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Protect Your Children With Your Last Will and Testament

There’s a lot to think about when you are expecting a baby. Baby names, nursery décor, and car seat installation probably come to mind. However, there are also other important considerations to think about, like making a last will and testament.

Low-cost do-it-yourself (D.I.Y.) wills, living wills, and powers of attorney are possible in some simple cases and can be found on our companion site, Estate law varies from state to state, and estate planning situations can get complicated quickly. You may also want to consult with an estate planning attorney in your area for advice on your individual situation.

Now Is the Time to Plan

It might be difficult to think about making a will at such a joyful time for your family. Yet, part of being a parent is planning for your child’s future.

While the vast majority of parents live long enough to provide for and raise their children, there are a small minority of parents who are not so lucky, due to a fatal illness or accident.

The best way to care for your child in the case of such a tragedy is to create a valid will and testament. Each parent should have their own will. If you are married or share custody of the children while they are living, then the surviving parent will typically have custody of the children if one parent dies, regardless of the arrangements in the will.

However, if both parents die or the sole custodial parent dies, then the guardian named in the will becomes the legal custodian of the children. As a parent, it is important to make sure that your will contains a:

  • Personal guardian(s) for your children: This is, perhaps, the most important part of a parent’s will. The guardian will take over the day-to-day aspects of parenting and assume legal responsibility for your child. Most parents choose someone they are close with.
  • Financial guardian(s) for your children: This may be the same person as the personal guardian, but it doesn’t have to be the same person. A financial guardian will be responsible for overseeing the assets and distributing them for the benefit of your child until your child becomes an adult.
  • Clear distribution of your assets: If you have specific assets such as jewelry, collectibles, letters, or real estate that you want to leave to a specific child or another individual, then you can do so in your will. If an asset is not individually identified as going to a specific recipient, then it will be included with all of your assets and distributed according to the parameters that you have created.

In the absence of a validly executed will, the state will determine who has custody of your children and howyour assets will be divided. State statutes called the “intestate laws” determine these matters.

In many states, your surviving spouse will only get a percentage of your estate if you have children, for example. And in some states, your parents are entitled to a percentage of your estate if they survive you. For all of these reasons, it is important that you protect your child by creating a will. It doesn’t matter if you have little property to leave or if the state would appoint the same guardian who you would appoint. Circumstances may change when you least expect them to, and your will can protect your children the way that you want them to be protected.

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