The fall and winter are seasons where families travel for many reasons. Whether a family travels for a vacation or because of the many holidays in the coming months, these travels always include a risk that many parents do not want to consider: Something tragic may befall the parents while traveling, leaving children and relatives scrambling to pick up the pieces.
As parents, you certainly want to make sure that you provide well for your children, but even parents with solid incomes or significant assets can cause unnecessary difficulty on top of immense heartbreak if they die without a will.
It should go without saying that all parents with children should have wills, to ensure that their children are cared for and receive any portions of the parent's estate that the parent wants to leave to the child. When parents pass away suddenly, especially while traveling, it adds several extra layers of complexity to an already very difficult and heartbreaking situation.
If you have yet to create a will, you can reach out to an experienced estate planning attorney who will guide you through the process and keep your priorities and rights protected.
Why do you need a will?
If a parent dies without a will, doesn't the government simply give the estate to the children anyway? Who really needs a will?
If you know someone uses these arguments or other similar ideas to avoid creating a will, they know just enough to create problems for themselves rather than simplify the matter. It is true that estates left behind by individuals without wills are put through probate, which is the process that the government uses to distribute estates to survivors and collect a number of taxes after a person passes away.
However, the government is not concerned with understanding how the deceased wants to distribute the estate. In the absence of a will, which outlines how to distribute an estate, the government may distribute the estate much differently than the deceased intended. Not only can this take assets from one beneficiary and give them to someone else who is not the intended recipient, these scenarios often generate enormous conflict among surviving family members.
Let's suppose that parents with two children own a home and two cars, and have investments and savings amounting to about $500,000. The two children are in their early teens, for the sake of this example. In the absence of a will, the government may choose to award the home to one child, leaving the cars and the funds not eaten up by probate costs to the other child. This leaves the grieving survivors with many questions, like
- Who will take care of the children until they reach legal adulthood?
- How will the utilities stay on in the home?
- Is this the property division that the parent wanted?
- Does this property division cause conflict in the family?
These are only a few of the many issues that parents of minors face if they die without a will.
Act now while you can
Creating a will is not an incredibly lengthy or difficult process in most cases, but it is vitally important that it is created carefully. If you do not properly create a will, it may not stand up to challenges, which many wills face.
If you do not yet have will, and you have children, be sure to address this as soon as possible — especially if you plan to travel this year.