Writing a Will When You Have Children: The Four Essentials You Need to Consider

It's misleading to assume you only need a will if you have a large estate. If you have children, you need a will regardless of what size your estate is. Are you wondering what you need to include in your will, regarding your children? Here are some essential issues to consider.

1. Guardianship

First and foremost, if you have children, a will allows you to name a guardian for them. Imagine how terrible it would be for your children if you died. That grief can become even more complicated if guardianship is not clear and the family begins to fight over who gets the children (or even worse, if nobody wants the children and the fight is over who "has" to have them").

Naming a guardian helps to eliminate those issues. You may want to talk with your children about whom they want to be their guardian, and you should talk to the individual or couple you plan to appoint as guardian.

2. Property

If you have any property, you should also specify who gets that in your will. In some cases, you may want to leave the property directly to your children, and in other cases, you may want to leave property to the individual who you have named as guardian of your children so they have funds to take care of the children.

Note that if you have life insurance policies or retirement accounts, the person you name as the beneficiary on those accounts may supercede the name you list on your will. To avoid issues after your death, make sure you've named the same person on all the documents.

3. Trust

You can't use a will to set up a trust, but an attorney who specialises in wills may be able to help you set up a trust. If you want to put any restrictions on the inheritance, you most likely need a trust. For instance, imagine you own your house outright, and if you die, you want the proceeds of the sale to go into an education fund for your children. You need a trust to outline those specifics.

4. Step children

Intestacy laws come into effect if you don't have a will, and in most cases, these laws distribute your estate based on which relatives are the most closely related to you. Although the specifics can vary from area to area, step children are usually not included. To ensure your step children get access to your estate, you should write a will that includes them. Without a will, they may be left in the cold.