I am 66 years old and worth about $5 million. I have no significant debt. I have a simple will naming my wife and only child as my heirs. None of them need any money.

Is there any reason to incur the outrageous attorney’s fees that my state prescribes for closing an estate? Couldn’t I just let my executors settle everything without an attorney?

— J.B.


You’ve got to be kidding! You worked hard and are now worth over $5 million. You need to clearly spell out your desires for how your money should be spent after your demise. There are things that may occur after your death that have to be attended to and without a proper will, it would be very costly to settle these matters.

Don’t be pennywise and pound foolish. Talk to your heirs and let them know exactly what you’re spelling out and how it’s to be done, and then do it properly. This will be money well spent.


My mother is 77 years old. She has a home worth $65,000 with a mortgage of $20,000 left. When she contacted a company that advertises reverse mortgages, the fees were around $8,000. Is there a reputable company that would help me do the reverse mortgage myself?

I can afford to pay off the balance due and make monthly payments to her. I just need assistance with the legalities. I called a couple of local mortgage brokers and they weren’t sure what to do.

— K.F.


It is possible to work out the details for a reverse mortgage and handle the whole affair yourself, but I don’t recommend it. You say you just need assistance with legalities. The whole process is a colossus of legalities. These folks know their way around the track and you don’t.

Please do your research. Check with several companies that offer reverse mortgages, but I wouldn’t try to save a few dollars. Find out what they charge and choose the one that’s best for your family. Good luck.


In a recent column you responded to a 58-year-old woman on Social Security disability who said she lost a lot of money in the stock market in 2000. You said she would have recovered and made a profit if she had stayed in the market. I stayed in the market and lost thousands of dollars on financial and tech companies that have never recovered. How do we ever recover?



I understand your concerns. You mentioned you did what I also did: stayed in the market. But you lost thousands of dollars on companies that have never recovered, and that’s very possible. Assuming all the other stocks you were holding, or most of them, have recovered and shown a profit, chances are that on a net basis you’re probably back to where you should be. And if you haven’t folded the losing stocks, it’s likely that one day they will come back, too.

On balance, I stand by my advice. If you don’t sell when the market is going down and you have a reasonable period of time left, the likelihood is that the market will recover and you will end up ahead of the game. You only lose when you sell.


I live in Georgia. Are both IRAs and 401(k)s protected in case of a lawsuit?

— S.M.

{&leadin}DEAR S.M.,

In almost every case, your IRAs and 401(k)s are protected in the event of a lawsuit, and it has nothing to do with what state you’re in. There are exceptions, but they are quite rare; generally speaking, you’ve little to concern yourself with.

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