Prince William County
Prince William County
Parents worry more about bullying and their child’s weight than they do about suddenly being gone from their child’s life forever.
If a child unexpectedly loses both parents, he can automatically become a ward of the state in Virginia. This unthinkable situation occurs when parents fail to leave a will outlining their guardianship wishes.
The child’s future is then in the hands of a stranger: a judge.
This frightening reality should be a top worry for young parents, but a recent survey found that 78 percent of millennials (ages 18-36) and 64 percent of Generation Xers (ages 37-52) do not have a will, according to the Caring.com survey.
What do young parents fear instead? The here and now says a recent poll by BabyCenter. The top worries of young parents include:
While these are legitimate concerns, it’s also important to add your child’s future stability to that list, in case the unthinkable happens.
Your child’s future will be in the hands of a stranger who has likely never met you or your child’s circle of adult relatives and friends.
If a will is nonexistent at the time of the parents’ death, a Prince William County judge will likely decide who becomes your child’s legal guardian.
The child does not immediately go to a grandparent or sibling if the judge determines that relative is not fit for guardianship.
Friends and family members can step forward and nominate themselves as guardians. How do you feel about that person being responsible for your child’s future? The person considering that vital decision would not know.
The judge makes a decision based on what is in the child’s best interest. His values or priorities may differ from yours, and he might not choose the same person you would have considered while you were alive.
Obviously, you aren’t alone if you’ve put off this planning process. The time for action is now. Here’s how to start:
One of the roadblocks to creating a will is agreeing on guardianship. When parents are not longer together, this can become even more complicated. Don’t let that stop you. Your children are your shared focus.
Many young parents may have limited assets and property, so they believe a will is unnecessary. Net worth is not the driving force for creating a will, especially when the guardianship of a child is involved.
Take a step-by-step approach to making that decision, similar to this process.
Once that monumental decision has been made, be sure to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney lawyer who can guide you in the important issues involving trustees, property, inheritance, and making your parental wishes known.
Creating a will is a tangible and doable task. Relish the joy of accomplishment. Can “stop the bullying” and “eliminate stranger danger “realistically ever be crossed off a parent’s list of worries?
Be sure to revisit the will every five years, or earlier if circumstances change.
Stop and think for a minute about what would happen if your child’s future were left in the hands of a stranger? If that scenario is unacceptable to you, contact an experienced estate planning attorney to draw up a proper Virginia will and trust.
David Wilks has practiced law in Northern Virginia and
Prince William County for more than thirty years as
a tax lawyer by training and education. Read More