Being a parent comes with countless responsibilities, and among them is the profound duty to ensure our children’s well-being, even in our absence. While contemplating life’s uncertainties can be daunting, failing to prepare can leave loved ones in sticky situations.
The Role of a Will in Your Child’s Future
Being a parent isn’t easy – it’s full of challenges, pitfalls, hooks, and snares. Chief among these points of friction is the duty you owe to keep them safe and secure…even when you’re no longer there to do it.
Life is fragile and unpredictable. While you might not want to spend time thinking about it, these uncertainties can, unfortunately, put you in a compromising position if you aren’t careful. Having a will in place allows you to care for your children with confidence, no matter what happens, says BabyCenter.
At its core, a will is a legal document that outlines your wishes and instructions regarding the distribution of your assets, the care of your dependents, and the management of your affairs after your passing. For parents, a will serves as a vital instrument to safeguard their children’s future.
While you can craft a will to do almost anything, the primary purposes include:
- Nominating guardians. Inside of a will, you’re able to designate someone to assume the role of guardianship for your children in the event of your demise. This is a trusted individual whom you assign to care for your children when you’re no longer able to. This is usually a family member or very close friend. (And it’s a good idea to let this person know that you’re nominating them as a guardian in your will prior to doing so.)
- Distributing assets. Your will is also a place to specify how you want your assets and properties divided among your children and heirs. This includes how much each child gets, which assets they get, and when they get them. For example, you might decide to split assets 50/50 among your two children, with each child getting a 10 percent distribution of their half each year starting at the age of 25 and ending when they turn 34.
- Preventing legal complications. A well written will can simplify all of the complicated legal processes that take place after your passing (such as probate). This can speed up the process, reduce stress on your family, and streamline all of the paperwork that follows.
- Avoiding family disputes. When you clearly outline all of your wishes and intentions, it lowers the likelihood of there being emotional conflicts and disputes among family members and loved ones.
A successful will is able to address each of these four areas (as well as anything else you’re hoping to accomplish), according to Parents.com. It’s no replacement for a child having their biological parents in their lives, but it’s the best gift you can give to a child in the unfortunate event that you pass away prematurely.
How to Nominate the Right Guardian for Your Children
As attorney Mickey Keenan explains, “A will gives you the power to determine who will be the guardian of your minor children and who will act as a personal representative, formally known as the ‘executor’ of the probate estate. You can generally revoke or amend your will at any time, as long as you are competent, and the legal requirements of execution are followed.”
Nominating guardians for your children through your will carries significant legal weight. While your wishes regarding guardianship are not binding on the court, they are given substantial consideration. To ensure your preferences are upheld, several key legal aspects come into play:
- Clear Intentions: Your will should express your intentions regarding the nomination of guardians explicitly. It’s essential to be specific about who you want to assume this responsibility.
- Backup Guardians: It’s prudent to nominate primary and backup guardians in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to assume the role. Some people even go so far as to nominate a tertiary guardian to play it extra safe.
- Talk with Nominees: Before including someone as a guardian in your will, it’s smart to discuss this decision with them. Ensure they are willing and able to take on the responsibilities associated with guardianship. Come into this conversation prepared to explain why you want to nominate them, why it’s important to you, and some of the basic expectations you would have if they ever had to step into that role.
- Legal Advice: Consult with legal professionals experienced in estate planning to ensure that your will’s provisions regarding guardianship are legally sound and compliant with local laws.
- Review and Update: Periodically review your will to ensure that your chosen guardians remain suitable for the role. Life circumstances can change, and your will should reflect your current intentions.
Adding it All Up
There are no guarantees in life. While the hope is that a child never has to bury their parents while they’re still living under their roof, unpredictable things happen. Being prepared with a will is one of the best things you can possibly do.
Now’s the time to make sure all of your wishes are documented.