One More Thing New Parents Need to Know About: Wills
As a new parent, you have a lot on your mind, including your baby’s future. You are probably thinking about all the wonderful times you will have with your child as you grow older together and you are at the beginning of a great new adventure with this wonderful new little human being. For all the love and affection you have for your child there is one other thing you need to consider: what happens if you are not there? At a minimum, you should consider these five things.
1. You should nominate a guardian and conservator just like you would a godparent. 
If you die before your child reaches 18, who is going to take care of your child and your child’s assets? If you do not decide who you wish to care for your child, the person who you think should do it may not be the person who does it. If you do not choose, a judge will do it for you. Finding someone you love and trust to step in your shoes as a guardian and conservator may be one of the most important decisions you ever make.
2.  You must appoint a personal representative in your will who you trust with the most precious parts of your life. 
If you die without a will a judge is going make some decisions for you.  The judge will have no input from you.  The judge will decide who takes care of your child.  The judge will decide who pays your last bills.  The judge will decide who gets what.  All the judge has to go by is statutes, not your intent.  When you write your will you need to appoint a personal representative you know, love and trust.
3.  Beneficiary designations will override your will. 
A lot of different accounts have what are called beneficiary designations. You should pay very close attention to the beneficiary designations on your accounts. If you name your children, the minute they turn 18 they will get all the money left in the account. I know that that all the money I received when I turned 18 is gone.  Had I been given a lot of money I would have blown it.  Financial accounts need to be considered when determining how your child’s property will be managed.  The simple beneficiary designation of your child might need to be rethought.
4.  You may decide that you need more than just a simple will. 
Now that you have had a child your life has become a little more complicated. Your estate planning will probably become a little more complicated too. As I mentioned above, you may not feel that allowing a child to have a large sum of money when they turn 18 is in that child’s best interests. You may simply want to assure that rather than blowing the money, your child should go to college. If you prepare your estate plan properly you can wrap up any inheritance your child might receive such that they can only use any inheritance for specifically stated purposes. You can also ensure that only your children will receive the money.
5.  If you do not clearly say what you want done, a probate court judge may do it for you. 
Wills and trusts are really just sets of instructions. When you prepare your instructions for those who step in on your behalf, those instructions need to be as clear as can be. If they are not clear as can be, a judge may have to settle any disagreements over what the instructions mean.
As new parents you know that you need to be prepared for the long term welfare of your child. Doing that may be just preparing a simple will. You may need more because there is more on the line now. It is therefore a good idea to talk to a competent estate planning lawyer so you can make sure you have the right plans in place to fulfill all of your goals. Estate planning for young families is one of the most rewarding things that I do. I would love to help you. Call or email today to set up your no obligation initial consultation to help prepare for your child’s future and protection.
Doug Thesenvitz
Thesenvitz & Mickelson, LLP
300 N. Dakota Ave. #603
Sioux Falls, SD 57104