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Elder Law and Estate Planning Blog - Lancaster, PA

Monday, July 29, 2013

Every New Parent Needs a Will

Every single parent needs a will.  It is the single most important thing you can do to make sure your child is cared for by the people you want to care for them, should anything happen to you.  In your will, you not only designate who gets your inheritance, but you also name a person to care for your children if you die before they become legal adults.  And you can choose a person to be guardian of the property or trustee to manage your money for your children until they reach adulthood.  One person can act in these roles, or you can choose separate people.
Without a will, there’s no guarantee that when you die your money will go where you want or that your children will be cared for by the person you believe will do the best job.  This may not seem like a problem as the Pennsylvania laws want to assure that a surviving spouse and children are taken care of, but it still doesn’t distribute the money exactly how you might want.  If you die, leaving your spouse and children, your spouse will get the first $30,000 plus half of the remaining estate.  Your children split the remainder of the estate, leaving your spouse to jump through legal hoops if he/she wanted access to that money to raise your children.  Additionally, if you and your spouse both pass without a will, the state decides who will look after your children.  This person may be the same person you would have named, but it also could be someone you aren’t comfortable leaving your children with.  You should create a will if only to name a guardian.
Creating a will also gives you options on how to leave property to children, especially children who are still minors.  Some of the most common ways include property guardianship, a custodial account (known as Uniform Transfer to Minors Act, or UTMA), or a trust fund.  Talking with an estate planning attorney, who knows all the available options and how your state treats each of them, will provide you with the best way to leave your property to your children.

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