By Lorie Burch, Owner & Founding Attorney of Burch Law
Hi, Lorie Burch here, your go to Wills & Trusts attorney. And we’re going to talk about what every parent needs to know about Wills! Obviously, you love your children and you’d do anything for them. But many parents don’t realize the dangers of not having a Will and other legal planning, or not doing it correctly (like online!). So let’s address 3 things every parent should know about Wills!
First, what happens to my kids without a Will? Well, believe it or not, but your children will become wards of the state and a court will determine who will raise your kids. Your family could end up in court fighting over the kids, or they could end up with a stranger. The court will also determine who will over see any of your money for your kids, and that money will go into the court registry and be given to your children at age 18, not the most responsible age. With a Will, you can make all these decisions, you can even choose family members to EXCLUDE from raising your kids or handling your money!
Second, every parent should understand the difference between a guardian and trustee. A guardian is who you would take care of your kids until they reach age 18. A trustee is who would oversee any money or property they inherit from you. They make sure money is used for their health, education, and over all care. You pick what age or ages you believe your kids would be old enough to handle money on their own. Most parents pick around ages 25 to 30, but it’s really your choice. And you do not have to pick the same people as guardians as trustees, that is a very individual decision that your attorney can guide you through. The good news for single parents is while you can’t necessarily prevent your ex from being guardian, you can ensure that they don’t control any of your money for your kids!
Finally, the last tip I would give to parents is NOT to do this planning online or DIY. There are many reasons, but I’m going to discuss two that are specific to parents: The first is that you have no one advising you on how to set up your beneficiaries on life insurance, retirement, and investments, because anyone you designate there will override your Will AND trust. And, listen to this, the worst thing you can do is name a minor child as beneficiary. The second worst thing you can do is name whomever you think will use it for your children, because there are no guarantees and how can you be sure that your money will be used for your kids if something happens to the person you name? And since that will be seen as a personal asset of theirs, if they get sued or file for bankruptcy, say goodbye to the money that should be helping your kids! Your attorney can make sure that your beneficiaries are coordinated with tying into your Will or Trust.
And the second reason not to use online forms, is you are not aware of other planning that may be necessary. For example, while a Will can cover guardianship of your children if you pass away, what if you are in an accident or incapacitated or traveling and unavailable? There is no one automatically designated by law to step in for your kids. There is; however, a document, a Designation of Health Care Agent for Children, that can be created to cover such situations.
Bottom line, you are not aware of all the considerations and your options unless you consult an attorney.
Look, I have kids, (started later in life, 40 year old story) and exhausting as it is, they mean everything to me, and I know these decisions are hard and you don’t exactly have a lot of extra time to get legal documents in place. But your kids are counting on you to take care of them, whether you’re here or not. Let’s get this process started by scheduling a complementary consultation.
Because, if you don’t have a Will, the state of Texas has one for you!