How many people do you know that have lost a parent, loved one, or friend unexpectedly? I’m guessing even if you don’t know it, it’s more than a few. More than 1.9 million people under 18 have lost one or both parents.* No one is exempt from tragedy or unexpected loss. Yet many people are not only blindsided by the event, but also by the logistics and questions to answer in its wake. With all the decisions needed, don’t leave anything ambiguous about your care or the care of your children. Although estate planning is a decidedly unsexy topic, it’s something you need to think about. Once you have a baby on board you’re no longer only responsible for yourself. With only a quick trip to the lawyer’s office you can create a Will and a Living Will. You can rest easy knowing that your wishes are clear in the worst case scenario.
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WHO NEEDS A WILL
Although creating a Will and Living Will may seem morbid, formalizing your wishes is critical once you have children. Most lawyers recommend having at least these two documents signed as you enter adulthood. Especially once you are married and have children. It’s a misconception that you need to be rich to have a Will. If you care about distribution of your assets, or guardianship of your children – you need a Will.
LIVING WILL VERSUS LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
In case you’re wondering, these two documents are nothing alike. A Living Will is also known as an advanced directive. It’s the document that outlines your medical wishes and treatment preferences. In the event that you’re no longer able to make decisions for yourself, it provides guidance to your medical team. Once you’re married your spouse can legally make these decisions for you. It’s important to have the conversation in advance about what you’d want in certain scenarios. It also takes a lot of the guesswork and weight off the other person’s shoulders if the worst does happen.
A Will is shorthand for your last will and testament. This is the document that outlines how you’d like your estate to be distributed. You have a couple of options for managing your estate, including the use of a Will or Living Trust, and you should request more information from your lawyer if you have additional questions on which method is best for your situation. There are also many sites that provide the documents you need to create your own Will online. However, if you go that route you’ll need to ensure that it holds up in court.
WHY DO I NEED ONE?
To learn more about why you need both a Will and Living Will, check out some of these additional resources:
WHAT TO INCLUDE
Your Will doesn’t need to be complicated. You don’t need to plan for a year before you go and see your lawyer. The two important things to think about are distribution of assets and a guardian for any children. You can create separate letters outside the Will and leave them with the lawyer – or in a safe spot at home. The main benefit of using a lawyer is that you have peace of mind knowing your documents will hold up in court. You shouldn’t leave any ambiguity around who will care for your children.
Although decidedly un-fun, estate planning is critical to make decisions for your family in a worst-case scenario. Sitting down with a lawyer and making key decisions now provides confidence for the future. Although planning to hit your goals is a much more fun exercise, planning your child’s future in case you aren’t in it is just as important.
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Good luck mamma!