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Wills and estate planning

Putting together an effective will when you have kids

Creating your will is important, especially when you have children. Read this article to learn the basics about wills, such as what to put in it and how to make it legally binding.
When you're having a baby, it's time to get serious about putting together your will. If you died tomorrow, this legal document would tell your family and the courts what you want to happen with your children. There are a few key points to keep in mind when working with your attorney.

What to put in your will

When creating a will, you should lay out the plan for your children and your property after you die. First, you should name a guardian for your young children. This is the person who would raise your kids. If you name your spouse as the guardian, it's a good idea to pick a second person as a back-up in the unlikely event you and your spouse were to die together.

You should also say who will inherit your property. Will your children get everything or do you want some money/assets to go to other people? For the inheritance that is going to your children, do you feel comfortable having their guardian control the money on their behalf? While this could work, another option is to pick a separate person to manage these funds. In other words, one person takes care of your kids while another person takes care of their money.

You may also want to include instructions for your funeral arrangements and possible medical situations. For instance, what would you want to happen to you if you were in a coma? Finally, your will should name someone as the executor. This is the person who processes your will and makes sure to carry out your instructions.

How to make a will legally binding

To make your will legally binding, you typically need to sign the document in front of two other adult witnesses. In many states, the witnesses can't be set to inherit anything from your will. As an extra precaution, you could also have your will notarized by a notary public, though this isn't required. When you sign your will, you need to have the “capacity” to do so, which means you are of sound mind and body.

Keep your family informed

It's important to keep your will in a safe place that your family will easily be able to find after you're gone. Your family will be dealing with enough stress already. Things will be even worse if they can't find your will, because this might delay the inheritance process. A good place for your will is your bank's safety deposit box. Just make sure your family has access to the box.

Is a basic will enough?

This article lists only some basic guidelines for preparing a will when you have children. You might need to do more planning if you are leaving behind enough property to be charged estate tax. This means you are leaving behind an inheritance of more than $5.45 million. If this is the case, and particularly if you want to give very specific instructions for how your property will be passed on, then you may want to consider setting up a trust or a trust fund as part of your planning process.



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