It seems like there are babies and young children everywhere I look nowadays.  I’ve found myself giving the following advice repeatedly, so I thought I’d post it here for everyone’s benefit:

Protect Your Baby.  Prepare a Will.

Having a new baby will likely be one of your most wonderful and rewarding experiences. But planning for a baby means planning for both the good and the bad. Unfortunately, the “bad” may include your death or permanent disability while your child is still young.

If you want ensure that your children will be raised and provided for in the way you intend, you need to seriously consider creating a will that states who should take care of your children and their finances.

Undoubtedly, it’s best practice to prepare a will after the birth of your first child, and update the will before the arrival of any more children. Without a will, the state will decide who will care for your children and how your money will be divided, and there are no guarantees that the state will follow your wishes.

Before preparing a will, there are a few questions you must answer:

Who will be your child’s guardian?
Perhaps the most important question for parents when drafting legal wills is the question of who will be the child’s guardian. Think carefully about who you would like to raise your child in the event of an untimely death. Make sure you discuss this guardianship with the party in question before you draft the will. Discuss the things that may be really important to you for your children such as education, religion and family connection. Don’t wait too long before writing a will if you already have a child, as establishing guardianship is one of the most important things a parent can do.

What property is included in your will?
When you draft a will, you must think about what property will be included. You can be as specific or as general as you’d like when naming property. You can simply refer to your property as a body by referencing your estate, or you can break down specific or individual pieces of property that have special value, like artwork or collectibles. In the event that property isn’t designated in the will or a general term that encompasses the entire estate, it reverts to the state’s probate laws for distribution. You can handle disbursement of property a few different ways. If you’ve listed specific items of property, you can designate individuals to receive that property. Alternatively, you can simply designate who gets what portion of your estate, and let the named parties decide how to divide the property based on your allocations.

Who will be executor of your will?
After guardianship of your child, naming an executor is one of the most important decisions you can make. The executor is responsible for settling your estate after your death, and ensuring that your will is honored. An executor has to handle all the paperwork, liquidate assets, pay any taxes and distribute the proceeds according to the instructions in your will. Make sure you choose a trustworthy executor. If you don’t want to leave this burden to a friend or family member, choose a professional executor or a lawyer to handle the process.

Nobody wants to think about dying while their children are little, so unfortunately many people don’t. But now is the time to make plans and set them down in writing. Once you have the above questions answered, find a lawyer who can prepare your will. Wills are revocable, meaning you can always change them later, as necessary. However, setting something in motion now will be best for your children and give you peace of mind that it has been taken care of. Create a will now…and then relax and enjoy watching your children grow and prosper.