For Mark Roberts’ Use: We generally think of a last will and testament as something that only concerns elderly people. However, the reality is that anyone with children should have a legal will in place, no matter what their health or financial circumstances may be. While it is not likely your children will outlive you, it does indeed happen sometimes, and it’s important to be prepared. Unfortunately, about half of all Americans families do not protect their children with a will*.
Those who don’t protect their children with a will list several reasons for not doing so, such as procrastination or feeling that it is unnecessary**. However, having a will is important for several reasons. If there is no will present upon your death, your child’s guardian will be selected by the court, taking that choice out of your hands. This person will also manage your child’s finances. If you choose to draft a will, you have the power to decide your child’s custody arrangement if something should happen to you, and you can name the same or a different person to oversee financial matters. If you have a retirement account, insurance policy, or any other financial assets, it’s important to specify a beneficiary whom you trust to manage the money until your child reaches an appropriate age.
Those who have children with special needs have even more reason to draft a will. In most cases a special-needs trust needs to be established, so that the child maintains eligibility for certain government programs that will help him or her, while also having access to income which will help with living expenses. These trusts are subject to complex rules and tax regulations, so it’s best to discuss your specific situation with a financial advisor before making decisions.
In many cases, a will does not need to be overly complex, and creating it should not be difficult or expensive. It’s a very simple step any parent should take to protect their child, and it can always be changed as your needs and lifestyle change. In fact, you should regularly review your will just be sure your current wishes are reflected, and to be certain you have addressed all of your child’s current needs.
*Yahoo! Finance, March 28, 2012
**AARP, May 1, 2012