Do You Need A Will? The Importance of Estate Planning

December 31, 2015

By Jessica L. Foss

As published in the December 2015 issue of On the Minds of Mom. Reprinted with permission.

I recently tried googling to see what percentage of parents with minor children have wills. If you don’t have a will, I have some good news and some bad news for you. Good news – you are not alone. More than half of parents with minor children don’t have wills. MORE THAN HALF?!?! Bad news – that’s not an excuse to not get one. I’m sure most parents out there, are like my husband and I, in that there is nothing more important to us than our children. Period. (Although a glass of wine, after a long day of work and a long evening of getting kiddos bathed and put to bed, is a close second.) And while death, or the thought of it, either directly or indirectly, is an almost every day occurrence for me as a result of my occupation… I get that it’s not the most pleasant thing for people to think about it.

But chances are, you also probably get why having your will is so important. Your will is where you designate the guardian(s) of your minor children. For some couples, this decision is a no-brainer and you are both on the same page. For other couples, it is an extremely difficult decision and can involve disagreements and/or tears. Regardless, it is a decision that you have the power to make. If you don’t have your will done and a guardian is needed for your minor children, you just left that decision up to someone else.

For those of you who might struggle to make your guardian decision, I have one bit of advice – Try to remember, there is no one who is going to be just like you… you need to try and figure out who would take care of your children the next best. Also, think of who you want to name as an alternate guardian, in case the individual(s) you have chosen are unable or unwilling to serve as the guardian for you children.

Another thing to think about if you have minor children, is the fact that you probably don’t want your children to get their hands on everything at age 18 or 21. At least I know I was the type of 18 year old who shouldn’t have and I was a pretty good kid…. for the most part. If that’s the case, then you also likely want your will to include some trust provisions so that you can designate how much control your children should have over those assets and at what age they should have that control. And if your children don’t have complete control, who does until they are able to? Again, these are decisions that you have the power to currently make.

And if it turns out down the road, you change your mind of some of these decisions, as long as your competent and alive, you can change your will.

People often ask me why I went into estate planning. To be honest, I can remember watching an episode of Matlock that included a reading of the will at the age of 9-10ish and I knew then, that this is what I wanted to do. But I had no idea how rewarding of a job it would be.

For my clients, I try to make the process as comfortable as possible. Prior to meeting with me, I’ll have you fill out a personal and financial intake sheet. This information lets me get an idea of your wishes and personal situation so that I can provide you with advice. Once we meet and go through the information (all of which is kept confidential), I will have a better idea of what plan you want and can also then provide you with an estimate of costs.