Death is not a pleasant topic. Discussing the subject is difficult even for couples who have been together for decades. Talking about making a will is not a conversation younger couples tend to even think about having. But for young couples with children, a will is important and necessary to prepare for the unexpected. No age is too young for couples to begin this conversation. A will has the ability to ensure that, should something terrible happen, your (minor) children will be cared for in the way that you, as a couple, decide is best.
Passing away without a will affects the succession of your property and the guardianship of your children. If one spouse passes away without a will, the other spouse inherits 50% of the property, and the surviving children will evenly divide the other 50%. This means that the surviving spouse will be required to manage not only the 50% of the property that is left to them, but also the 50% of the property that is divided evenly among the children while they are still minors. This division of property does not apply to foster children or to stepchildren. So, unless a will states otherwise, those children may not receive a share of your property.
And what about the guardianship of your children who are minors? If you have children under 18 years of age, then they must be issued a guardian. In the absence of an appointed guardian, if you pass away, your spouse is most likely to receive custody of your children. However, if your spouse passes away also, then laws that govern those without a will can – worst case scenario – have the state entrusted with the care of your children while still minors. While the discussion of guardianship may be an uncomfortable conversation to have with your spouse (for example: “these are the reasons why I believe that my sister would make a more suitable guardian than your brother”), it is necessary, so you can be prepared for the unexpected and your kids will be taken care of by people you choose to take care of them.
To recap: a will is always important, but couples with children – both young and old couples, especially need to create a will. The rules for those without wills are unforgiving and rigid. Your ideas for property division amongst your children may vary greatly, and those ideas should not be left voiceless. Your feelings concerning guardianship should not be unheard either. Young couples may feel discomfort, and that is natural. Conversations such as these are difficult. But do not let discomfort or procrastination keep you from ensuring the best future for your children.
Many of you will read this blog post and think that’s a good idea, but a terrible accident won’t happen to me or my spouse. So I don’t need to worry about a will right now. I’ll do it in ten years. Price & Keir is here for you now, call us at (410)528-7205 and we can send you an estate planning questionnaire, so you can start this important conversation now. Be prepared for the unexpected now so you don’t have to deal with the alternative…