It’s hard to talk about, but all parents should create a will, in case of an emergency. I recently consulted with two attorneys, Jill Goodman of Massachusetts and Kimberly Summers of New York, both mothers themselves, about the importance of wills and trusts. They shared their legal expertise with Piccolo Universe readers.
What will happen to our child if (worse case scenario) we pass away?
“If both parents pass away and there is no designated guardian, the court will decide what it thinks is in the best interests of the children,” says Goodman. “That could mean that mom’s crazy sister gets the kids because she seems the most appropriate according to a judge; but mom’s crazy sister may have ulterior motives or the kids don’t get along with her (because she’s crazy).” According to Goodman, if you don’t want a judge deciding who will raise your children, put together a will and make sure you follow all of your state’s laws regarding its validation.
What about finances?
“Anybody with minor children should set up a trust, which provides a framework for how the assets will be divided and when the children will receive disbursements,” says Goodman. “Without the trust, it’s quite possible that the children will have access to large sums of money before they are mature enough to handle it. If there’s a proper trust in place with a reliable trustee, Jr. won’t have access to the money, unless it’s for designated purposes (health, education, etc.), until he or a sibling hits a pre-designated age.” Because estate laws change frequently and require a specific legal language, Goodman recommends contacting an attorney to make sure everything is done properly.
Who gets copies of the will?
According to lawyer Kimberly Summers, generally, the will would go to the same lawyer that prepared it for the parents. “With my clients, I advise them to give a copy of their will to the person who is being appointed as guardian for the children, to their parents or another trusted family member, and to keep a copy in a safe place in their home.” She adds: “Each copy of the will should include my contact information (as the attorney who prepared the will) and to indicate where an original copy of the will is being stored.” Keeping a copy of the will with the attorney allows for a third party person, who is not a beneficiary or a party to the will, to attest to the wills authenticity if necessary and in the event that the will is in any way contested.
What additional advice do you have?
“I also advise that parents prepare a medical directive (living will) and durable financial power of attorney, which designate your wishes in the event of incapacity but not death,” says Summers. “Having these documents gives most parents a sense of security that, in the unlikely event something horrible does happen, their affairs and the care of their children will be taken care of in a way that will give them peace of mind.”