Protect Your Kids With a Last Will and Testament

Questions Parents Should Ask When Preparing a Last Will and Testament

A picture of a person writing a last will and testament
••• Photo © Image Source / Getty Images

Preparing a last will and testament isn't exactly fun for parents. It forces you to make serious decisions that aren't pleasant to talk about with your loved ones. Learn how a last will and testament protects your kids and gives you the power of the final say.

Start preparing for a meeting with an estate planning attorney by asking yourself these questions:

Do I really need a will?

About 50% of people with kids die before creating a last will and testament, according to a survey from RocketLawyer. Without a will, the state steps in to distribute your assets instead of you having your final say.

Keep control over your own wishes. Take the time to learn why a last will and testament is your first step in making sure your family will be cared for if you pass away.

Who will take care of my kids?

It's difficult to to think about your kids losing one of their parents. What would they do if they lost you both? When planning your last will and testament, you and your spouse need to choose a guardian to raise your children if something should happen to both of you at the same time.

Talk it over with the guardian you plan to appoint so it's not a surprise to them at a will reading. Think about naming a backup guardian just in case your primary choice changes her mind or becomes unable to care for your children.

How do I want my children to be educated?

Your kids may be homeschooled. Would you want part of your estate to pay for a tutor to continue their homeschooling? If your kids are in private school, should a portion of your estate cover their tuition?

Paying for your children's academic needs doesn't stop there. Part of your estate can be tucked away for their college tuition.

Your will can spell out your wishes for your children's education. It's also part of the estate planning process that keeps your kids from blowing their inheritance on a sports car instead of college tuition when they turn 18.

How will my special needs children be taken care of when I'm gone?

Your special needs children have unique circumstances compared to other kids. If you pass away without establishing a Special Needs Trust, you could be jeopardizing their future government benefits and ability to pay for medical care.

A mere $2,000 inheritance can make your special needs child ineligible for future supplemental security income (SSI) benefits and possibly Medicaid under federal law 42 USC 1396p, according to this article from a law firm. A Letter of Intent and advanced estate planning are the first steps to help ensure your child will be taken care of well into adulthood.

How do I want my children to receive their inheritance?

A parent's life insurance policy may call for the money to be distributed equally among the kids. There's more to the process than splitting it and passing out cash.

You have several options to choose from when you're preparing your will to cover your minor children. Attorney Julie Garber says minors can't legally inherit property.

This is something you need to consider when planning out your will. Weigh each option carefully to make sure your children inherit everything you want them to have when they can legally take possession.

What lifestyle changes would I have to make if my spouse passed away?

This is an especially important question for stay-at-home parents to discuss with their partners. If something happened to the spouse bringing in the paycheck, is the inheritance going to be divided so the at-home parent wouldn't have to enter the workforce? For some families, it simply may not be possible for the stay-at-home parent to financially support the household without a job.

Purchasing a life insurance policy can help you continue life as normally as possible if one of you should pass away. When deciding who will inherit what and when, you and your spouse also need to discuss how much money you would need right now to sustain your lifestyle as it is today.

What changes have occurred in my life since my last will?

If you already have a last will and testament, review it at least once a year. There are many reasons why you may want to revise your will.

The birth of a new baby, a charitable cause that's touched you or a marital status change are all life changes that can affect your feelings about your current will. Even a simple move to another state can make your will invalid.