughters and I think wanted to chat.  But instead I asked, politely (honest!), “Isn’t that kind of dangerous?” and she asked what?  and I said, “blocking where the bus pulls up?”.  And she said that the bus driver didn’t mind in the afternoon when she does it at pick-up.  She had asked him at pick up.  She could ask him now.  How is it dangerous anyway?  And I said that the bus had to stop in the middle of the street and the kids had to walk into the street to get on it, and it seemed dangerous to the kids and to the cars.  [Yes, I know cars are supposed to stop both ways for school buses, but while the ones behind usually do, the ones going the other direction often don’t.  And although this street isn’t that busy at 6:50 am, there are still cars whipping around the corner of my house which is a bit of a blind curve in the road.] And she repeated she could ask the bus driver.  And I repeated it was dangerous.  And she asked if I wanted her to move now, and I gave a micronod.  And she moved her car to the corner of the cul-de-sac (after making a U-turn so she would be pointed in the direction home) and crossed the street.

And the bus came and I told DC2 to stand back on the sidewalk.  And her kids remained balanced precariously on the curb so the bus couldn’t really pull up that closely without endangering them if they fell.  The bus came, I left, she talked to the bus driver, but I did not overhear their conversation.

The next morning I thought to myself, omg, I sure do not want to see her again, but DH is on a business trip and I have to be home to take care of Little Kitty (it would turn out to be her last week with us) and lock the door behind DC1 before heading into a long day of work.  I am an adult, I told myself, this was not that big an altercation.  I can do this.  So I went to the bus stop with DC2.

And the SUV didn’t come.  The bus got there on time at 6:59 and her SUV turned right on the main street at 7:01 after the bus had left and I was almost to my house.  Ok, I thought, either she had trouble getting everybody ready this morning, or she misjudged how much time it would take to avoid me, not expecting the bus to get there on time since it hadn’t the first three days of school.

Then on Friday she didn’t show up either.

And here’s the funny part.

When DC2 got home, zie told me the daughter was *already on the bus* when DC2 got on.  That means this woman is driving to another bus stop to avoid me!  All because I suggested she park someplace that was safer and *actually less effort* for her to wait.  I hadn’t said anything before because it was more effort for her to pull into one of the side-streets last year, but in this case it seemed like there were easier alternatives (if there’s a disability, then parking on the side-street part of the corner is the same walking distance and less driving!).  I didn’t even tell her it was less effort, I just used the questioning tone women use when they’re being polite to suggest that blocking a school bus could potentially be dangerous, explained why when asked, repeated that I thought it was dangerous, and then thanked her for moving her vehicle.  None of the kids had even seemed to notice the conversation and DC2 was confused about why the daughter had moved bus stops, which is how we found out.

The big question I have (well, actually I have two, but I will never know the answer to the question of whether or not she blocks the bus at the stop she drives to because I am an adult and I have better things to do with my time) is whether or not she will return to the bus stop when she realizes it’s DH standing there with DC2 (and will she block the bus?– DH tells me he has no intention of fighting this fight.).

