This post was inspired by a recent memorial service. The young father was a wild land firefighter – a dangerous profession. You might assume he died in a fire, but that was not the case. A fatal car crash took his life. He left behind a wife and young daughter.
Life becomes extremely busy with the addition of a baby. Balancing work obligations, child care and maintaining a home can take all your time. This story, however, illustrates how important it is to have a will and estate plan. It is not difficult to do.
The cornerstone of any estate plan is the will. It includes a set of instructions that your personal representative will follow and allows you to name a guardian who would care for your minor children.
How to choose a guardian
If you die without a will and your spouse survives, custody automatically falls to your spouse. Married couples still need to select a guardian, because something could happen to you both.
When raising a child on your own, the guardianship designation is the most important element of a will.
Consider these questions when deciding who to list as a guardian:
- Is the person physically capable? For instance, could your children’s aging grandparents handle full-time care?
- Does the potential guardian have the financial stability?
- How would your children fit into the guardian’s family?
- Do you have similar beliefs about discipline?
- Would your child or children have to relocate and change schools?
A sibling, cousin or close friend is often a good choice. You may then offer to be a guardian for their children. Prior to designating a guardian, have a conversation and ensure the person or family is willing to accept the responsibility.
If a close friend is great with children, but not very good at managing finances. You can always designate a different person to handle your child’s inheritance.
You owe it your young children to have a will that protects their best interests. Getting a will in place solidifies your transition to adulthood where you must deal with tough subjects.
Including a health care directive and powers of attorney ensure your loved ones know your final wishes and avoid HIPAA restrictions.
Review your will and guardian choice when you have more children. If you move away from Colorado or move to Colorado from another state, you should also have an attorney familiar with state law review your will.