Santa Cruz Estate Planning Attorney

Why Every Parent Should Have a Will

So many parents who would do anything for their children neglect something as basic as creating a will. It is amazing how something as simple as a will can offer so many advantages to parents who want nothing more than their children to live happy lives.

There is a level of commitment and dedication that only a parent could ever understand. Exchanging nights out with friends for sleepless nights . Afternoons that were once for shopping and visiting are now full of homework and trips to soccer practice. The big surprise is to see these parents actually smiling and enjoying all this new found responsibility. I watch these parents who happily give so much and I am surprised how many have not done something as basic as creating a will.

I understand creating a will is a challenging subject, especially when you have young children. It is something we all know we should have but there always seems to be a reason to put it off. Even as an attorney I always seemed to find an excuse. My wife and I probably talked about it a dozen times before we sat down and started working on our will. Looking back now we never really had a good excuse. When we finally decided to create a will I was surprised how simple the process was. We did not have any complicated goals to accomplish. No elaborate family trusts or tax shelters. We just wanted to make sure our children would be taken care of if something ever happened to us.

For us, the most important issue was to nominate guardians for our children. We are blessed to have multiple people who would be willing to care for our sons. We thought about each family member's financial situations, if they had children of their own and their current health before we decided. We made a choice that we thought would give our sons in the support, love and guidance they deserve.

We had an additional concern about nominating a guardian. Our sons are from different marriages and if something ever happened they will likely end up living in different homes. We needed to have something in writing to make sure they could continue their relationship even without us to hold them together. We added a clause to our will instructing any guardian to make sure our sons continued to play an active part in each other's life. This includes asking the court for visitation rights if necessary. This issue was something that bothered my wife and I greatly and we needed to know our sons would always be brothers.

After we were confident our sons would be taken care of, we had to make decisions regarding our property. Without a will our property would probably be inventoried and sold off with each heir getting a check for their share. My wife and I both have items with sentimental value that we want to pass down to our children. For me there are two things I feel this way about. The first is my parent's grandfather clock. It was a fixture of my childhood and one of very few things that survived my parent's divorces and financial hardships. That clock symbolizes some stability to me that I needed as a child and to this day it still puts me at ease and makes me feel at home. The second is an antique map my wife gave me a few years back. It is a map of Scotland showing where my family can be traced back to. Neither item is incredibly valuable, but I would be very saddened to know they were sold off instead of being handed down. By taking the time to think about our properties sentimental value we have a great opportunity to preserve some family heritage and give our loved ones something to remember us by.

The last thing for us to decide was who would take care of our final affairs. When a person dies they leave us with some sadness and many memories, but they also leave many tough decisions and responsibilities that need to be taken care of. Our final affairs include responsibilities like whether or not to pull the plug and handling financial obligations left behind. We never want to burden our loved ones with stress they cannot handle so it is important to make sure we choose wisely when we decide who will take care of our final affairs.

This whole process of creating a will was challenging. Discussing our children's lives without us there to protect them was very hard. However I came out of it with a piece of mind that my family would be taken care of no matter what happened. I see how much parents are willing to do for their children and the sacrifices they make on a daily basis. I urge every parent to do what comes so natural and protect your children by creating a will. An attorney can help you create a very affordable will and estate plan. If money is an issue you can find statutory and attorney drafted forms online to help create a simple will. There is no reason with all you give to your family that something this important should go undone.

DISCLAIMER: This article is meant only to provide information and is not intended as legal advice. If you have questions concerning your particular case you should make an appointment to talk to an attorney or mediator about your options. I would love to hear what other estate planning or familily law issues you find important.

Keith Dysart is a family law and estate planning attorney in Santa Cruz California. He is also the father of two wonderful children who motivated him to write this article.

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