4 things parents need to know before getting a will

Why parents should have a will


Do you have a will? 

If your answer to this question is “no” you are definitely in the majority, especially if you are the parent of minor children. According to a recent Caring.com study, only 36 percent of parents with children under 18 have a will. But being in the majority is not a good thing. Failure to draft a will could put your family at risk, financially and possibly emotionally. 

To avoid such a situation, you should meet with an attorney to draft what is called a Last Will and Testament. A Last Will is a legal document that clearly outlines your wishes regarding asset distribution and guardianship of minor children. With a simple will you can distribute property, choose an executor of your estate and name a guardian—or guardians—for your children. In some cases, you may need a more complex will.  For example, if you would like money to be distributed through a trust after your death or you think the will may be contested, ask your attorney about drafting a more complex document that will cover your needs. 

In either case, there are a few things you need to know before making your will:

Identify your assets. Make a comprehensive list of your financial assets such as bank accounts, credit cards, retirement funds and investments. And don’t forget to include your digital and biological assets. “Digital assets don’t just include online bank accounts but possibly domain names or social media accounts that generate money. For parents who conceived children through fertility treatment, leftover frozen embryos may come into play,” writes Daniel Bortz for US News & World Report.

Joint property doesn’t count. Joint property includes items shared by spouses such as real estate and bank accounts. These items are automatically passed to the surviving owner and are not included in the will. However, if an account is under one person’s name or if you own property in tenants in common, those properties need to be addressed in your will. 

Thoughtfully consider your guardians. You may want to consider two guardians for your children—one who will be the personal guardian taking care of your children and one who will be the trustee, the person taking care of your children’s assets. You can set up guidelines for how money is to be spent as well as when extra money could be released (i.e., when your child is 18 and needs money for college) and when your children gain full access. Note regarding full access: It doesn’t have to be when the child turns 18. You could specify any age or when they have reached a life milestone such as graduating college or getting married. 

Beneficiaries rule. Accounts such as IRAs and life insurance have named beneficiaries who will receive the funds through a beneficiary designation. “These beneficiary designations supersede anything specified in the will,” writes Bortz. “Therefore, you should review your beneficiary designations with the estate lawyer when planning the will.” 

Once you have created a will, you should revisit it with your lawyer every five years or any time you have a significant life change that has a financial impact such as the birth of a child or a divorce.  

Yes, no one wants to think or talk about death, however, taking the time now to create a will is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. 

Cindy K. Campbell is a family attorney focusing on helping clients with various legal issues, such as creating estate plans, estate administration, probate, guardianships, and collaborative divorce and mediation. The firm is dedicated to providing a personalized level of service and attention, while also being respectful of the client's situation. They strive to make the clients feel comfortable throughout the process and aim to build long-term relationships.

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Posted on May 07, 2018 at 11:49 AM