Drawing up a will isn’t exactly an enjoyable subject, but it is a critical one. Here’s everything you’ll need to know about how to draw up a will if you’re new to parenthood.
It’s definitely not something new parents enjoy contemplating. But having a will is one of the most critical things you can do to safeguard your family, and it’s particularly important to have one when you have children that are dependent on you.
Even the notion of drawing up a will can feel overwhelming. The following is everything parents new to parenthood should know to make the process of drawing up a will as streamlined as possible — and how to make sure it safeguards your family.
Why parents need a will
A will guarantees that your wants regarding your family and assets are implemented upon your passing. Each parent needs their own will. Here is the reason why:
- To designate the preferable guardian(s) of minor children.
- To determine how you want your assets allocated after you pass away. Not having a will, your estate will be managed in probate court. The court will establish how to allocate your property and assets, and the outcome might be different than what you wanted. When your child is a minor, the state court will designate an individual to hold and distribute funds until your child turns eighteen.
- To select an “executor,” or the individual (usually a spouse, an adult child or other close relative) that will distribute funds or manage your will when you pass away. This individual is in charge of overseeing that all your wishes are fulfilled, taxes and debts are satisfied and your property is allocated to the designated heirs, so choose an individual you trust completely and that can deal with the financial duties of managing an estate.
- To set up and execute a trust. In many cases, parents might want to set up a trust. This enables you to manage how and at what time your assets are distributed to your children. For instance, you may not want the children to have unrestricted access to their inheritance. If you set up a trust, your funds will remain in that trust and managed by another individual to be distributed as you think best during your children’s lifetimes.
Is a lawyer required to draw up a will?
You do not need a lawyer to draw up a will. Nevertheless, it’s wise to work along an estate planning lawyer that can help you navigate through the process and make sure you’re properly safeguarding your family. Indeed, the cost will be higher than drawing up a will on your own, but an attorney will guarantee you’re covering everything you need to, including some things you might not even know exist.
Here are some tips when deciding on a lawyer:
- Speak with more than one lawyer before deciding on the right one for you.
- Be sure your lawyer practices in wills, trusts and estates (also called estate planning).
- Estate laws differ by state, so be sure you pick a lawyer that is licensed in your state.
- Get a hold of your state bar association to ask for lawyer referrals.
If there is no way you can afford to hire a lawyer, it’s still a good idea to have some sort of will, even if you draw it up on you own. For a lot of individuals, a basic will that appoints an executor, designates a guardian, and details who receives what possessions is better than not having anything.
How to draw up a will
If you’re new to parenthood, your will should be draw up as fast as you can following your baby being born. It’s also wise to bring it up to date it when you have more children, or anytime you undertake a big life changes (like getting divorced or losing a spouse).
When you start preparing your will, here’s the steps you should bear in mind:
- Designate a legal executor or the individual that will “execute” your wishes as detailed in your will.
- Following that, you should conduct an inventory of your assets and debts. In essence, you’ll want to know exactly what you have and what is going to need to be paid off if you pass away.
- Decide on how you want to distribute your assets or who is going to inherit your estate.
- Speak with your designated guardian to make sure they understand and are willing to take care of your children after your passing.
- In addition to your will, think about a “living will”. This allows you to manage your end of life medical care. Your estate attorney can assist you in preparing the documents together with your will, because laws for living wills might differ by state.
- If you are worried about estate taxes, you might want to speak with a financial planner or a tax attorney. If your estate is large or complicated, this will also help.
- Have an attorney develop a will that is in accordance with your wants and your state’s laws.
- The will is required to be signed by you, while two witnesses (that aren’t named in the will) are present. You might also want it to get notarized.
How to decide on a guardian(s)
When drawing up your will, you should also decide on a legal guardian(s) that would have full custody of your child when you pass away. For a lot of parents, this is the most critical — and most likely also the most difficult — portion of the process.
You’ll want to decide on a guardian that you trust to bring up your children the way that you want them to be brought up. A couple of factors you might want to think about when considering who would make a good guardian includes their values, parenting type, religion and location, in addition to whether or not they’re financially able and physically capable to raise your children.
Additionally important: When you are a same gender couple, be sure you have a “second parent adoption.” Meaning that whether your same gendered relationship is acknowledged by the state you reside in, each parent will have legal custody of their respected partner’s adopted or biological child(ren) should death occur.
- Sara, N. (2019, August 05). How to Write a Will: A Guide for New Parents. Retrieved November 19, 2020, from https://www.whattoexpect.com/family/finances/how-to-write-will/
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