Got Kids? You Need a Will

Estate Planning.  Sounds stuffy.  Not fun. For rich people only.   But, if you have young kids, then you really need to have the most basic part of an Estate Plan- a Will.

Most people think of a Will as a document used to make sure that when you die your property is given away just as you want.  Well, that is one function of a Will, some would say the primary function.  However, a Will is also the legal document parents use to protect and provide for their young children.  Here are three big reasons why parents of young children ought to have a Will in place, even if they don’t have significant assets to pass on:

Name a Guardian for Your Children.  A Will is the place to name a guardian for your children in the event that you and your spouse both pass away.  Death is not fun to think about.  But, the reality is that you and your spouse are together all the time.  You live together, drive together, fly together . . . generally, whatever you do, you do it together.  There is great joy in living life this way.  However, this also means that if you face some kind of catastrophe, you might well face it together.  So, while it is unlikely that you will both pass away before your children are grown, it is a possibility to prepare for.  If both you and your spouse pass away without naming a guardian for your children, a Court will decide who cares for your children.  The problem with this is that a Judge you’ve never met knows nothing about your children, your family and your values.  So, if you don’t appoint someone in your Will, the Judge will have to try her best to make a good decision for your children.  But she’ll make that decision without your input.  You can help protect your children by naming someone as their guardian whom you trust, who shares your love for your children, and who would instill in your children the same kind of values you and your spouse hold close.

Provide for Your Children’s Future.  A Will is the place to make sure you give your children a chance to responsibly use whatever assets and property you leave them.  Young parents often don’t have significant assets, so this is where the right life insurance policy can pick up the slack.  You can direct life insurance proceeds and your other assets to a trust.  Your Will creates that trust to hold assets for your children until they are old enough to handle finances responsibly.   Appoint a trusted friend or family member, called a Trustee, to oversee the assets for the benefit of your children until they are old enough to manage those assets themselves.  I often suggest that children might be allowed to take part of this inheritance from the trust outright at age 23, a little more at age 25, and the rest at age 27.  But, you know your children, and can set up the terms of the Trust to best protect and provide for them.

Leave a Spiritual or Life Testimony.  One of the great challenges and delights of parenthood is teaching your children about life.  If you or your spouse leave this world before your children are grown, you will unfortunately miss many teachable moments.  But, in your Will you can offer your children meaningful thoughts about life and spirituality, and it will be something they can always look to for guidance.   I often suggest a brief but thoughtful spiritual testimony or life testimony at the beginning of your Will- it will help to remind your children of your love for them, and to act as a guide as they move through life.

Children are an awesome blessing.  Hopefully you and your children will have a full, long and healthy life together.  You can enjoy that life all the more when you know you have protected and provided for your family with a simple, but powerful document- your Will.

About the Author

Neal Rice | Rice Law FirmNeal is a former Army Officer turned estate planning, real estate & business law attorney.  He is the founding attorney of the Rice Law Firm, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Outside of work, Neal enjoys time with his wife and family, serving his church, boating, traveling, and a good Philly cheese steak. You can email Neal at nrice@ricelegalfirm.com, or visit the Rice Law Firm.

This blog entry is for general information purposes only.  It is not intended to provide specific advice on individual legal, financial, or tax matters. It is not intended to and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Please consult an appropriate legal or tax professional for advice pertaining to your unique situation.