The importance of having a will cannot be stressed enough. You want to make the decisions regarding guardianship of your children, what happens with your assets and who will serve as executor and trustee. Without a will, these issues may topple like a row of dominoes. You do not want to be in this situation. Actually, you do not want to put your children in this situation.
So, what happens when parents die intestate? Well, the court is thrust into an unenviable situation. It must appoint a guardian without knowing what you – the parent — had wanted. The judge thoroughly reviews the matter, seeking what is in the best interests of the children. Then a decision is made. But was that court order really in the best interests of the children? Did it fulfill your wishes? Well, that will not matter because you have died without having made such a critical decision that will have a lifelong effect on your children. Devastating consequences now remain a possibility.
Family member, friend or ward of the state
It is crucial to name a legal guardian for your minor children should you and your spouse die. Such a worst-case scenario can happen. This is among the many reasons that you need an estate plan that includes a will. If you die intestate without naming a guardian, the court will do so, nominating family members that may include aunts, uncles and grandparents.
Here are some potential scenarios if you die intestate and have not chosen a guardian for your children:
- The court appoints a guardian. This can be a relative and distant family member. In these scenarios, the judge may select someone with whom you do not share the same values or someone you dislike and distrust.
- A third party may come forward and request to take guardianship. In this situation, it may be a family friend.
- Your children may become wards of the state, leading to their entry into the foster care system. Occasionally, you hear horror stories about the foster care system involving abusive and neglectful foster parents.
Having an estate plan is important for anyone. People with families, young parents, single millennials and those who have small estates should do so. And naming a guardian is one of the more important aspects. It represents a responsible thing to do, and your children will respect you for doing so.