where thereÂs a will
The one legal document every parent must have
How to write a will >To draw up a will, you start by listing your assets and liabilities. Assets include real property such as houses and cars, as well as bank and retirement accounts, stocks, bonds and life insurance. Liabilities are debts, including mortgages, loans and credit-card balances.
In addition to naming a guardian for your child, you’ll need to appoint an executor, a trusted person who will administer your estate according to the terms of your will. You’ll also need to name the beneficiaries who will
inherit assets or personal possessions from your estate. You should also consider establishing a trust for your minor children so that an adult can manage their inheritance.
Most people choose to leave all of their assets to their spouse, with their children inheriting any remaining assets after the spouse’s death, Belcher says. Jointly held assets, such as houses or bank accounts owned with another person, transfer directly to the co-owner. The same is true for beneficiary accounts, such as life insurance or retirement accounts. “But people need a will even if everything is jointly owned,” Belcher says; it can help speed and ensure a seamless transfer of your property and assets.
If a secret fear of lawyers—and legal fees—is the only thing holding you back, you can write a will using online legal-document services or do-it-yourself software programs. The best Web sites (see “Resources,” below) have paralegals—people trained to assist lawyers but not licensed to practice law—review the information you provide, although they do not offer legal advice. This staffing gives Web sites an advantage over software programs. But do consult a lawyer if your assets, including your home, exceed $1 million; if you plan to disinherit anyone; or if you need legal advice.
I secretly worried that writing a will would tempt fate. Ironically, I stopped worrying once I knew that our legal matters were in order. It gave me the peace of mind I needed to concentrate on midnight feedings and midday
cuddles with our new baby.