RandomBraggingOnChildren

  • DC1 has always been exactly average height for hir age/non-skipped grade.  DC2 has always been a bit tall for hir exact age, which put hir as average or a little above average for hir grade (because zie has a late summer birthday), but over the summer this year, zie has gotten HUGE.  Zie is towering over kids in first grade with early Fall birthdays.  Zie isn’t the tallest, but zie is close.
  • Also this summer DC2 decided to skip over things like Magic Treehouse or Cam Jansen or the A to Z mysteries and go straight from books with lots of pictures and badly behaved main characters (Bad Kitty, Franny K. Stein, etc.) to Harry Potter.  We’re not quite sure how that happened.  Or where to go from here.  Zie also loves Ramona books.  Basically it seems like zie completely skipped things at 2nd-4th grade reading and interest level other than a brief flirtation with Junie B. Jones.
  • Did I mention that DC2 is absolutely brilliant in math?  Zie has this amazing intuitive understanding of the number system that makes my heart happy whenever zie explains connections zie has figured out to me.
  • We got the learning outcomes for first grade.  They want kids to end at level “J” which is where DC2 ended Kindergarten before this big reading advancement this summer.  And math looks like another completely uninspiring year.  If zie was better at Spanish this would have been a very good year to skip.  But hir teachers seem nice, and oddly they both already knew DC2’s name at back to school night (not true of all of the kids), so maybe they’ve been warned.  They’ve also re-sorted the GT kids across the two classes — I think maybe by gender.  Sadly DC2’s best friend is in the other dual-language class (which was also true last year– they hang out in the after school program), but happily zie isn’t stuck with the one GT kid who actively doesn’t like hir, and there’s not just the one.  (Last year there were 2 in DC2’s class and 4 in the other class.  This year it seems to be 3/3, girls in one class, boys in the other.) [update!  The GT kid DC2 was paired with last year didn’t show up, so they put *all* the GT kids in DC2’s class the first day of class.  DC2 is thrilled.]
  • DC1 has gotten into geometry proofs.  It was hard starting at first– I’d forgotten how frustrating it always is to start a new proof-based subject not knowing what you’re allowed and not allowed to assume.  (I remember back in Number Theory in high school where we had to prove addition (using definitions for distance, IIRC) before we could assume it!  That was super frustrating!  And then in Real Analysis in college we proved addition in a completely different way (set theory, I think?), but that was more in the middle of the semester and less frustrating.  Math is so amazing with the way it all just works.  Well, except for paradoxes and unprovable things but those are really cool too.)  And this is hir first foray into proof-based anything so zie hadn’t had the experience of being initially frustrated an then getting used to the new rules.
  • There’s a new teacher for geometry at the middle-school, coming over from high school.  She sent a very nice email talking about how she’s not really sure how to go about teaching the class in terms of homework and lecture vs. classwork and providing the schedule for the class.  There’s about a 6 week unit on proofs, but the rest is non-proof stuff, including a unit on the end on construction, so I feel vindicated in going through proofs with DC1 this summer.  Plus I had forgotten that the book I’m using has a lot more intro-to-proof stuff that will be useful in later classes that isn’t necessarily there for geometric purposes (indirect proofs, paragraph proofs, etc.)
  • After being obnoxious about two column proofs and complaining that paragraph proofs were somehow better, DC1 has converted into a two column proof evangelist.  They take less writing.
  • DC1’s feet are the same size as mine now.  Hands are still smaller though.
  • My kids are seriously into seaweed snacks.  I don’t understand it at all– I couldn’t handle the taste of dried seaweed until late college, and I still prefer more mild seaweed on my sushi.  (Seaweed salad, otoh, is delicious and has always been.  But that’s a different thing.)

Locally specific manners? Reading at the dinner table edition

Do you let your kids read at the table?  I feel like this used to be impolite but personally, I have no problem with it.  When I was growing up, at home we were allowed to read at lunch (my dad still does).  But we were not allowed to read at the dinner table.

I’m lucky that my parents supported and modeled that reading for fun is a great thing to do.  My dad’s mother was also a big reader, and as a result so are most of her children.  I think it’s ok to read in restaurants and bars (if you can concentrate).  My nightmare is a person who sits on a plane next to me and brings nothing to do except talk.  What did you plan to do for this six-hour flight, just stare into space???

Do you think reading at the dinner table is rude or perfectly ok?

#2 who has kids hasn’t really given this much thought but her kids do read at the dinner table sometimes.  We’re much more informal about meals than we were growing up though and sometimes eat standing up in the kitchen.  #2 also cannot handle the middle-seat chatterbox who has run out of the airplane magazine.  #2 wants to read novels uninterrupted on planes!

Ask the readers: Skip school to go to an awards ceremony?

DC1 currently has perfect attendance.

DC1 scored high on the 7th grade talent search.  This is a national thing which basically means zie had a high SAT score for a 7th grader.

The recognition ceremony is in the afternoon on a school day.

If DC1 goes, zie will no longer have perfect attendance and will miss some class.

I hate ceremonies, but I can’t go to this one anyway, so it would be DH taking time off work to go.

DC1 has been consulted and has no preferences.  (DC1 isn’t into preferences unless they result in getting sushi.)

