Why Couples with Young Children Need a Will
Article by Brian McMahon
The most common question I get from young couples (and single parents) when discussing estate planning is: “Do we need a Will – we don’t own anything?” My response is always the same: “Do you have a minor child?” If the answer is “yes,” then you certainly need a Will. At this stage in life, estate planning has more to do with “life planning” than “estate planning.”
The main reason couples with minor children and single parents need a Will is that it gives them a chance to name their choice of guardian for their child in the event of a premature death. Although the Court is not bound by this choice, it will provide a high level of deference so long as your choice of guardian is reasonable and your choice is otherwise legal. (For example, the surviving parent in cases of divorce will likely be appointed instead of the person you choose.)
Your Will is also where you can create a testamentary trust to name the person (the “trustee”) who will handle the assets your minor child inherits from you, however minimal they may be. The choice of guardian and trustee can be the same person or a different person. Sometimes it makes sense to name a person who lives in the same school district and/or has a child themselves of similar age to your child (perhaps even your child’s friend) as your choice of guardian. But maybe that person isn’t the “best with money” or doesn’t share your philosophy regarding money as much as another person you could choose. In that case, you can nominate one person to serve as guardian and another to serve as the trustee.
More times than not, however, I typically recommend the same person be named both guardian and trustee to avoid an undue financial burden that could be placed upon the guardian if issues arise between the guardian and the trustee. After all, my guess is you will agree with me that your child is worth more than any amount of money.
Having a durable power of attorney to make financial decisions and another to make medical decisions, in the event you are unable to do so yourself, is equally as important as having a Will if you have a minor child. These two power of attorneys are relevant whether you are single, married, with children or not. In fact, if you are age 18 or older, you need these two power of attorneys. To learn more about power of attorneys, read Kreis Enderle attorney Ryan Conboy’s recent blog.
The well-being of your child is not something to leave to chance. Make sure you are prepared for unforeseen situations so they don’t catch you off guard.