Why every parent needs a will
Plenty of people assume that estate planning is for the ill or elderly and cannot imagine why they would need to go through the process as a healthy person in their 20s, 30s, or 40s. However, this misconception about who “needs” a will and other estate plan documents has the potential to wreak havoc on a child’s life. Why? Because in California, if a minor child is left orphaned by parent(s) who did not create a will (died intestate) designating a guardian, the court will be left to appoint a guardian for that child. It is often a grandparent or other relative and they try to choose the best-suited person, but you will not be there to advocate for a specific person to care for your child. What if you know exactly who you want as your child’s guardian? Or if you know exactly who you would not want to be guardian? You need a will if you want to choose who takes care of your child if you were to die before they reach 18.
When planning for you and your children’s futures, here are some things to consider:
- Make a list of all of your assets, including bank accounts, real estate, life insurance, personal property, and investments
- Decide whom you want to inherit what–and when (you might want your son to inherit his grandfather’s watch when he turns 16, but you know he could not manage savings and a household until he was at least 25)
- Choose a guardian for your child
- When deciding who will be the best fit to be a guardian for your children you want to consider three major issues: love, capability and aptitude. Needless to say, no one will love your children like you do, however, do consider family and friends who will come close.
- For most parents, they already have people in mind who they know love their children, but you need to consider if your friend or family member has the capability to be a guardian to your child. Specifically, do they have the time, financial flexibility and commitment to take on the role? Your sister may love your kids, but if she is the on-call heart surgeon at the county hospital, she likely does not have the flexibility in her job to be able to accommodate caring for your three children at this time. Similarly, your parents may adore their grandchildren, but they are not as young as they were and could not chase after your five-year-old, nor could they handle your teenager and her obsession with all things Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
- Even if you have someone in mind who is capable, you also need to consider whether they have the aptitude. You adore your best friend and you know she would take the best possible care of your child, but she is terrible with money. She might not have the aptitude to manage the money you set aside for your child’s care. You could divide the role of guardian and have her handle the day-to-day care of your child, but perhaps you put your other friend, who is a CPA, in charge of the estate and/or trust.
- Choose an alternate guardian in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to do it
- Choose who you want to handle the assets you leave to your children, if different from the guardian you who would handle the day-to-day care of your child.
Please contact our office at (408) 286-2122 / (714) 276-2788 to schedule your complimentary consultation to discuss your estate planning options. It can be a challenge to decide who to name as guardian, but the worst thing you can do is wait and not have the right people in place when your kids need them the most.
All materials have been prepared for general information purposes only to permit you to learn more about our firm, our services and the experience of our attorneys. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, and may be subject to change without notice.