You’ve created your baby registry and decorated the nursery. Diapers and wipes are stocked and your birth plan is at the ready. You’re all set for baby, right? Not so fast. If you and your partner haven’t made time to create a will, you may be missing a crucial step in preparing for your child’s future.
A will is a legally binding document that lays out provisions for divvying up your estate once you’ve passed away. Sure, it’s not a pleasant thought – but it’s the responsible thing to do to ensure your family and your possessions are handled the way you like when you die.
In your will, you and your partner will appoint loved ones to inherit your bank accounts, real estate and any other prized possessions. Most importantly, creating a will gives you the opportunity to designate who will be your child’s legal guardian, should both you and your spouse pass away.
Without a valid will, you could be leaving your children’s financial future in the hands of a stranger. In some states, a government-appointed administrator will safeguard your children’s financial accounts until they turn 18. Should your partner survive you, that could leave him or her in a lurch, having to jump through bureaucratic hoops to unfreeze your money to help care for your children. If you and your partner both die without a legal will, the state, in partnership with social services, will appoint a guardian to your children – and it may not be the person you would’ve chosen. While it’s best to consult with a family lawyer before finalizing your will. But to get you started, we have a few pointers:
In most states, a legally binding will need not be notarized or approved by any government entity. That means, you can certainly go the do-it-yourself route and create a will at home. If that’s your preference, we suggest visiting your local library for a few books to guide you through the process.
For a budget-friendly option that still gives you the peace of mind of working with a professional, bring in a family lawyer to look over your work once it’s done.
What to include
- List your assets, from bank accounts and life insurance to real estate and jewelry. Decide who you want to inherit each of these items – and if there’s an age you’d like your children to hit before they can accept their inheritance, include that too.
- Appoint a legal guardian for your children.
- Appoint an alternate legal guardian for your children in the event your first choice is unable to accept the role.
A valid will must:
- Be typed
- Be signed and dated in the presence of two witnesses not included in the document
- Include a statement recognizing that this is your will
Have you and your partner thought about creating a will together? Share your experience in the comments below.