We do have Au Pairs and lots of family and friends to help us raise our children, but what would you really want to happen for your family if something were to happen to you? When writing your will, keep in mind who will care for your children after you’re gone.
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Start by making a separate legal will for each parent: Joint wills don’t make a lot of sense, even if it seems more efficient to create just one document. A joint will binds the survivor to the provisions of the will, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for the surviving parent to change his or her mind if circumstances change radically.
Next, make sure you name your spouse or partner as your sole beneficiary. Otherwise the court might divide your property between your spouse and kids and appoint a state administrator to oversee your children’s property until each one turns 18. Name your children as alternate beneficiaries in case you and your partner pass away at the same time.
State that your spouse or partner is to be the guardian of your children in case one of you dies. Then name someone else as an alternate guardian in case your spouse is unwilling or unable to care for your children. Spelling it out prevent someone from coming forward and disputing the custody of your children. If you don’t name a guardian, anyone who’s interested can ask for the position, leaving a judge to decide what’s best for your children.
Choosing a guardian is probably the most difficult task for parents. It’s hard to imagine anyone else parenting your children. But it’s also one of the most important things you can do to ensure your children’s future well-being. To find out what questions to ask yourself and how to make this decision, see our article on choosing a guardian.
You should also name a trustee – someone to manage whatever property you pass on to your children until they become legal adults. If you don’t name a trustee, the court will do it for you.
You can choose one person as both the guardian and trustee or choose two different people. Experts disagree on the best way to handle this. Some say it’s easier to choose the same person to care for your children and their money, while others warn that people who make good parents may not be the best at handling money. Think this one through and talk it over with your partner.