Do It For Your Kids (Or: Why You Need a Will)

Do It For Your Kids (Or: Why You Need a Will)

Let's suppose you're a young parent. You're in a stable marriage with the love of your life. You've got two happy, healthy kids who love you to death. You're just starting out and you don't own much, and pretty much everything you own would go to your spouse when you die. So why get a will? You don't really need one, right?

Sure, there are a bunch of reasons you don't need a will right now. You don't have that much to pass on to your kids. Your spouse would inherit everything anyway, so what's the point?

The answer is two words: your children.

Let's say you decide to take a weekend getaway with your spouse. Maybe you're driving down to a little cottage on the lake for some peace and quiet. The kids are staying home with their grandparents. It's going to be a fun weekend, and it ultimately is. You have a blast, and start heading home on Sunday afternoon.

But as you're driving back, a car swerves across the road and hits you head on. Both you and your spouse are killed by a drunk driver who started drinking early on a Sunday.

What happens to your kids? Who is going to take care of them?

Well, that depends. If you don't have a will in place, it's largely out of your hands. In an ideal world, someone in the family would step in and everyone else would agree on it. But we don't live in an ideal world and things can always go sideways. Grandma and grandpa may decide they are too old. Brothers and sisters may not be in a position to financial support another child. The state might think the kids are better off with someone you would never have chosen.

But if you have a will and have discussed guardianship of your children with the person you name in your will, you will ultimately have much more control over what happens than if you simply let the court and your family sort things out. You can establish a trust so what you do have is kept safe for your children in the future and not squandered by the court-appointed guardian or the estate itself.

That is why even young families need a will. If something horrible happens, it is infinitely better to have left behind some kind of guidance as to who will take care of your children. The other option is a protracted legal issue, possible foster care, and unwanted involvement by the state.

That's why you need a will. Not for your stuff. For your kids.