That is an extremely important question. One I have had to ponder for myself and one that I can guarantee many of us don’t have the answer to. Death is not an easy topic to think about, much less plan for. However, when you have young children, I believe it is your responsibility as a parent to plan your children’s care in the case of your death.
In Texas, I like to say that there are two ways that you can die: 1) Testate (with a will) or 2) Intestate (without a will).
WHAT IS A WILL?
A will is a legal document that lays out your desires regarding the distribution of your property. In other words, it is your opportunity to decide what happens with your property. If you die without a will, then your wishes will not be fulfilled and your property will be distributed according to Texas intestacy laws.
DO I NEED A WILL?
If you have young children, then YES, you NEED a will! Even if you don’t have many assets, one of the most important things you can do with a will is name a guardian for your children if you were to die.
BENEFITS OF A WILL
There are many benefits to a will. The first is that you get to dictate what happens to your property. Next, a will can reduce family conflict, although maybe not all family conflict. Unfortunately, when people die and plans aren’t put in place for the distribution of their property/children, this can lead to many disputes, even among families. I see this all too often in probate law. A will can also save you money in the long run. Without a will, your legal heirs may be forced to spend additional time, money, and emotional energy to settle your affairs after your death.
WHAT ABOUT MY CHILDREN?
A common misconception about wills is that they deal only with property. Although property is the majority of what is distributed in a will, most people don’t realize that a will can also be used as a tool to determine the care of any minor children after you die.
HOW DO I CHOOSE A GUARDIAN?
As if preparing in case you were to die is not stressful enough, choosing a guardian for your children can also be a difficult decision. Parenting is a long-term job. When choosing a guardian, a parent should consider their family’s values and their child’s present experiences. For example, moving a child to an entirely new city or even school could be extremely stressful for a child, especially after losing their parents. Also, consider the values that are important to you and who reflects those values. Religion can be such a value. In many instances, many people choose family members to serve as their child’s guardian, usually someone that is already close to their child. However, not everyone will have that option due to age or health conditions. If an option within your family is not available, a family friend can be a good alternative. Think about people presently in your family’s life such as a friend or family from church, school, your neighborhood or even old friends you still keep in touch with and spend time with.
It is a good idea to get a list of potential candidates. Once you have that list, it is recommended to sit down and talk with them about serving as your child’s guardian. Taking on an additional child or children is an enormous responsibility, so a discussion about this would allow a person or family to say no if they are unable to undertake such a responsibility. It’s also a good idea to name a second or even third choice for guardianship in the event one is unable to serve. The purpose of a will is to prepare and to list a second or third option would be to fully prepare.
WHAT IF I DON’T CHOOSE A GUARDIAN?
If you don’t choose a guardian for your children, you are placing this decision with the state of Texas and possibly risk your children being placed in foster care at some point.
Choosing a guardian for your children in the event of your death is a parent’s responsibility and duty. Doing so, creates a peace of mind knowing that your children will be taken care of, especially if you are travelling.
Let us at Zarazua Law help you fulfill this duty and be prepared. You owe it to yourselves and you owe it to you children.
Contact us today at (210) 538-2786 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free consultation and ensure that your children are taken care of.