Creating a Will, Choosing Guardianship is a Must for Parents

Filed under: Divorce & Custody, Relatives

Creating a will is something all parents should do. Credit: lrargerich, Flickr

The baby has arrived, the room is decorated and you've got diaper changing down pat. But have you created a will?

It's a question that may strike you as maudlin, but experts say every parent should have a will and make guardianship decisions. As unpleasant as it sounds, if you don't get it in writing, a judge will be left to decide who raises your child if the unthinkable happens.

Draining as the process might seem, creating a will and guardianship papers is pretty easy to pull together.

First, find a lawyer. Check with family, friends or even a local parenting list serve for recommendations and make an appointment. Lawyers are necessary because of the legal nature of the will and guardianship papers.
The lawyer will want to know about your assets: Do you own a home, have life insurance or any other property?

You'll also be asked to decide on a guardian for your child. It's a horrible thing to contemplate, but it's in your child's best interest and putting it off can have negative consequences.


It can be hard to agree with your spouse about whose family member or friend will be responsible for your kids. Start by making a long list of any potential guardians together, then go through the list and cross off anyone who is unacceptable to either parent, says Maryland/Washington, D.C. attorney Matt Kaiser. You should be left with two to three names, and that's when the serious discussions begin.

Be sure to look at the age and health of your potential guardian because a grandparent can fall ill in a few short years, leaving your choice in flux, cautions Kathleen Belmonte, president of the National Association of Estate Planners. If you want to pick an aunt or uncle, look at their situations as well. Are they single or thinking of getting married? Do they already have a large family? Do they share your values?

Once you agree on someone, don't forget to ask the person if they are willing to take on the responsibility of raising your child. Don't worry about making a perfect decision. No matter what, it's probably better than the one a judge would make without a will, Kaiser says.

Once the will and guardianship papers are signed, there are a couple of things left to do. Put the will someplace safe (like a fire-safe box) and make sure someone outside the home can access it. Re-evaluate it whenever there is a significant life change in a family relationship, or a big change in a financial situation due to inheritance or a new job.

Sure, it's no fun to contemplate death. But the consequences of ignoring it are even worse.

Related: Have You Named a Guardian for Your Child?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.