A will is crucial even if you don’t have a lot of money or property to pass along because it’s where you designate a guardian for your child. If you die without a will naming a guardian, a court will appoint one, and he or she could be the last person you would ever have chosen.
The guardian you pick may be a relative or friend. You may want to name an alternate guardian, too, just in case your first choice is unable to take on the job.
Choosing a guardian is not easy for some. Mary from New Orleans, a mother of three, says she and her husband have been planning to create a will for years. “Part of the problem is that we have no idea who would be guardians for the kids if anything happened to us,” she said. One mother of two from Eastchester, N.Y., says she and her husband don’t have a will simply because they can’t agree on a guardian.
But a serious medical experience prompted Carolina, a mother of two young children, to make a will “so we are ready in case our kids need to be without us,” she says.
Your will may also give the guardian authority to manage whatever money you leave your child, until the child reaches the age of majority—18 years, in most states. If your estate is large or money management isn’t one of your guardian’s strong points, you may want to entrust a more finance-savvy person, or a financial institution such as a bank, with that authority.
Whatever you decide, don’t forget to sound out any prospective guardians before naming them in your will. Being a guardian can be a huge, long-lasting responsibility. In other words, it’s a lot like being a parent.