We are a young married couple with small children and few assets – do we really need a Will?
This a question I often get from young couples. When they ask it, they are usually thinking about it from the standpoint of the belief they don’t really have much in the way of assets so should they spend the money to have a Will prepared. Whatever they have will be divided among sibling, etc. and it really wont affect them.
The issue they often miss is that with a Will they can not only direct where their assets go but also ensure that their children are taken care of by someone they know and trust. Allow me to explain.
When you prepare a Will, Alabama law allows you to appoint a person or persons to serve as a Guardian for your children. What this means is that upon the death of both parents, the person you have named in your Will generally becomes the person responsible for raising and caring for your children and insuring that they have all of their needs met until they reach the age of majority (currently 19 years old). In the absence of a Will, any relative or friend can petition the Probate Court to be appointed the child or children’s Guardian and be appointed, even thought that is not the person you want to raise your child. While another person can petition the Court even though you have nominated one in your Will, unless the person you nominate is completely unfit to raise your child or children (not likely if you nominated them) then the Probate Judge will almost always appoint your nominee over any others.
In addition to allowing you to nominate a Guardian for your child or children, Alabama law allows you to set up a simple trust to hold any assets that go to your children. These are usually life insurance proceeds, investment accounts and the like. What you are allowed to do is set up the trust, select a trustee or trustees of your choosing, designate the powers the trustee has over the funds in the trust (for example they can be used only for education expenses), and designate the age at which the trust will terminate and the funds will be given to the child or children. This last power is important if you want to make sure the child or children do not get the funds until they are out of school or employed. It allows you the opportunity to make sure your assets are protected for your child or children after you are gone.
As you can see, there is much more a Will can do than simply divide your assets. It can give you a way to protect your child or children when you are gone and ensure that they are taken care of by someone you trust. So, back to the original question. When asked this question my usual answer is yes, you do need a Will for yourself and your children.
If you would like to discuss your options regarding preparation of a Will to protect your child or children, we will be glad to assist you. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a consultation.
The information contained in this article should be considered general in nature and does not constitute in legal advice. If you wish to obtain further information on the topic discussed, you should seek legal or other advice specific to your situation. Steven C. Sasser and Sasser Law Firm, LLC are licensed to practice in Alabama and this article should not be seen as an attempt to solicit legal services from outside of Alabama. No representation is made that the quality of legal services performed are greater than the legal services performed by other lawyers.