What do you guys think?

The children’s allowance as an antidote to the gimmies

Over Christmas break, the entire extended family went to Cracker Barrel for lunch.  Since there were 14 of us, we ended up waiting in their store for quite some time.  All the other cousins asked for (and occasionally whined for) random trinkets and junk food, but our kids didn’t.  I wracked my brain as to why my kids weren’t and really never do, and when I asked DH he said, obviously it’s because our response is always, “Did you bring your allowance?  Do you have enough money saved up from your allowance?”  And that makes total sense.  Our friends in Paradise all gave their kids allowances and their kids never had the gimmies when we were out and about either.

DC1 saves up hir allowance to purchase big things like video games and board games (and holiday/birthday gifts for other people).  DC2 buys stuffed animals or candy every time zie goes to the grocery store.  In the end, I think they probably end up with as much random stuff as their cousins (or maybe a little bit less, I dunno), but all in all it is much more pleasant for us because we’re not put in the position of having to say yes or no.   We just give them a predictable amount each month (currently 20 cents per year of age, which is not that much money!) and they make their own purchasing decisions.  (DC1 also makes some money from doing RA work for me, and they both occasionally get $10 or $20 bills in cards from grandparents.)  They may also end up with stuff that they prefer because they’re the one making those yes/no decisions so they’re in the position to optimize rather than just getting what our more random choices give them.

DC1 did complain recently that hir friends who get allowances all get $5 or more per week but zie only gets $2.20.  Sorry, kid!

How do you deal with the gimmies?  Did you have an allowance growing up, and did it help?  If you didn’t have an allowance, how did you get little luxuries (if any)?

Ugh–I saved too much in the Dependent Daycare Account (DDA)

Note:  unlike non-academics, our DDA cycle is from September to September, not January-January.  So all childcare money must be used up by August 31st.

What happened was when I did the election, I was assuming we’d be sending DC1 to an expensive two week STEM daycamp, which would knock out 1K.  What happened instead is that this year that camp decided that they would only have a residential option, so now we’re spending even more on the residential option but we can’t use the DDA because the DDA isn’t allowed to be used for overnight camps.   Plus it looks like the bilingual daycamp we want to send DC2 to is going to at most be 2K for the entire summer, more likely it will be closer to $1650 because of that vacation they’ll be taking to Disney, which is less than we had been expecting to pay for hir.  (The museum camp we used to send DC1 to is $155/week + $50/week after care + $25/week before care, but DC1’s last year there had some problems with bad management so we are reluctant to send DC2 there given that the management hasn’t changed.  The children’s museum camp isn’t as good as the multi-lingual camp we picked out, but I think it is also more expensive.  I’d been expecting one of those or something similarly priced.)

So we’ve got somewhere between 1K and 2K excess that can only be spent on daycamp, not on overnight camp.  Most likely that means additional camps for DC1.  Unfortunately, at age 11 and going into 8th grade, DC1 has outgrown most of the regular daycamps in town.  The fun local summer camp where they do summer camp things overlaps with Disney, so that’s not happening this year (even though zie loved it last year).  Zie did the university’s math camp last year and can’t do it again this year (plus it was only $100).  Zie is doing another week-long university daycamp for a different department, but it is free(!)  Zie has done almost all of the half-day STEM camps in the area and I’m not sure they’re worth repeating, though we will check to see if the local makerspace has anything new.  There is a non-profit in the town next to ours that should have something cool zie can do (last year zie did game programming in Unity, the year before was art), but the one for hir current age range changes every year so we don’t yet know when or what it will be.  I wish places would put their schedules (and prices) up!

Maybe zie needs to do cooking classes.  That’s $175/week for a half-day camp…  It looks like there are art camps that are $200/week for a half-day camp.  Summer etiquette camp looks pretty creepy (the webpage laments how social upheaval in the 60s and 70s destroyed good manners).  Drama camp is half days at $125/week.  All of these have age 11 as the max of the age range, so DC1 would be the oldest.

Have you ever put too much in a flexible savings account?  What did you do when school was out as a kid?  If you have kids, what do they do now?