By: Amanda Flores
The old adage “better safe than sorry” is appropriate for young families considering setting up an estate plan. Though some families do come in to set up their estates, most of the people considering planning their estate are older and have children who are already adults. With the average life expectancy soaring into the upper seventies, it becomes easy for young people to fantasize that they will live forever. Though wills are the most beneficial and crucial for families with young children, healthy young families are some of the least likely people to draft wills.
Most people know that a Last Will and Testament is the document that allows a person to state where his or her assets will go upon death. Many people don’t realize, however, that arguably the most important clauses of a will are the provisions related to minor children.
Important Reasons to Draft a Will:
Appoint a Guardian for your Children: A standard will allows a person to appoint a guardian and alternate guardian for minor children. The guardian is the person or persons responsible for raising those children if, heaven forbid, the children were minors when the parent passed away. Absent a will stating a preference for a guardian, family and friends may face endless court battles over who could be the appropriate guardian for those children if both parents pass away while the children are minors.
Protect Assets Left for your Children While They Are Young: Imagine inheriting a huge sum of money the day you turn eighteen. Though some teens are very responsible, many if not most people would probably make some pretty extravagant purchases and blow through any large amount of money pretty quickly at such a young age. Absent a will, then legally a minor beneficiary may inherit a full disbursement of his or her share upon reaching the age of eighteen. A will allows a person to set up a testamentary trust. Through this trust the parent can appoint a trustee to manage any inheritance for the minor child until an age set by the parent when the child ultimately could receive a full disbursement. Until reaching the age set by the parent in the will, the trustee appointed by that parent could still disburse funds for education and standard living expenses without disbursing a huge sum of money all at once.
Choose a Personal Representative: In a will a parent can appoint the person who will serve as Personal Representative (as well as an alternate or two). This person would carry out necessary steps of handling the estate including the court process, notifying beneficiaries, guardians, and trustees, wrapping up loose ends, and providing disbursements to other family members if necessary. Though Arizona law provides a natural order of people who can serve as personal representative absent a will, the order by law may not be the order the person would typically choose.
Open a Dialogue: The decision to draft a will provides an opportunity to open up a dialogue with family members. Though often this subject can be a difficult one to broach, having this discussion now saves so much stress and heartache between family members in a time of grieving in case something were to happen.
Of course there are many benefits to drafting a will, but those discussed above are the benefits for young parents. Many law firms offer free consultations for estate planning. A lawyer will make sure the will is signed, notarized, and witnessed, and will tailor the will to the needs of the client. Drafting a will is a relatively inexpensive process, and really saves a great deal of uncertainty, stress, and potential fighting in a time that can be filled with grief and heartache. While it can be comfortable for young people to think they’ll live forever, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Amanda Flores is an attorney at The Carroll Law Firm, a family-owned, general practice law firm. She lives in Anthem with her husband, Paul, and their two and a half year old daughter, Abigail. She also is involved in many community organizations including Anthem Young Professionals.